Retail theft

Eliminating opportunity in the fight against retail theft

Whether it’s at the self-checkout, a snatch and grab or simply stashing an item under their clothing, shoplifting is always a crime of opportunity.

That opportunity might be spur of the moment, or it might be maximized with pre-planning, but make no mistake, when it comes to every single element of loss prevention, eliminating opportunity is the aim of the game.

Here’s an insight into how retailers eliminate opportunity in the fight against retail theft…

Know your weakness

It’s important to note, in any retail outlet shoplifting is only part of the loss prevention picture. This year, the National Retail Federation found shoplifting accounted for 35.7 per cent of the industry’s $46.8 billion loss, while employee theft equaled 33.2 per cent, administrative and paperwork error accounted for 18.8 per cent, and vendor fraud totaled 5.8 per cent.

That means retailers should take a good hard look at their outlet to examine exactly where and when all opportunities for loss might arise.

Know your loss

Most retail outlets have an area of weakness and the analytics and reporting of retail offer an insight into where that is.

Analytics and reporting help identify trends, such as when an item is out of stock despite being listed as available in the inventory (this indicates items may be subject to theft).

It might also identify more loss occurs when specific staff members are on duty, which hints at the fact better loss prevention training is required, customer service protocols should be reviewed or in the worst case, theft is occurring at the hands of these staff.

Analytics may also reveal loss occurs at specific times, like opening, closing or holiday trading (indicating staff are distracted, perhaps more staff are required, or procedures need to be reviewed).

Analytics and reporting can also reveal that loss is occurring in the supply chain, or perhaps items are not accounted for properly due to paperwork and error.

Eliminating opportunity

Retail theft

Once you know your potential areas of weakness and also your actual areas of loss, reducing loss comes down to eliminating opportunity.

This often involves a multi-faceted strategy that includes the elements of:

Customer service

Research consistently reveals good customer service plays a definite role in reducing shoplifting. Good customer service sees staff meet and greet consumers and being attentive to their needs in store.

Staff training

Staff play a critical role in identifying and preventing many areas of loss. They should be trained in the suspicious behaviour of shoplifting, given clear instructions on what to do if they suspect an act is occurring, and valued for their role within the retail outlet.

Staff should also be educated on repercussions of employee theft, screened prior to employment, and encouraged to be part of the loss prevention discussion.

Store design

From lighting to layout, good store design eliminates areas where a potential theft might take place. It ensures each area of an outlet feels visible. Design also assists with both customer service and inventory by keeping an outlet neat, tidy and organized to ensure products can be found by the customer and accounted for by staff.

Product protection

Whether a product is high-value or high-volume and low-value, it should be individually protected against theft using Electronic Article Surveillance or suitably secured displays.

EAS would see security tags attached to products like apparel, accessories and electronics, while labels would be affixes to lower value items, like non perishable groceries and pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, high-value items such as electronic devices and their accessories might be protected using secure displays where the device is locked to a display table or bench and alarmed.

Alternatively, or additionally, some high-value stock might be secured in lockable cabinets which staff assist the interested customer in accessing.

Store protection

As a further level of security, a retail outlet might opt for overall store protection such as CCTV and loss prevention personnel.

This type of security monitors the entire outlet rather than individual products and identifies acts of theft or assists in dealing with them at the time or afterwards.

Store policy

All security measures should be backed up by store policies which can help mitigate theft.

This will include subjects like return and gift card policy, how shoplifters are dealt with, how employee theft is handled and the steps a staff member should take to report suspicious behaviour from customers or other employees.

Store policy will also outline the correct procedures for receiving goods and inventory reconciliation, assisting them to identify errors and inconsistencies in inventory that may indicate supply chain loss.