Tesco has rejected calls from a government minister for members of the public to arrest shoplifters, as chief executive Ken Murphy urged customers not to endanger themselves.
Policing minister Chris Philp said earlier this week that the public should make a citizen’s arrest if they witness shoplifting, which has been on the rise across Britain’s high streets in the past year.
Tesco is among the UK retailers most impacted by an increase in theft, although Mr Murphy said he did not want staff or shoppers “getting hurt” by trying to stop thieves themselves.
Recently, the supermarket said staff had been given body-worn cameras in a bid to clamp down on criminals.
Mr Philp’s comments were made at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday.
He said: “The wider public do have the power of citizen’s arrest and, where it’s safe to do so, I would encourage that to be used because if you do just let people walk in, take stuff and walk out without proper challenge, including potentially a physical challenge, then again it will just escalate.
“While I want a faster and better police response, the police can’t be everywhere all the time.”
In response, Mr Murphy said: “While I applaud the sentiment of the Minister, we are really clear with our colleagues and customers that we would absolutely not want them to put themselves in harm’s way.”
The Tesco boss was speaking as part of the firm’s latest results on Wednesday, during which he hailed a fall in food price inflation.
The supermarket said it had cut prices on around 2,500 products in its stores since the start of the year, with cheese, yoghurt and milk among the biggest fallers.
Mr Murphy said Britain’s largest supermarket would take “every opportunity to reduce prices” in the run-up to Christmas.
Tesco said it now expects profits to be between £2.6bn and £2.7bn for the year, having previously forecast they would remain broadly flat at around £2.5bn.
The boost led to a 4pc jump in Tesco’s share price, with rival Sainsbury’s also rising by 2pc.
Mr Murphy said: “Our sense is that our customers are probably a little more optimistic than they were this time last year.”
It follows scrutiny of grocers earlier this year over claims they were failing to pass on lower costs to customers.
The Competition & Markets Authority launched an investigation into claims but found no evidence of profiteering.
Food price inflation will continue falling, the boss of Tesco has said, easing pressure on shoppers.
Chief executive Ken Murphy said prices are slowing among products which have experienced “some of the more extreme cost increases over the last 18 months,” including dairy and pasta.
His comments came as Tesco announced a jump in sales after attracting customers from “premium retailers”.
Tesco’s sales, excluding VAT and fuel, grew by 8.9pc to £30.8bn for the six months to August, compared with the same period last year.
Meanwhile, operating profits grew by 14pc to £1.5bn across the group for the half-year.
“Now there are a few areas where we’re still seeing some inflation, places like some chicken meat and potatoes, but on the whole, we are seeing deflation and we’re hoping to see that continue through the second half.”
Tesco said on Wednesday it now expects retail adjusted operating profit to be between £2.6bn and £2.7bn for the year.
The firm had previously guided that it would be broadly flat, at around £2.5bn.
Mr Murphy said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to drive down food bills and Tesco is now consistently the cheapest full-line grocer.
“This relentless focus on customers, combined with significant cost reductions from our ‘save to invest’ programme, has driven our strong performance in the first half of the year.
“Food inflation fell across the half, and while external pressures remain we expect that it will continue to do so in the second half of the year.
“We are in a strong position to keep investing for customers, and will continue to lower prices wherever we can – doing everything in our power to make sure customers can have a fantastic, affordable Christmas by shopping at Tesco.”