Supermarkets secretly filming customers to record their shopping habits, according to investigation

Supermarkets accused of secretly filming customer to record their shopping habits
(Image credit: Dave and Les Jacobs/Lloyd Dobbie/Blend Images)

Stores including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Boots have been been secretly recording shoppers behaviours to increase profits, according to an undercover investigation by the Daily Mail.

According to the newspaper, stores have appointed behavioural agency SBXL to record customer behaviours in the supermarket aisles.

Footage of customers can then be used to ‘manipulate’ the spending behaviours and habits of shoppers, as well as their emotions.

The investigation reports for example, that Tesco’s sales rose to £106 million in just 12 months after commissioning the agency to increase the sales of pet treats. The behavioural agency suggested targeting pet owners in pet aisles with cute pictures of puppies.

Confectionary store, Mondelez International, formerly known as Kraft, also authorised SBXL to ‘pump the smell of chocolate’ into the sweet store, tempting shoppers and increasing Cadbury’s sales by 4 per cent.

The investigation also revealed that Boots have used cameras to record how women apply their make-up.

Some videos have ended up on SBXL’s YouTube channel, with other videos (some including children) remaining on social media for up to eight years.

According to the Daily Mail, the Information Commissioner’s Office is to now examine the findings to check for breaches of data protection laws.

Supermarkets accused of secretly filming customer to record their shopping habits

Credit: Getty

However, SBXL insists recordings were carried out with consent from customers and clear signage in place. And, some stores have said that appropriate signage was provided to let customers know they were being recorded.

A Co-Op spokesman said that when SBXL filmed in its stores, ‘both times clear customer signage was in place’.

In response to the investigation Boots said, ‘clear signage was placed directly next to the display and at store entrances to inform customers that filming was taking place for market research purposes’.

However, Boots have said it gave no permission for footage to go on to the agency's YouTube channel.

Tesco’s responded stating it ‘does not covertly film customers in stores nor would we allow any other company to do so’, and that it worked with SBXL only once in 2011, with customers giving permission to be interviewed.

Sainsbury’s and Asda have both denied working with the company.

Sibelle Mehmet
Junior Digital Writer

Sibelle Mehmet is a Junior Digital Writer at She joined the team in April 2019 and was her first job since completing a MA in Magazine Journalism at City, the University of London in the summer of 2019. Sibelle previously interned at a number of national titles including OK!, Heat, Closer, Mother & Baby, and The Times Newspaper magazine. She's written extensively about the latest celebrity, showbiz, and royal news.