It’s funny in a way. Nobody wants to call it what it is. Retail shop owners use terms like “retail security”, “loss prevention”, and “shrink,” while shoplifters say things like “lift” and “dip.” Police and researchers say “shoplifting.” But they’re all talking about the same thing: Stealing.
According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer, this kind of crime costs retailers over $100 billion annually in lost revenue alone. That reflects only the value of the stolen items. It doesn’t include the costs of maintaining on-site security, or the taxes paid to support criminal enforcement and prosecution of shoplifters or reordering and re-stocking stolen merchandise.
Here are the do and don’ts to improving retail security:
Encourage Pro-Active Customer Service
Shoplifters require anonymity to steal. The more face time they get with your staff, the less likely they are to steal from your shop. It also helps your staff keep track of who’s in your store and where they are. As an added bonus, good up-front greetings encourage sales and repeat business. It’s a win-win.
Don’t Just Watch Customers
A recent national study determined that 43 percent of retail “shrinkage” comes from employee theft, versus 36 percent from “traditional” shoplifters. This is a sad but absolutely true aspect of doing retail business.
Optimize Shop Layout For Security
Keep fixtures low for visibility, and to leave potential shoplifters feeling exposed. Make sure everybody entering and leaving the store must pass right by the checkout counter. Use mirrors to eliminate blind spots. Keep merchandise organized and spaces clean so it’s easy to spot when something has been removed.
Don’t Hide Retail Security Measures
Although it can be gratifying to catch a shoplifter in the act, most shoplifting is committed under social pressure or immediate impulse rather than by a professional thief or as a lifestyle decision. This means you get more benefit for your buck by having obvious cameras and staff to deter theft than by attempting to catch and punish would-be thieves.
Keep Up With Retail Security Trends
For example, gift card fraud and return exchange schemes are fast overtaking simply carrying items out of a store as the most popular and costly (to the retailer) methods of theft. After all, it’s easier to sneak numbers onto a gift card than to walk past security with a stolen plasma screen.
Don’t Overlook People Who Purchased Something
Purchased merchandise, and the bags it’s carried out in, are among the most common camouflage shoplifters use to hide what they steal.
Invest In Retail Security Warning Signs
Research has found these are actually effective – especially (and amusingly) signs that feature cartoons or real eyes. Signs can be as effective as on-site security, and you don’t have to pay them by the hour.
Don’t Try To Prevent A Shoplifter From Leaving
On the negative side, you might be technically guilty of kidnapping if you try it. On the even more negative side, some shoplifters are willing to assault shop owners and staff to get away – even a thousand-dollar necklace isn’t worth being hurt or killed over. Ask for the merchandise, and focus on remembering the thief’s face so you can describe him or her accurately to the police.
Consider A Coded Message
A coded message spoken aloud in a small shop or over the PA in a large store can alert all staff members of a potential shoplifter on the premises. Like all good code words, it should not include any references that disclose the true meaning. “We have a code red in Housewares” isn’t as suitable as “Mr. Jameson to Housewares please,” for example.
Don’t Understaff Your Register
Have a system for bringing extra help up front in a rush. Professional shoplifters will strike at the busiest parts of the day, and target harried cashiers to sneak past. Many have techniques intended to fluster and confuse already stressed counter help. Do everything possible to encourage thorough, systematic work at the register.
Have “Face” Items When Possible
“Facing” is placing a single specimen at the front edge of the shelf, leaving empty space behind. This makes it easy for staff to tell with a glance where items have been removed. It also cuts down on labor costs during inventory.
Don’t Leave The Register Or Merchandise Unattended
This kind of opportunity not only makes things easy for habitual thieves, but it also encourages opportunity theft in those who would otherwise stay honest. Even if this means reorganizing some of your stock, it’s not worth the risk.
Lock All Portable & Valuable Merchandise
Simply requiring employee presence to access the high-ticket items not only restricts access by would-be thieves, but it also puts a knowledgeable salesperson in the conversation as a shopper considers making the purchase.
The image of a young teen shoplifting for a thrill might describe 25 percent of shoplifters, the other 75 percent are adults who come in dressed in everything from street rags to a three-piece suit. In fact, many professional shoplifters will dress up for the occasion specifically to take advantage of stereotypes.
Have A Written Retail Security Policy On Shoplifting
Train your staff on it and expect them to abide by it, including receipt discipline and what to do if a shoplifter is caught. Post your policy visibly in the store, and in dressing rooms or other high-risk areas.
And above all do not accept theft from your store as an unavoidable cost of doing business. Sure, somebody’s going to walk out of your shop with something they didn’t pay for from time to time, but you can and should take low-cost measures to minimize your exposure.
It’s your merchandise. You worked hard for it!
Need Retail Security Help? Hire O’Brien & Associates
O’Brien & Associates provides security patrol and guard service for a variety of businesses and locations. Many of our team members are current or former police officers, EMTs, and Military who are highly experienced in preventing retail theft. Contact O’Brien And Associates today for a custom security solution for you.
Source: American Express