Asset loss in the retail sector is a major concern for business owners, and theft makes up a large part of all asset loss, accounting for more $13 billion every year (www.shopliftingprevention.com). There are many technological solutions that can be implemented to minimize theft in a retail context. Lighting and inventory placement can prevent shoplifters from targeting the most expensive items, while video surveillance equipment such as CCTV can discourage some perpetrators. However, technological solutions are limited in their efficacy. Many crimes that are recorded by cameras cannot be successfully prosecuted in court if there are no reliable witnesses or if the footage is not clear enough. Because of this, employee training is key to loss prevention.
Companies recently have started to take a more intentional approach to loss prevention. A statistical approach can ensure companies that they never spend more on prevention than their total savings from it. Yet in small business environments such as convenience stores and gas stations, high-tech security measures like tagging items with detectable devices or hiring security staff, aren’t feasible. While this is likely the most difficult environment to prevent theft, there are several techniques available to sales associates to help them save money for their companies. Greeting customers and asking them if they need help is a simple way to make potential shoplifters less likely to steal, while also fostering good customer service. Yet stuck behind the counter, lone gas station attendants have a limited line of sight and ability to engage customers. Mobile technology might help this, when roaming point of sale units become affordable, they will allow employees to monitor customers and ring them up anywhere in the store.
I recall the story of a friend, working at a nightclub, where a customer literally ran out the door with a six-pack of beer. The bouncer chased the man down in the street, but right before he grabbed him, the man threw the beer, smashing the bottles. The lesson seems to be that the brute force method of loss prevention is neither safe, legal, nor particularly profitable. Likely, the bartender should have requested payment before setting the beer on the bar. Employee protocol could have prevented that particular theft.
As technology improves and becomes more affordable, a larger number of businesses will be able to reduce loss from theft. Employee protocol and technology go a long way toward reducing theft.