Retail theft continues to be a significant challenge for retailers worldwide. In 2023, retail theft increased significantly along with fears of violence during theft. Small business owners should consider investing in loss-prevention strategies to keep their stores and employees safe.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the extent of the problem, common misconceptions about retail theft, and various strategies to minimize it.
How Much Did Stores Lose from Retail Theft in 2023?
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual retail security survey estimates that retail theft losses reached $112.1 billion. Compared to the $93.9 billion figure from their 2022 study, retail theft increased by 19% in the last year.
Anxiety surrounding retail theft extends past financial losses. Nearly three-quarters of respondents consider violence during retail theft a higher priority than last year. “The situation is only becoming more dire,” according to David Johnston, the Vice President of Asset Protection & Retail Operations at the NRF, “the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority.”
What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Retail Theft?
Misconceptions about retail theft can put retailers at risk. By understanding the reality of these issues, we can develop effective strategies to minimize retail shrink.
Myth: Shoplifters Are Easy to Spot
One common myth is that shoplifters are easy to spot. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all profile for a shoplifter. Thieves come from diverse backgrounds and demographics, and their motivations for stealing can vary widely.
New South Wale’s Crime Prevention resources highlight certain behaviors that can potentially indicate shoplifting activity.
- Observing staff while shopping
- Wearing unusually warm and bulky clothing that may hide stolen items
- Taking short and unnatural steps to keep items on their person concealed
- Leaving dressing rooms with fewer items than they entered with
- Looking away from their hands – typically at retail associates
- Nervously fidgeting with random items without a particular interest
- Entering the store frequently, without making purchases
However, these signs are not definitive proof, and retailers should approach these situations with care and discretion.
Myth: One Loss Prevention Strategy Suits All
The belief that a single loss prevention strategy can work for every retailer is another widespread fallacy. Each retail store is unique, with its own set of challenges and risks.
Loss prevention strategies should consider each retailer’s unique situation. You should analyze past and current loss trends, identify when and where loss occurs, and implement strategies based on these findings.
Loss prevention strategies work better in concert. By incorporating a variety of strategies into your loss prevention plan, you can compensate for each strategy’s weakness and play into their strengths.
Myth: You can set and forget your LP strategy
Lastly, the notion that you can ‘set and forget’ your loss prevention strategy is a dangerous misconception. Loss prevention is a dynamic field, with shoplifters constantly devising new ways to steal and theft prevention technologies continually evolving.
To stay ahead of the curve, retailers need to regularly review, update, and adapt their strategies to the ever-changing landscape of retail theft.
Integrating Different Types of Store Security
As mentioned above, a variety of anti-theft strategies will protect your retail location from potential theft. When attempting to increase your store’s security, you should assess your current security.
Retail stores have three primary avenues for minimizing retail shrink:
By investing in strategies across different avenues, you increase your store’s security. A well-rounded approach is better than relying on only one. Each strategy will increase the effectiveness of the others – by increasing visibility.
While it may seem counterintuitive, highlighting your anti-theft efforts makes your store less of a target. Dan Berthiaume, from Chain Store Age, said, “Thieves want the easiest job possible. If your store has some basic security protocols, they move on to a store that hasn’t been hardened.”
Training Staff to Decrease Retail Theft
Employees play a vital role in retail theft prevention. Proper training empowers your team to identify and handle theft incidents.
Promote Customer Engagement
Attentive and engaged staff can deter retail theft. Encourage your team to greet all customers as they enter the store, offer frequent check-ins at the fitting room, and maintain constant vigilance on the shop floor. This not only makes potential thieves feel watched but also enhances the overall customer experience.
Keep Your Fitting Rooms Staffed
Fitting rooms are often hotspots for retail theft. Therefore, ensure they are staffed and monitored at all times. Implement a system where at least one person is stationed at the register and another in the fitting area during every shift.
Train your employees to engage with customers trying on merchandise, ask them questions, give advice, and offer help. Numbered door hanger systems keep track of items entering and leaving each room.
Provide Safety Resources
Equip your staff with the necessary safety resources. Employees should feel empowered to respond to potential theft, without feeling unsafe. Retail staff should have easy access to references that include phone numbers for local security, police, and upper management.
Including these references in training materials will make employees aware of their existence. Place the references in the staff room and cash register, so staff can consult them when they become relevant.
Equip Staff with a Theft Action Plan
Retail theft can be a stressful situation. Preparing staff with a clear action plan enables a consistent response without putting team members at risk.
Each action should be customized to each retailer’s unique needs. An example of a theft action plan:
- Discreetly photograph the thief
- Note the time of the theft
- Find a safe location, if they feel threatened
- Report the incident immediately to upper management
- Record stolen items
- Alert other staff members
- Continue to offer excellent customer service
During incidents where employees feel unsafe, employees should be encouraged to leave the situation. Break rooms can be designated as a safe place for employees. Here they can alert other staff members and find the safety resources mentioned above.
Educate Staff about Employee Theft
It’s equally important to educate your staff about employee theft. Employees who engage in retail theft pose a danger to retailers. As part of retail theft prevention, you should incorporate employee theft prevention into your training process.
Inform staff about the measures your store takes to detect and prevent employee theft, such as:
- tracking inventory
- conducting audits
- installing video cameras
- using separate log-ins for each employee in the POS system
This transparency can deter potential internal theft and foster a culture of trust within your team.
How Technology Can Be Used for Theft Prevention
Technology plays a significant role in theft prevention. Large retailers are at the cutting edge of anti-theft technology, with features like AI-enhanced camera systems and facial recognition software.
As a small business owner, these features may be out of your budget; however, they’re likely overkill for retailers. The tools mentioned below have solutions for every budget.
Video surveillance is a classic yet powerful tool in retail theft prevention. Modern systems provide high-resolution footage that can deter potential thieves and help identify those who do steal.
Some advanced surveillance systems even incorporate AI technology. These systems recognize suspicious behavior, alerting staff in real-time to potential theft incidents.
Review your surveillance footage regularly to understand theft patterns and adjust your prevention tactics accordingly.
Entrance Alert System
An entrance alert system is an effective deterrent against shoplifting. These systems notify staff whenever a customer enters or leaves the store, enabling them to greet customers promptly.
Customers will appreciate the prompt service. Potential thieves will be deterred by the staff’s awareness of them.
Anti-theft RFID Devices for Retail Stores
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices have revolutionized retail theft prevention. These devices, attached to merchandise, can trigger an alarm if they pass through the detection system at the store entrance without being deactivated at the point of sale.
RFID tags are small and discreet, making them difficult for shoplifters to remove. They can be used on a wide variety of items, from clothing to electronics, providing a robust line of defense against theft.
Optimizing Your Store Layout for Theft Prevention
Last but not least, an optimized store layout can minimize theft. Store layout can maximize the effectiveness of other loss prevention strategies.
An optimized layout allows employees and cameras can more easily identify potential thieves and keep track of inventory. Whereas an unoptimized layout allows retail thieves the privacy needed to stash inventory.
By strategically arranging your merchandise and fixtures, you can deter potential thieves and minimize loss.
Position Products to Minimize Dangers of High-Risk Items & Areas
High-risk items and areas present particular challenges in retail theft prevention. Place high-value items near the cash wrap or in locked cases, making them more difficult for potential thieves to access.
Also, be aware of blind spots in your store where shoplifters may feel hidden – corners, alcoves, or areas blocked from view by tall displays. Arrange your store so these areas are visible to staff at all times.
Choosing Display Fixtures for Increased Security
Display fixtures can also contribute to your theft prevention strategy. Opt for open shelving units that allow clear sightlines across your store, rather than tall, closed-off units that create blind spots.
For high-value items, consider using locked display cases or tethering products to the display with security cables. Security displays restrict customer access, so potential thieves are forced into employee interactions. Employees will have less pressure to constantly be aware of these high-value items – providing better customer service and having more capacity to notice potential theft elsewhere.
How Shelving & Store Layout Deters Theft
The type and arrangement of your shelves can significantly deter theft. Keep aisles wide and uncluttered to improve visibility and discourage shoplifters who prefer to operate unseen.
Consider using fixtures that promote visibility throughout the store. For example, a wire grid end panel allows retail associates to maintain visibility of a potential thief’s hands from more angles.
Place your cash wrap near the exit. Staff can greet customers as they enter and leave the store – creating a similar awareness to entrance alert systems. Employees here will be situated to see most activity in the store.
Using Mirrors & Signs
Mirrors and signs can be effective tools for deterring shoplifters. The trick here is to psychologically deter potential thieves.
Strategically placed mirrors eliminate blind spots and increase visibility throughout the store. Signs remind customers about security measures, such as video surveillance, and consequences, like prosecution for theft.
Placing mirrors or video surveillance feeds where a potential thief will see themself is a powerful psychological deterrent. It highlights surveillance efforts while placing the thief at the center of them. This is a common strategy employed by larger retailers, like Target.
Improve Loss Prevention in 2024
At Storflex, we understand the challenges facing retailers. Our team will work with you directly to design a store layout that appeals to customers and discourages potential thieves.
When you work with our store design services team, you leverage our store designers’ over 30 years of experience. We can tailor-make solutions for your store’s unique needs, with a simple ordering process for our best-in-class retail store fixtures, providing you with the fastest lead times and exceptional service.
Retail theft prevention is a multifaceted challenge requiring a comprehensive approach. By integrating staff training, innovative technology, and an optimized store layout, you can significantly reduce the risk of theft and protect your bottom line in 2024.
Stay ahead of the curve and start planning your theft prevention strategy with Storflex’s team of layout experts today.