Retailers Combat Theft

Inventory LossesStore security and loss prevention encompass the securing of cash management systems, implementing safety monitoring and enforcement, providing inventory accountability, developing security policies and integrating security systems. Yet despite cameras, merchandise security tags, loss prevention “shoppers” and the presence of security guards, only one in 48 people who shoplift are caught, according to the National Retail Federation. A recent report by AOL’s Daily Finance shows more than half of 200 retail survey respondents said so-called organized shoplifting by two or more people has increased sharply, while 41 percent said shoplifting by individuals was also up. That translates into a loss of $13 billion in merchandise, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. This is a drastic increase from the CBS News report in 2006 of $30 million being shoplifted each year.

Retailers and Employees Becoming Too Familiar with Shoplifting Prevention

Shoplifting prevention should always be a part of your employee training, and employees should expect to:

1) Stay alert at all times.

2) Greet all customers.

3) Ask lingering customers if they need help.

4) Know where shoplifting is most likely to occur in the store.

5) Display signs as a warning, “Shoplifters will be prosecuted.”

But we are talking about more than petty shoplifters and price tag switchers, even though they still remain a part of the problem. It’s the organized gangs that strike an entire area, plaguing retailers state after state, that have made shoplifting more of a national problem. Take for instance, the cost suffered by Seattle area stores and absorbed by honest paying customers in early spring, as they witnessed a $6.1 million loss in merchandise. It was the bust of a mother-daughter team at a local QFC grocery store that finally launched an official investigation, after years of lobbying to law enforcement from local loss prevention teams.

Now other states such as Arizona are cracking down on organized thieves. According to The Arizona Republic, “Gang members carry comprehensive shopping lists. They have designated roles such as driver, lookout, picker, packer and supervisor. They use hand signals, cell phones, GPS devices and other electronic gadgets, and they are increasingly violent. More retailers are reporting that the criminals they apprehend are resorting to violence, putting store employees and customers at risk.” As a result, retailers are getting more sophisticated with their security measures, with innovative loss prevention tools that go beyond the lockdown display cases full of high-end electronics, cosmetics and medical products. For instance, “Some retailers subscribe to a point of sale tracking service offered by Siras Inc. Siras keeps track of a product’s bar code and notes when and where it is sold. If a thief tries to return a product from another retailer or returns one that was never tagged as being sold, the system alerts the cashier that it is likely stolen,” reports The Arizona Republic. And for those organized shoplifters looking for more than a couple items to tuck away, new anti-sweep hooks keep racks in place and impossible to swipe. All in all, it’s about outsmarting the thief. Shoplifters and organized gangs will adapt, but so must retailers and their loss prevention teams, identifying the techniques these criminals use so that programs and tools can be developed to deter them. Efforts such as those made by the Organized Retail Crime Alliance, formed in 2007 by the Arizona Retailers Association, are an inspiration. The group has aided in the arrest of numerous thieves, after the networking that occurs at its monthly meetings.