Most merchants take basic precautions to reduce theft in their stores: they train employees and install surveillance systems. But even with these steps, the National Retail Federation survey found that 96 percent of retailers have been a victim of organized retail crime.
That said, there's always more you can and should do to make your store less attractive to thieves. Our experts suggest four, all maximizing the loss prevention technology and techniques you’re likely already using.
1. Have video surveillance footage you can use. Many merchants review video footage after a break-in or employee theft only to find that the camera has been turned off or the equipment is not in working order. “Put the main recording device in a locked cabinet and make sure all cords going to the recorder are secure as well,” says Steve White, corporate vice president, business development at Vector Security. He also suggests you change all default passwords for the video system so that footage cannot be erased.
Camera placement is just as important. Place cameras at the cash register and near high-theft items, but also near your store’s exit to capture people’s faces as they leave the store. Since the lighting will be behind them, you’ll have a better view, White says.
2. Smile for the camera. Robert A. Gardner, an independent Security advisor and ASIS International member, a trade organization for security professionals, says that since video technology is relatively inexpensive, many stores use closed circuit television in the stores to detect theft. However, while most install a couple of cameras and put the monitor behind the camera, he recommends placing a monitor near the front of the store as well. “When someone is walking into a store and they see themselves on television, they know that they are being watched and it is a physiological deterrent from doing anything illegal.”
3. Check the register. Be as concerned about overages in the register as you are about shortages. Although sometimes overages are simple mistakes, extra money in the register at the end of the day can indicate that employees are shortchanging customers when making change or over-charging for merchandise. An overage can happen when employees have built a bank of cash during the day and haven’t take their portion from the register, says Keith Aubele, president and chief executive officer of Retail Loss Prevention Group, Inc and ASIS International Retail Council chairman. He recommends tracking overages and shortages either manually or through software to identify any operational breakdowns. If you suspect a particular employee, carefully monitor that person through video surveillance using a camera angle that will show the register transaction.
4. Keep saying “Hello.” Aubele says that many merchants don’t train their employees on how important “hello” can be in deterring theft. At a 2013 summit for the Loss Prevention Retail Council, shoplifters were interviewed and told members that they will leave a store and not steal items if store associates are active and engaged. “That is a very powerful statement coming from people who make their living by stealing merchandise,” says Aubele.
To ensure that your staff carries through with the welcome mat, he recommends reminding employees at team meetings and monitoring greetings through video as well as including it as part of employee evaluations. Make sure staffers know that interaction shouldn’t end at the initial greeting, Aubele says. It is essential that employees employ agressive hospitality and continue interacting with customers throughout their shopping experience. Encourage employees to ask customers if they need additional sizes or shopping help. In addition to just being good customer service, this sort of friendly engagement will reduce theft.
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has over 18 years professional writing experience and specializes in writing about small businesses. Her work has been published MSN Money, FOX Business and the Intuit Small Business Blog and American Express OPEN Forum.