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Retail Theft During the Holiday Season: How to Thwart it

Theft During the Holiday Season: How to Thwart it

The holidays often bring increased customer traffic and booming profits for many businesses, but along with the good comes the bad: high rates of consumer shoplifting and employee theft.

The impact retail theft has on businesses of all sizes is significant. A recent study found losses resulting from retail crime that included shoplifting, employee theft and vendor/supplier fraud reached $128 billion worldwide last year, with $42 billion in losses reported in the US alone. The cost of this “shrink” is then passed on to consumers, with US shoppers paying an average of $400 more per household annually, according to the study.

Consumer shoplifting and employee theft abound during the holiday season, often thanks to crowded stores, stressed employees working long holiday hours and an influx of seasonal workers. As your business prepares for this holiday season, it’s important to educate yourself and your employees so you can address the weak spots within your business in order to keep your profits from walking out the door.

Reduce Employee Theft

Retail theft takes many forms and isn’t limited to customers with sticky fingers; statistically, employee theft makes up for a higher percentage of retail losses, with employees stealing about six times as much as shoplifters, a recent study by Jack L. Hayes International, INC. reported. Employee theft can range from isolated incidents with a few dishonest workers to sophisticated organized retail crime groups.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busy holiday traffic and extra duties, but it pays to be vigilant; consider implementing the following strategies to curtail employee theft:

  • Train all employees in shoplifting and employee theft prevention and detection. (We’ll talk about this more below.)
  • Review how you hire and train seasonal workers, and ensure your standards are high. Loss prevention experts say that adding temporary workers may increase the likelihood of holiday theft because often hiring practices tend to be less stringent for seasonal workers; they may have weaker company loyalty; they may not be fully trained; and they may get less supervision than permanent employees during other times of the year. For these reasons, pay as much attention to seasonal workers as you do to your permanent employees. For more insight into hiring seasonal workers, check out this article from Pinkerton.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your business. If you’re not at your location most of the time, stop by unannounced often to check on your employees.
  • Monitor inventory numbers and spot-check physical inventory against your inventory sheets/online system totals. If your employees know you are keeping track, they are less likely to steal.
  • Review your cash register tape often; for example, increased “no sale” data on your cash register tape could be an indication of theft; note if certain employees have excessive “no sale” data and investigate.
  • Check deposits to ensure they match the sales figures and are being made when expected. If deposit timing changes or sales and deposit amounts don’t match, find out why.
  • Implement an accurate inventory-tracking system and make sure employees understand that inventory is carefully tracked and monitored.
  • Encourage your employees to alert you if they suspect theft in the workplace; establish a phone number or some other notification system that allows your employees to remain anonymous.

Spot Potential Shoplifters

Train your employees to be on the alert for potential shoplifters. Here are several common behaviors to look for, adapted from an About Money article:

  • Avoids eye contact.
  • Seems nervous and may pick up random items with no interest.
  • Spends more time watching the sales staff and other customers than actually shopping.
  • Lingers in a location that employees have a hard time monitoring.
  • Wears bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather or wears coats when unnecessary.
  • Walks with short or unnatural steps, which may indicate that they are concealing lifted items.
  • Frequently enters and leaves the store or wanders around, but never makes a purchase.
  • Enters the dressing room or restroom with merchandise and exits with none.
  • Large group entering the store at one time, especially juveniles. A member of the group causes a disturbance to distract sales staff.

Ways to Thwart Shoplifting

In addition to spotting potential thieves before they walk out with your profits, business owners can reduce shoplifting by implementing some of these tactics this holiday season:

  • Beef up your customer service. Your honest customers will appreciate it but potential shoplifters won’t – they typically avoid stores with attentive sales staff.
  • Greet customers as they come in, which removes anonymity and lets them know they’re noticed.
  • Hire enough employees to provide your customers with personal attention during the busy holiday season.
  • Provide ongoing training for employees so they know how to prevent shoplifting and how to handle a shoplifting situation safely.
  • Watch for customers who exhibit suspicious behavior, such as those noted above. Approach these shoppers and ask if they need help, which will likely deter many of them.
  • Train your sales staff to give the suspected shoplifter a chance to pay for the item if they start walking out without paying, by asking, “Are you ready to pay for that?” or “Can I ring you up?”
  • Encourage your employees to walk around the store, not just down the center but along the walls and in the back areas, too.
  • Maintain a clean, organized and well-lit store. Keep shelves and displays low, and install adequate lighting to maintain visibility throughout the store. A disorganized, run-down store gives thieves the impression you’re not paying attention.
  • Keep commonly stolen items in plain view and place targeted items in the front of the store, near the cash register or another highly visible area.
  • Establish a shoplifting policy and enforce it. Post the policy so employees and customers are aware of it, including in all dressing rooms and restrooms.
  • Install anti-theft devices including security towers at entrances, security cameras throughout the store, convex mirrors in corners and anti-theft tags on merchandise.
  • Lock dressing rooms, and require customers to check in with a salesperson before using them.
  • Communicate with neighboring business owners about any suspicious behaviors they have seen. Ask employees to take note of suspicious behaviors to share with each other, as well as with other business owners.

Have you successfully cut down on shoplifting and employee theft in your business? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

 

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Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.