How to protect your stock from shoplifters
In 2011, shoplifting made up 70% of retail crime in Australia and retail theft cost the Australian economy more than $2 billioni. Shoplifting leads to an unexpected increase in product costs (costs of goods sold), reducing a retail business' gross profit.
In Australia, the top five stolen items are lipsticks, shaving products, fragrances, infant formula and clothingi. To protect stock from thieves and dishonest staff, retail business owners need to take out stringent security measures, including anti-theft devices such as security tags that set off an alarm when leaving the store.
Identify signs of shoplifting
Research shows that females are more likely to be apprehended for retail theft than males, and that adolescents are more often involved in shoplifting than other age groupsii. However, the best way to identify a shoplifter is by their behaviour. According to the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice, a shoplifter often
- spends more time watching the cashier or staff than actually looking at stock
- seems nervous and doesn't show real interest in items
- may wear bulky and heavy clothing inappropriate for weather conditions, such as a coat on a warm day
- walks unnaturally, which may indicate that they are concealing stolen items under their clothing
- takes several items into a dressing room and leaves with fewer
- frequently enters the store without making a purchaseiii
Best practices to prevent shoplifting
The NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice's Retail Security Resource report (2012) (www.crimeprevention.nsw.gov.au/agdbasev7wr/_assets/cpd/m660001l2/retail_security_resource_web_160212.pdf) recommends a range of tips and best practices to reduce shoplifting in retail stores, including the following:
- Adequate staffing: Make sure that the sales area is serviced by an adequate number of employees.
- Be attentive: Staff must never leave the store unattended, as an empty store makes it very easy for shoplifters to leave with stolen items unnoticed.
- Receipts: Each customer must receive a receipt for every purchase, and receipts must be required for refunds. This is an important tactic to prevent shoplifters from returning to the store with a stolen item and demanding a refund or store credit.
- Be alert: If you notice someone acting suspiciously, alert other staff members to the situation immediately so they can keep an eye on the suspect as well.
- Helping hand: Ask suspicious customers if they are finding everything ok and let them know that you are close by in case they need help. This makes the potential shoplifter feel watched, and they will think twice if they should risk a move.
- Store design: Good lighting, bell alarms that notify when customers are entering and exiting the store and an elevated sales counter/register for better visibility of the store are some store design features that can deter amateur and professional shoplifters.
- Store policies: Implement clear policies and procedures on how to deal with shoplifting incidents. This may include calling the police immediately and regular bag checks. Just keep in mind that retailers do not have a legal right to search a bag, so customers may refuse to have their bag searched. Ensure staff are familiar with store policies, and communicate them with your customers (put up clearly visible signs)iv.
Clearly visible security cameras can also be an effective way to scare off shoplifters. However, studies have found that the introduction of CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras or security guards made staff less likely to engage in basic theft prevention measures as outlined aboveiii. Therefore, you should encourage your employees to stay engaged and alert, even when additional security measures are in place.
In 2010 Australia recorded the second highest levels of employee theft in the worldi, and more than 40% of all retail theft is committed by staffi.
Creating a positive work environment is an important step to reduce the likelihood of employee theft or fraud, as it can make the employee act in the best interest of the business. Also make sure to educate your employees about the severity and business damage of retail theft, and inform them of your policies and procedures relating to fraud prevention strategies. Moreover, pre-employment background checks can help you avoid hiring dishonest employees from the beginning v ~.