Theft in retail remains the number one problem for shop owners compared to other types of crime. So is your retail security up to the job? In the last year on average 78% of retailers1 experienced some kind of theft. It is estimated that the total annual cost of shop theft is £44 million2 with an average cost of £131 per store, and a proportion of that is internal theft. It is also estimated that and additional 25% of all incidents go completely undetected.
So how can retailers go about managing crime and protecting their stores?
Do a quick risk assessment, it costs nothing. Assess vulnerable areas of your business, such as till areas, entrances and exits, blind spots and work to increase security in those areas. Consider high value items such as alcohol, meat and cheese, are they in view of the till points? Can the entrances and exits be seen from the till? Do customers have to pass by the tills in order to exit the store? By ensuring that this is the case in your store, staff will be able to manage theft better, and thieves are more likely to be put off if they feel they can be seen or are being watched.
Re-evaluate your CCTV system…
Do you need a CCTV upgrade? One camera should cover the till points, another should cover the entrance and exit ensuring you get a clear picture of everyone entering the store, and a third should be considered if you have blind spots in the store or if high value items aren’t near the tills. Remember that your CCTV should always be of a high quality so criminals can be identified, and should always carry a date and time stamp on the image so the police can use it to achieve a conviction.
Do you trust your staff?
Dealing with internal theft can be a tricky situation, so don’t give your staff the opportunity to steal from you in the first place, it will be easier in the long run. In 2013 retailers reported 359 cases of internal staff theft with an average cost of £680 per incident. Regularly and openly monitor stock levels, have CCTV installed in your stock room and make sure staff are aware of it by adding signage. If you have an office this is also a good place to have CCTV installed or anywhere that there is any cash handling, such as when members of staff are doing the banking or cashing up at the end of the day. If you know you already have a problem with staff theft, you can legally use covert cameras to detect them.
Be sensible and minimise loses…
What if you are targeted? Reduce the amount of cash you keep in your tills at any one time, so if you are targeting by thieves the amount of cash stolen will be minimised. Be unpredictable with your banking procedure, don’t take money to the bank at the same time every day so thieves won’t be able to plan and organise a theft. Make your staff aware of the procedure if your store is targeted. They should always be compliant and hand over the cash, they should be aware of crime reporting structures and know where any panic buttons are and where the CCTV is located for the police
Have an anti-abuse policy…
In the ACS’ Voice of Local Shops Survey an average of 55% of retailers experienced some sort of violent or verbal abuse in 20131. This figure doesn’t even take into account the many incidents that go unreported, with staff considering it to be an occupational hazard, which of course, it shouldn’t be. The top three triggers for violent or verbal abuse towards staff are queuing, challenging age restricted sales (Challenge 21) and challenging shop thieves.
Abuse Trigger 1. Challenging Shop Thieves
It is important to have a zero tolerance policy towards shop thieves because if they get away with it once they will keep coming back, and word spreads fast. But this can put your staff at risk. Staff should be confident in challenging thieves, but should not put themselves at risk if they believe the thief to be violent. However they should always report theft to the police. The police may ask your staff to give key characteristics of the suspect so they should look out for the height, ethnicity and build of the suspect, if they have any scars or tattoos, if they have a recognisable accent and the colour of the clothes they were wearing. Click Here for a FREE A4 poster that you can download and print out, outlining the Key Characteristics your staff need to look out for. Or Click Here for a FREE A4 form to help staff report an incident
Abuse Trigger 2. Challenging Age Restricted Sales
The Licencing Act 2003 states that if you sell alcohol to a minor you could receive a fine of up to £5,000. And where there are persistent sales of alcohol to underage individuals the premises licence holder could receive a fine of up to £20,000 or have the premises closed. So it is really important that staff challenge customers who they believe to be under age, but this can cause frustration and lead to a confrontation. To deal with this ensure you have clear signage stating your store policy, and make your staff aware of it. It is against the law to sell to an underage individual and most people are aware of this.
Abuse Trigger 3. Queuing
Queuing can cause customers to become aggravated and frustrated, this can then lead to verbal abuse towards staff. Ensure you know when your peak times are and when you need more staff on to prevent queues. Also consider bank holidays, local events, the weather and the holiday seasons. They will more than likely effect how busy you are and your levels of staffing should be flexible enough to cope with this. One way to deal with queuing is self-service machines, but this new technology brings with it a whole new range of potential issues. Staff should be aware of the opportunity self-service machines present to thieves and scammers. They should look out for Walk-throughs, where customers go to the self-service machines but make no effort to pay, Variable Weight Items and the swapping of barcodes. The only solution to catching repeat offenders is with a good quality CCTV system.
Is your property protected from burglary 24/7 ?
Your store can be vulnerable on the outside as well. External security is important, assess your premises for potential week areas. Ensure all doors and windows are secure and if you are in a high risk area you may want to consider external shutters. Ensure that windows are clear so staff can see in and out of them, it’s important to be aware of anti-social behaviour and gangs outside, your store could be being watched or targeted. Consider a CCTV camera at the entrance and exit to give a visual deterrent to potential burglars. It’s a good idea to get to know your local PCSO and police too, encourage them to come into your store every now and again if you feel you are particularly vulnerable. You could also attend local meetings and speak to other local businesses to find out more about crime your local area or join the local ShopWatch scheme? Again, try to be unpredictable with stock delivery days or cash collection times.
1Source: ACS’ Voice of Local Shops Survey asks 1,100 retailers quarterly of their experience of shop theft. These are average figures from Feb 2013 to Nov 2013. 2Home Office, Commercial Victimisation Survey