Trends & Features

6 steps to combat theft

The British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey 2009, published earlier this year, revealed that shoplifting activities had increased by around one third between 2008 and 2009.

Mark James, of Wiltshire business MJ Retail Security Consultancy, predicts that retail theft will become an even greater problem in the coming months.

“The reduction of loss in the retail industry has never been a small issue,” says James. “Whether losses stem from internal or external theft, bad processes or lack of staff awareness, retailers have always battled to ensure that the stock in their stores only leaves the door via a sale. And in recent months, with the impact of a global recession, loss prevention has become an even greater focus.”

Large high street retailers have dedicated loss-prevention departments to manage their losses and to ensure they are able to offer the required information to reduce crime in the stores. However, small and medium-sized retailers often do not have such luxury.

“The unfortunate thing is that this is the area of the industry where losses will affect the long-term future of a company – a £200 loss to a large retailer will often be written off, but this loss to an independent retailer, especially over a sustained period, can potentially put them out of business,” says James.

“The trick is finding effective loss-prevention techniques that will not have an impact on a store’s sales.”

James gives these six simple pieces of advice to smaller retailers on how to best protect their stock from becoming losses:

Be mindful of whose advice you take
Independent advice is hard to come by. Some businesses offering advice on how to solve loss problems in your business may try to also sell expensive pieces of equipment such as tagging or CCTV. If someone offers you advice, ask yourself: ‘Why are they giving me this advice?’ and ‘What are they getting out of it?’ Not all sales people have your store’s best interests in mind, but only the sale of their product.

Do you know what stock you have in your store and what is being sold?
Many retailers will think they have a problem with a certain type of product being lost, but the basis of this is only a belief. By tracking your stock, you will not only confirm suspicions about some products but also could discover other stock problems that you did not even realise you had.

Do you need all that stock out on the shelf?
Many retailers believe that the more stock on show the better. However, if this stock is vulnerable to theft then it is better to fill shelves to meet normal demand and replace the shelf items as they are sold. This means that if someone attempts a bulk theft they will not be able to take all your stock and you will reduce your loss.

Do not prejudge anyone
It is easy to fall into the trap of following someone due to their ‘appearance’. Professional thieves – people who earn their living from shoplifting – will spend a lot of time trying to make themselves look as normal as possible.

Instead of clothing, pay attention to the person’s body language. Are they looking nervous? Are they looking around to see where the staff are placed? Are they moving stock from one side of the store to another to be out of sight? If you suspect anyone, the best deterrent is to just approach them and ask if they need any assistance.

Hold regular team meetings with colleagues and discuss any issues
Your colleagues may have seen something they don’t think is relevant. They may also be able to identify potential offenders to you. The more information you share with your colleagues, the quicker you will know if a problem increases, as they will be aware of what to look for too.

Talk to other retailers and professionals
Similar businesses will, more than likely, share problems such as theft. By talking to these people you will be able to identify trends, have early warnings on new issues in the area and pick up tips on how to stop these crimes from happening.

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