As the shoplifting epidemic continues to grow, how is your company preparing to deal with this serious problem in the coming year? In this article we will first take a look at some shoplifting stats, then we’ll examine some of the reasons behind the increasing numbers, and finally what are or should we be doing about it.
- Shoplifting apprehensions and the recovery dollars from those apprehensions were up in 2017 and in 8 of the past 10 surveys! (Annual Retail Theft Survey – Hayes Intl)
- Shoplifting has surpassed employee theft as the leading cause of shrink for the past 4 years, and is responsible for 35.7% of losses. (2018 National Retail Security Survey)
- With shrink reported at 1.85% of retail sales in the USA, shoplifting accounted for 35.55% of the overall loss. The average case value was $89.80 (w/out ORC) and the average ORC case value was $1,401.68. (Sensormatic Global Shrink Index 2018)
- 6% of retailers have been a victim of ORC (Organized Retail Crime); ORC activity increased in over two-thirds of retailers; and aggressiveness shown by ORC gangs is on the rise. (2017 Organized Retail Crime Survey).
Reasons for Growth in Shoplifting
– Reduced Customer Service Due to Fewer Sales Associates on Floor: Fewer sales associates on the sales floor provides shoplifters with the privacy they want/need to commit their acts of theft. Unfortunately, more retailers are becoming self-service, instead of customer service focused.
– Shoplifting Felony Thresholds Increasing: There are currently 29 states with a felony threshold for Shoplifting / Larceny of $1,000 or higher. Shoplifting cases less than these high dollar thresholds result in a misdemeanor offense only, meaning less police assistance and little if any punishment. Thieves view shoplifting as a high reward, low-risk endeavor.
– Stolen Merchandise is Easy to Sell to Larger Audiences: Many thieves have found that selling their stolen items through various on-line auction sites, or returning their stolen goods for a merchandise credit or gift card (which they sell to a second party) results in quicker sales and much higher prices than the traditional selling of items on the street or at a local flee market.
– Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Continues to Increase: Losses from ORC are reported to be over $30 billion annually, with almost 100% of retailers acknowledging they have been a victim of ORC activity in the past 12 months. These thieves work diligently to commit their theft of popular items such as over-the-counter medicines; razors; batteries; tools; cell phones; and designer clothing. It is common for them to work in “teams”, employ distraction techniques, and use ‘booster-bags’ to circumvent anti-shoplifting systems.
– Nationwide drug/opioid crisis results in increased shoplifting: Police are reporting an increase in shoplifting across the country as drug users find theft as a quick way to obtain needed money to feed their drug habit.
How do we deal with this shoplifting epidemic; How do we handle this new breed of aggressive and in-your-face shoplifter; and is there light at the end of the shoplifting tunnel? These questions and others just like them are being pondered throughout the retail industry. Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy answer to this shoplifting epidemic! I believe the likely answer(s) will have to come from a collaboration by retailers, law enforcement, politicians and the courts working together to solve this issue.
In the meantime, the thefts continue, so below are some basic Shoplifting Prevention Tips which retailers should be deploying now.
– Hire honest and motivated employees: Train them to prevent shoplifting (what to look for, how to respond to a possible shoplifter, etc.).
– Provide good customer service: Shoplifters want and need privacy; so take it away from them. When they respond “I’m just looking”, teach employees to say “Ok great, I’ll keep my eye on you in case you need any assistance”. Honest customers are ok with this (you are there if they need help), and this is the last thing a shoplifter wants to hear.
– Have employees walk the sales floor: Keep visible, and keep displays neat and organized (so missing items can be more easily noticed).
– Have good sight lines on the sales floor: Do not block the view of high value and highly popular items, and keep these items in sight of employee work areas.
– Limit item quantity on sales floor: Limit the number of certain items (high value, highly pilferable) placed on the sales floor. This will reduce vulnerability to large losses of these items and make it easier to identify missing items.
– Use technology: Remember, technology (EAS: electronic article surveillance, CCTV, merchandise alarms, ink/dye tags, product tie-downs, Keeper boxes, etc.) must be managed. Also ensure policies / procedures regarding technology are adhered to: EAS tagging 98% or higher, items required to be alarmed or tied-down are done so, etc
– Know your merchandise: Especially highly popular items, high value items, what’s stolen most often and what’s easily stolen. Study why these items are taken, evaluate their locations and packaging – then make changes as needed.
– Prosecute shoplifters: Thieves know which retailers prosecute and those that do not. Prosecution can be a good deterrent.
– Work with other retailers: Work with other retailers in your mall, center or location and share ideas $