A recent news article has illustrated just how vigilant retailers need to be during holiday periods and sales, with the Brisbane Times reporting a 40 per cent increase in shoplifting incidents in the Brisbane CBD throughout December last year.
It comes in addition to more general statistics that indicate more than a third of Australia’s retail theft occurs in the lead-up to Christmas.
So, with the heady days of Christmas retail now all but a distant memory what can retailers learn in the ongoing battle against loss?
The Brisbane example
The Christmas shoplifting spike was revealed by Queensland Police, who noted there had been 140 shoplifting instances in the CBD in December. That was up from 101 instances in December 2017, equaling a rise of 38 per cent.
And it prompted a call from both police and the National Retail Association for retailers to be more vigilant during the holiday period and sales.
“The holidays are a critical time of year for retailers, so it’s important that owners and staff keep careful watch for any possibility of theft or any other forms of suspicious behaviour,” NRA industry policy manager David Stout said.
“We strongly urge retailers to report any crimes no matter how big or small to police so that both law enforcement and the industry can get a more accurate reflection of the scope of the issue.”
Meanwhile, a Queensland Police spokesperson called on retailers to up the ante in terms of training and store procedures.
“To help prevent shoplifting, businesses are urged to educate staff and supply training in loss prevention and business policy and procedure’s which can reduce the theft of goods,” the spokesperson said.
And one retailer illustrated the problem they faced.
“We definitely get a lot more incidents around this time of year as we become really busy and people think we aren’t watching or paying attention to what is happening in the store.”
They noted the prime way offenders were attempting to steal was by concealing items beneath their clothing, while snatch and grab incidents were also common.
Far from an isolated incident
The Brisbane CBD shoplifting spike might be in the headlines, but it’s far from the only shopping precinct reeling from loss.
Historic figures indicate 35 per cent of annual retail shrink occurs during the Christmas period.
To compound matters, this year’s loss comes at a time when Christmas retail offered less to be jolly about than expected.
Prior to the festive season, all reports pointed to a $51 billion retail bonanza, but while November lived up to expectation, December fell short.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found sales numbers fell 0.4 per cent to $27 billion, compared to the 0.5 per cent increase seen in November.
“The results show that over the course of the holiday period Australians spent $48.7 billion on retail sales, below the $51 billion projected by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Roy Morgan, though above the corresponding turnover of $47.5 billion from 2017,” Inside Retail reported.
Reducing spikes in theft
Christmas 2019 might fee a long way off but now is the time retailers should be learning from any mistakes and crafting a proactive response to retail shrink.
And the truth is, loss prevention is always a multi-faceted strategy that includes harnessing available technology, while also focusing on staff recruitment and training. Periods which are renowned for additional losses should see extra vigilance across the board.
Even though holidays and sales periods may see an influx of seasonal workers, all should be screened carefully prior to commencing employment.
New recruits should also be given thorough training in store protocols and customer service techniques. It has been widely reported that the simple act of greeting customers can result in a reduction in theft.
All staff should be given a refresher of the suspicious behaviour that shoplifters are likely to portray, which includes:
- Spending more time watching the cashier or salesperson than actually shopping.
- Wearing bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather or coats when unnecessary.
- Walking with short or unnatural steps, which may indicate that they are concealing stolen items.
- Taking several items into a dressing room and only leaving with one item or none.
- The customer’s eyes are not looking at what their hands are doing; instead, they are looking out for staff! So, if the eyes don’t match the action…beware.
- Appearing nervous and picking up random items with no interest.
- Frequently entering a store and never making a purchase.
Electronic article surveillance
Electronic article surveillance, comprising security tags, security labels, and detection antenna, remains one of the most widely used and effective means to detect an incidence of theft as it is occurring.
Noted to reduce shoplifting by an estimated 60-80 per cent, the strategy sees tags or labels affixed to merchandise. Tagged or labelled products are constantly monitored by the antenna and should a shoplifter attempt to leave a store with an item, an alarm will sound, alerting staff to potential theft.
Even during busy periods like sales and holidays, store management should use common sense in terms of store layout.
Good lighting plays a role in reducing theft, as does clear visibility of the store and stock. Change rooms should be carefully monitored and/or fitted with technology like the Fittingroom guard.
Meanwhile, management may wish to reconsider the volume of high-value stock they have on the floor, instead opting for a tethered display item, with further stock stored in lockable cabinets or on display racks with stop locks.
Retailers should also resist the urge to locate sales tables too close to the entry where items may be more prone to the snatch technique, which sees shoplifters simply grab an item and run (regardless of whether an alarm sounds).
Security personnel and CCTV
Technology, staff training and good store layout might be the first lines of defence but monitoring also has an important role in loss prevention.
Sales periods and holidays are an ideal time to boost your in-store security presence, while CCTV is a simple and cost-effective way of recording and identifying shoplifting crimes.
For more advice on creating comprehensive loss prevention strategies to suit your store’s needs, contact us here.