Mannequins in fashion boutiques are now being fitted with secret cameras to 'spy' on shoppers' buying habits. High Street fashion chains have deployed the dummies equipped with technology adapted from security systems used to identify criminals at airports.

From the outside, the $3,200 (2,009) EyeSee dummy looks like any other mannequin, but behind its blank gaze it hides a camera feeding images into facial recognition software that logs the age, gender and race of shoppers.

This information is fed into a computer and is 'aggregated' to offer retailers using the system statistical and contextual information they can use to develop their marketing strategies.

Its makers boast: 'From now on you can know how many people enter the store, record what time there is a greater influx of customers (and which type) and see if some areas risk to be overcrowded.

With growth slowing in the luxury goods industry, the technology taps into retailers' desperation to personalise their offers to reach increasingly picky customers. The video surveillance mannequins have been on sale for almost a year, and are already being used in three European countries and in the U.S.