SHOPLIFTING: The Nightmares of Retailers

Shoplifting is a crime as old as shopkeeping. C’mon, you remember Oliver Twist boosting fruit from the stalls for Fagin, right?

These days, it costs a lot more to counter the issue of shoplifting. It affects the store’s profit margin, e.g. if they operate on a 1-percent profit margin, the retailer has to sell £100 of goods for every £1 stolen. This cost is passed on to other customers as higher prices.

Stats from the 2014 Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) crime survey, state that while overall crime has fallen drastically, shoplifting is up by 6%. With over 80,000 cases of theft from shops reaching the courts each year, the Home Office, Met and the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS) have come up with provisions to handle these cases swiftly and efficiently. The main thrust of the shop theft provisions is:

Stealing goods worth £200 or less (retail value), is classed a summary-only offence, with the defendants being tried by judge and jury in the Crown Court. This new provision does not apply to cases involving multiple offences in which the total of the stolen goods adds up to more than £200.

This threshold set at £200 has been introduced because it captures the vast majority of the cases currently heard in the magistrates’ courts. While any form of prosecution and restitution is welcome, the figures seem a bit off. If your stock is on average worth more than £200 each, what happens? What happens if stock is damaged in the process of shoplifting? You lose.

Shoplifting affects everyone; the offender gets fined and maybe jail time.

The already-over worked police gets a larger caseload, the store’s security expenses go up, consumers bear the brunt in increased prices, communities lose sales tax revenue, etc.

The truth is anyone can be a shoplifter; old, young, male, female. While a few shoplift because they have fallen on hard times, a larger quantity does it for not-so-noble reasons. From taking part in childish dares to using it to fund a drug habit, goods can be nicked off your shelves and sold at half the value on the streets.

Before we blame drug addicts or thrill seekers, let’s note that shoplifting is one of the least detected crimes.

Stock control in many stores is so poor that retailers don’t know how many goods are lost to shoplifters or their own staff. Historically, “shrinkage” was used as a rough measure of stock levels. As long as it didn’t exceed 2% – 3% of goods sold, retailers pay little attention to shoplifting. Not keeping a firm grasp on stock levels allows incidences of shoplifting, staff collusion, even bungled orders to go unnoticed.

Not every business can afford to hire loss prevention staff; so they wing it. If you have a security guard who sits at his station all day, hoping to spot a shoplifter, you are winging it. The threat of prosecution displayed on signs, using rope barriers and even signs that state “do not enter” will not deter these hoodlums. From dressing up in extra baggy clothes to carrying shopping bags lined with foil, to using baby prams as cover, these miscreants try and successfully beat most security measures.

So, how can you prevent loss by stopping them? No one way is guaranteed to stop a determined thief, but by combining proven methods, you have a better chance of making your retail outlet less of a target.

Encourage Staff Vigilance.

Shoplifting can occur at anytime. Your staff need to stay alert at all times. Train them to spot clues and cues. From the security personnel at the door to the shelf stackers, train them to acknowledge customers, make eye contact and speak to as many customers as possible. Having staff engage, if only briefly, unnerves most shoplifters and changes their minds.

Re-Examine your Store Layout.

Most retail stores have blind spots, usually at awkward angles at the end of aisles. This allows shoplifters to do the ‘pick two, drop one’ move. They seem like they are contemplating two items, but end up putting back only one the shelf. The other is slipped into their bag. Keep aisles clear and wide enough for up to three people abreast. Use convex mirrors at the ends of aisles.

Protect Your Goods.

To deter pilferers, keep small but expensive stuff in cases that have tags on them. If they want to see it, they will have to alert a member of staff. You should also keep these high ticket items away from doors and windows; they have been known to chuck things out.

High-Level Surveillance.

Images from IP cameras and high definition cameras make it easier to identify perpetrators and can be used as evidence in court. All entry and exit points must be covered. To prevent staff theft, make sure the cashier, cash area and stock rooms are covered too. Employ a dedicated member of staff to monitor the video feed to prevent thefts from occurring. Don’t make the common mistake of installing pricey equipment and not training anyone on how to use it.

Review Policies regularly.

As population and demographics and the economy changes, your retail location may become more or less prone to unscrupulous elements, looking for an easy score. Carry out a security audit/review at least twice a year to make sure you are on top of security. Ensure that your staff know what to do when shoplifting occurs.

Suit UP.

Uniforms generally scare people. Even if you are a genuine shopper, the sight of a uniform will give you a small chill. Studies have shown that stores need up to 10 times less security personnel if they are wearing uniforms. While you may think plain clothes detectives can apprehend more people, the sight of a uniform scares off any potential crooks.

The use of CCTV, tags and alarms, property marking methods, security officers and accurate stock keeping are all methods of watching your stock. Accept that crime is unpredictable but preventable. With the law on your side (to an extent) protecting merchandise is down your ongoing actions.

Our recommended steps can only be bolstered by the installation of security grilles from SRL Limited. Available in different styles to accommodate your store type, they are a proven deterrent to thieves everywhere. Call us today for measurements and available styles.

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