The dream of owning and managing a retail business is a noble one. Providing a community with the quality products they need, coupled with the customer service they deserve rewards you with shopper loyalty and a sense of satisfaction that only building something from the ground up can bring. But the promise of fair prices and trust in your customers can quickly derail your honorable intentions thanks to those who have never heard that very word; honorable.
I’m talking about shoplifters, albeit the less intense term for theft, larceny, looting, burglary, and robbery.
Theft, regardless of how it’s referred to, is something that each and every retail business is aware of, can suffer from, and should take action to prevent. The loss of product, no matter the form, hurts a business. There are no business profits from stolen goods. But there are lesser known side effects from theft that shoplifters, or any thief for that matter, probably don’t consider. Shoplifting overburdens police departments and court systems across the country. The efforts to stop theft and elicit justice to criminals requires efforts that have a tendency to outweigh the cost of the item stolen, herein lies the conundrum, but that is a whole different article. Sales tax income for the community is directly connected to shoplifters. If there is a reduced amount of products to sell, the sales tax income for the community will decrease, resulting in fewer funds for entities the city is responsible for, such as paying police officers. Theft can also have a direct effect on prices presented to customers. As you know, inventory purchases for a retail store have predetermined revenue, which is often already spent by the time it is placed on the shelf. Fewer items to sell can lead to a price increase to cover losses. Essentially, shoplifters and theft can lead to an overall price increase of consumer goods because the cost of this product loss is passed on to shoppers.
It is important to stop this unpleasant cycle before it gains momentum through two strategies: what you can do and what a pro can do.
What You Can Do
There are methods of preventing retail business theft that you can put into action right now with just yourself and a bit of organized creativity.
If They Can See You, You Can See Them
Visibility of you, your customers, and your products will be an important factor in deterring shoplifters in your establishment. Using shorter displays closer to the register (where you most likely spend the majority of your time during business hours) and taller displays near the perimeter will give you a clear line of sight. If the layout of the store leads to blind spots, products such as dome and flat panel security mirrors can give the glimpse into the area you need.
You’re On To Them
Communicating your awareness of shoplifting and that you are going to prosecute any theft can be an inexpensive deterrent. Signs warning shoplifters of your willingness to take legal action against them can be the supplemental voice the little angel sitting on their shoulder needs, who is hoarse from urging them to give up their criminal ways. An energetic “Smile, You’re On Camera” sign is a reminder that you have the means to catch them through video surveillance (which we will get to in a moment).
Be Smart About It!
Simple operational tweaks can make a world of difference in your retail theft prevention. Adding locks to dressing room doors to require employee assistance turns a small, secretive, unmonitored room into what you intend it to be, a place to try on clothes and finalize sales. Locked counter displays for smaller, but valuable items such tech products or jewelry is a simple method for knowing where your product is at all times. If you have to unlock a glass cabinet to remove a $700 camera, you are interacting with an individual, learning what they look like, and making shoplifting more difficult. I’m sure you have experienced walking into a retail business to a wave of ‘hellos’ from the employees. Yes, this is an effort to be friendly and provide hospitable customer service but it also serves to let a potential shoplifter know that you see them and you are watching. It establishes a connection to each person who enters your store.
What a Pro Can Do
As a small business owner, you are probably accustomed to doing everything yourself, it comes naturally to you. But unless you happen to have an ESA National Training School certification or two and a very specific set of skills, you will want to find a company you can trust with your inventory.
Get the Anti-Shoplifting Tech
The electronic security industry is growing and each new step forward includes advancement in security technology, which is great news for business owners, security dealers, and security integrators. Knowledge of available anti-shoplifting tech can make a world of difference in your prevention efforts. Anti-shoplifting devices are what you see cashiers and sales associates remove from your item prior to placing it in a bag and walking out of the store. These devices can take on many forms, such as RFID labels, ink tags, cable locks, sensor labels, and alligator tack (said with an appropriate amount of Crocodile Dundee impersonation). There are various levels and options with these devices, like the RFID tag for example. One important option for a retail store with stock and inventory is an RF (notice no ID here) tag vs. an RFID tag. Both will alert employees in the event of shoplifting or theft; we’ve all heard the piercing shrill of a door gate when a shopper walks through with a security tag attached or a device that is still active. In the event of a theft, an RF tag will sound the alarm just as it is intended, signaling anyone within earshot that something is being stolen but an RFID tag (here comes the ID part of the acronym) has the ability to tell you what is being stolen and that’s why RFID labeling is so popular! The radio signals in these little doo-dads have a digitally-encoded identifier that links to your network to update your inventory, database, etc. In addition to determining what type of anti-shoplifting device will work best for your inventory and workflows, what level of knowledge and insight do you want into the theft activity in your store? Do you want to know what is being stolen or is the mere act of a theft in your store plenty of alarm for you? An Electronic Security Association member company can guide you in your anti-shoplifting efforts because it is their job to understand you, your business and stay up-to-date on products, trends, and regulations in the electronic security and life safety industry.
Eyes in the Sky
Once you have moved passed the theft deterrents stage with additions like signage, blind spot mirrors, and alligator tacks, it’s time to work on the ‘catching those punks’ phase with video surveillance, which conveniently acts as a theft prevention method AND can lower your insurance rates. That’s a win, win! Video surveillance can even create a safer working environment for your staff and a more secure environment for loyal customers. There are quite a few decisions to be made when selecting a video surveillance system; do you want a dome body camera with vandal-proof housing or is a bullet camera more appropriate? Additional considerations include outdoor enclosures, resolution, day/night functionality, and scalability to name a few.
The lesser known but just as influential abilities of video surveillance include remote access and customer analytics. Remote access will allow the ever-present and always-working owner to take a break for a bit while still being able to operate the security system. Forget to set the alarm? No problem! Arm your security system from your cushy recliner with a couple taps on your smartphone. Video surveillance analytics protect your business while simultaneously helping you increase it. Video intelligence such as aggression and agitation detection, and customer analytics allows your security system to capture important data that can then be used to gather insights on your customers’ behaviors. These insights and analytics can lead to new and improved strategies that can benefit your business. For example, people counting technology can show you the high and low traffic patterns based on day of the week, hour of day and so on. Now you can leverage your video surveillance to tell you when is the optimum time to introduce a flash sale or adjust your staff schedule according to projected retail traffic.
With all of the options video surveillance has to offer, you will kick yourself if you try to DIY this level of a project. Any ESA member company can tell you what you need, where you need it, and execute a plan specifically for you and your retail business. Professionals in the security industry today are more advanced and technologically savvy than any of their predecessors. They are a unique hybrid between network engineer, and security specialist whose job is all about protecting what is important to you. A pro will look at everything from prime camera locations to network connections and walk you through the operation of your system.
It’s All In a Day’s Work
So, your ‘honey-do’ list (you’re married to your work, aren’t you?) is to start with what you can do yourself; rearrange aisles, put up a ‘we prosecute shoplifters’ sign, and start making a list of companies in your area that offer the electronic security services your retail business needs. This handy site to helps with this is as Alarm.org features a searchable database of ESA member companies with the ability to narrow the results by location and services offered. Now, just sit back and the pros do the work!