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LCBO locks down liquor in an effort to stop thieves, but will it work?

This fall the LCBO will distribute 125,000 Bottlelox for managers at some outlets to protect inventory they feel are most appealing to potential shoplifters.

Videos online demonstrate how thieves can remove the 'Bottlelox' security devices

The new security devices on some LCBO bottles (Jon Castell)

Some shoppers are wondering how well the latest measure to prevent theft in the province's liquor stores will work — or if it's even worth it — after the LCBO announced Wednesday it will attach a new security device to bottles in 130 of its stores.

The LCBO is banking on it being much harder for potential shoplifters to pop off or conceal a bottle with the noticeable plastic cap, known as the Bottlelox. It's very much like clothing security tags you can find in any mall in that an alarm will sound if it's not removed by a cashier.

LCBO 'Bottlelox'

5 years ago
Duration 0:06
The LCBO has introduced a new security device to bottles in 130 stores across the province to prevent theft. 0:06

"The products and the assets that you see here are public assets at the end of the day. We're doing whatever we can to protect that," LCBO spokesperson Genevieve Tomney said during an interview with CBC News in the board's outlet at Queens Quay on the Toronto waterfront

Branded Bottlelox on bottles of Grey Goose vodka. Parent-company Bacardi first sponsored the pilot project at the LCBO last fall. (Stephanie Matteis)

Each year the liquor agency loses about $16 million because of theft — or 0.29 per cent of its net sales. It's far less than most retailers and not a lot considering the liquor agency made about $5.57 billion last fiscal year.

The Queens Quay outlet was one of 10 stores that were part of a pilot project featuring the Bottlelox, which began last fall.

At the Queen's Quay outlet, Henessey cognac, Russian Standard and Grey Goose vodka are some of the bottles with the plastic seal, which was branded and sponsored by Bacardi/Grey Goose.

Though Tomney didn't give specifics, she said those stores did see a decrease in theft. Now that the LCBO is rolling it out to 130 stores, there won't be enough tops for all bottles. Instead, there are 125,000 devices in all for participating outlets.

Managers will decide based on inventory which bottles are most attractive to potential thieves.

'How-to' videos online

Online there are videos of people trying to remove the locks which have been used in stores internationally. This was the first video that popped up with a quick search. It shows a demonstration in 42 seconds with a butter knife and a twist the lock comes off the bottle.

Tomney said it's no surprise to find how-to videos online but "we've piloted this project and we've seen that it actually is effective in reducing theft. So because of that we feel it's worth the investment and worth the expansion."

Tomney says the bottle lock system isn't just about deterring individual shoplifting according. It's also meant to address a bigger issue of systematic shoplifting of more expensive bottles, meaning deterring organized crime, she says.

That might have played a role in April 2013 when a man went into the LCBO on Queens Quay and took a rare 50-year-old Glenfiddich Single Malt scotch worth $26,000.

Patron Blair Champion figured the LCBO "would have already worked out the manufacture of the bottle locks, how much it is to put them on and how much it would save. If they feel if it's going to save them 20, 30, 40 per cent then it's worth it."

Another patron, Bob Korogyi said the loss due to theft isn't worth the security measures. He joked if the LCBO is that concerned maybe the agency should go back to the decades-old system of filling out a form and waiting at a counter for a liquor store employee to get the bottle.

"That's nothing considering $5 billion in sales every year. That's a very low product loss," he said. 

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