The National Retail Federation reports that inventory shrink cost the U.S. retail industry $46.8 billion in 2018; according to the NRF, 36.5 percent of shrink is external, due to shoplifting and organized retail crime (theft involving two or more persons), outpacing shrink caused by employee theft, vendor fraud, and administrative errors.
Chances are, you aren’t prepared to install price theft detection equipment or hire a full-time security guard for your retail business, but there are low-tech, low-cost ways to deter crime in your store that are easy to implement, and can help prevent loss due to theft.
10+ Low-Tech Loss Prevention Tips
Make Eye Contact. According to the Loss Prevention Research Council, 44 percent of shoplifters interviewed said if an employee paid attention to them while they were committing theft, it would deter them. Train your staff to greet every shopper who enters the store, and look them in the eye.
Keep Merchandise Organized. Pull shelf-based products to the front edge of the shelf, keep folded apparel tidy, and giftware lined up neatly. When the store is in great shape, it’s easy to spot a hole in your product lineup faster. It’s easy to nab something off a shelf when the store is messy.
Watch for Red Flags. Shoplifters come in all shapes, sizes, ages, etc. — but there are behaviors to look out for that may alert you to a theft-in-progress:
- Shoplifters often work in pairs or larger groups so one person can distract the sales staff while the other proceeds to steal.
- The most common shoplifting method is hiding merchandise from sight underneath clothing, in a purse, stroller, or inside other merchandise.
- Keep an eye on shoppers who...
Spend more time watching the cashier than actually shopping.
Take several items into the dressing room, but leave with one.
Act nervous, and pick up random items with no interest.
Pay Attention to Price Tags. Train your staff to watch price tags, and have them be on the lookout for price switching. If the price seems wrong, or the price tag is affixed in an unusual way, chances are the tag has been switched.
Share a Code. Have a code which enables staff to alert each other of suspicious activities. Maybe, “Have you seen Sam today,” really means, “Pay attention, this shopper may be up to something.” It’s a handy way to help your staff communicate potential issues, without offending shoppers.
More Simple Steps to Prevent Theft:
- Place your checkout so that customers must pass it while exiting.
- Never leave your register unlocked or unattended.
- Install anti-theft mirrors to eliminate blind spots, and ensure there is adequate lighting in all areas.
- Keep small or expensive items in locked cabinets
- Keep dressing rooms locked, and limit the number of items taken in by each customer
- Place anti-theft signage up high, where would-be thieves may look for security cameras. Research suggests signs with eyes (like the one below) double the likelihood of compliance! Or try this sign.
Safety first! If a thief is brazen enough to take something off the shelf and run, don’t go after them — call the police. Most of the time, however, shoplifters are sneakier than they are brave. A few simple tweaks to employee training and thoughtful consideration of your store’s layout can go a long way toward preventing theft, and protecting your store’s inventory and bottom line.
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