Ah, the busy (we hope) holiday season is rapidly approaching. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few refresher type pointers on things that any retailer can do to help reduce their vulnerability to shrink and losses during the holiday season. I am not going to recommend you run out and purchase expensive CCTV, EAS, P.O.S., or other technology systems. Yes, these types of expenditures, where needed, generally provide excellent paybacks on your shrink investment. But they may not be cost-effective if installed in every store without full research and consideration be given. So, with that said, I want to pass along a few anti-shoplifting “basics” that will work.
Year after year shrink forecasts focus on apparel, electronics, and electronic accessories as being the most desirable and stolen items during the holiday season. However, just keep in mind, that thieves will steal whatever they can get their hands on, especially if there is a resale market for what you carry.
Will you be ready?
We just completed our 30th Annual Retail Theft Survey. Not surprisingly, shoplifting is leading the way. Over the past 10 years shoplifter apprehensions and dollar recoveries have taken the top spot in eight of those 10 years. During 30 years of surveying, we have reported on multiple millions of theft apprehensions and interviewed literally hundreds of retail thieves to learn from them.
Knowledge is power
One glaring thing that comes across very clear is that the majority of retailers (big box, drug or small specialty stores) do not have the staff to combat these thieves on a one-on-one basis. Therefore, your anti- shoplifting plan should include the following strategies:
- Physical Security Safeguards
- Operational/P.O.S. Controls
- Shrink Awareness Training
Physical Security: My first piece of advice would be to meet with your local (in-store or regional) LP specialist and jointly review your current physical safeguards. Identify what additional steps can be put in place.
Operational Controls: Here I would place my focus on four areas: E.A.S., front door, P.O.S., and fraudulent refunds.
E.A.S. works, but it requires good management. Check to ensure that theft risk items are properly tagged, and that your staff responds to door alarm activations, and they are not simply ignored.
I am a great believer in using audits in helping to identify both operational and LP issues. Ensure that your points-of-audit also focus on your sales floor coverage strategies.
Front Door: The front door has always been a “hot-spot” for theft prevention; any uncovered exit gives the thief a good opportunity to walk out with stolen merchandise. Sure, EAS will scare off the opportunist, but not the hardcore or ORC thieves.
Front coverage is critical, as is a look in the eye “greeting” when the customer walks inside.
P.O.S.: Those antiquated theft techniques of ticket switching, concealing extra or switching items inside of boxes that show signs of being opened, or simply hiding an item inside of another – still make the shoplifter’s hit list. Your cashiers/associates need to be aware of these techniques. If your store is one that allows customers to self-scan their items, I suspect you have already encountered the reality of non-scanned merchandise, be it intentional or by error. Having a salesperson spot assisting customers or simply observing can reduce your risk in these areas.
Fraudulent Refunds: For years, retailers have taken a beating in this area. This high-risk area requires a strong refund policy and the ability to track/monitor repeat returns.
Shrink Awareness: Education is key!
If necessary, dig out those anti-theft awareness messages from your files and make it a point to talk about one or two specific topics on a daily basis. I still sincerely believe that good customer service is the best method for reducing shoplifting. Don’t overlook having your LP person, mall guard, or police officer give brief talks to your staff. (These individuals can also update you as to crimes nearby.)
Unfortunately, in today’s world the shoplifter has become more violent than in past years. Make certain that your staff never jeopardizes their safety if a suspected thief is in your store. Let everyone know your company’s policy relating to what actions are to be taken.
Naturally, if you are assigned to a high shrink location, I would expect a well defined anti-shrink program to be in place.
Have a great and successful season! $