According to one recent study, businesses in the United States lost an estimated $40 billion dollars to theft in 2013 alone – that’s billion, with a “B.” That number accounted for more than 1.3% of the total sales in the retail sector during that period. With numbers as concerning as these, many business owners in Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland want to address this particular issue at all costs. We recently met with a retail store in Washington, DC concerning their possible need for security guard services. The manager emphasised how many people his inside loss prevention team detained each month. This is a credit to the quality of his loss prevention team. However, the manager was looking at the problem from the wrong angle. The concern should not be with spending massive amounts of money and liability risk required to “catch thieves in the act”, but instead to take measures that help make your business less of a target in the first place. Our previous article covering 10 Steps to Preventing retail shoplifting contained some great ideas that focused more on things that could be purchased to prevent shoplifting. In this article, we list options that are more related to store personnel and company policies. Here are five key theft deterrents that you can start using right now at low or no costs.
1. Increase the Visibility of Your Cameras, Security Guards, and LP Staff
A simple fact of the matter is that people are less likely to steal from you if they know they are being watched. Don’t try to install cameras in low profile locations where they are hidden from sight – make sure that everyone can see them when they walk in the door. It may be helpful to have a monitor that allows customers to see themselves as they enter. Don’t place your retail security guards or loss prevention detectives in a back room, away from customers. Get them out on the floor where they can be seen make their presence known. It is also advisable to request input from the security company that is providing your business with the security guard services.
2. Increase the Frequency of Employee Interaction
Another key theft deterrent you can use involves making sure that all customers are greeted not only when they walk in the door, but at many different points along their sales journey. If someone came into your store with the intention of stealing, they are less likely to do so if another employee comes up to them every few minutes to ask if they need any help or advice. This also applies for your uninformed retail security guards. Make sure they say hello to customers while they are on duty. In the worst case scenario, you’re just creating a more pleasant, helpful experience for legitimate customers.
3. Reconfigure Your Layout to Address Problem Areas
Does your inventory reporting tell you that you have a pretty consistent theft problem with X, Y and Z products? The solution to your problem may be surprisingly simple – switch up the layout of your store to put X, Y and Z products in a much more visible, heavily trafficked area. Maybe the issue is that those products are the easiest to steal because they’re tucked off in a corner, away from prying eyes.
4. Increase Employee Engagement
One issue that many businesses often don’t have the nerve to deal with is the fact that theft doesn’t just come from outside – it also often happens from within. Employees are also very likely to steal from a business, particularly if they don’t like their job or if they feel entitled in some way. The answer to this particular problem involves doing what you can to increase employee engagement. Employees need to feel like they are an important part of something that is larger than themselves. Engaged employees are not only less likely to steal but will also take pride in their work, go the extra mile regarding their regular duties and create a much better environment for everyone involved – including customers and clients.
5. Educate employees and share loss information
Finally, one of the best theft deterrents that you should start making use of right away is keeping your staff aware of theft numbers and incidents. If you can’t seem to stop certain types of products from running out the door, this isn’t something you should necessarily hide. Make your employees aware of the loss prevention challenges that are being seen. In many cases, the employees may have ideas on how to prevent theft. Even though you likely have a dedicated loss prevention team, the most important thing to remember is that every last employee should always be doing their part to help not stop theft, but prevent it altogether. Sharing information also helps prevent employee theft by making them aware that you are watching the numbers.
Training is an essential part of this solution. Make sure that employees are well aware of certain trouble areas of the store that may lack proper coverage, techniques that thieves use to make stealing easier, certain behaviors that people are likely to exhibit just before a theft takes place and more. You can’t expect employees to help do their part to deter theft if they aren’t quite sure what their part is in the first place. Education extends not just to new employees but existing employees for the best results.