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Fashion is the main high street target

by Brian Sims

Fashion retailers appear more susceptible to theft” particularly staff dishonesty” than the rest of the High Street, according to a new survey from the Retail Loss Prevention Fashion Forum. The tough economic climate causing people to turn to dishonesty is one of a series of findings from the survey, carried out by an independent survey company on behalf of a representative sample of the Forum. The findings have vindicated the approach and reveal that although customer theft was in decline and largely in line with other surveys, internal theft was more than 30 per cent of all fashion theft, whereas it represented single-digit per cent of the rest of the high Street, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) crime survey. ” Over recent years there have been a number of retail crime reports ranging from the BRC’s annual survey to the Global Retail Theft Barometer and the Retail Fraud Survey,” said Mitch Haynes, the chair of the Forum.” We felt that these reports measured different indices and in many instances did not reflect the true nature of the loss landscape in the fashion retail industry. This was particularly illustrated by the different measures on internal theft” one year representing seven per cent of overall losses, according to one survey, while another put the figure closure to 40 per cent for the same period,” said Haynes, who is heads of security for Aurora Fashions, the company behind brands including Karen Millen, Coast and Warehouse. Using the Cardinal Group system and analysis from Cap Index, a more compact survey was carried out to probe specific levels of stock loss, police response to crime reports, the investment and deployment of LP personnel, technology (EAS tagging, CCTV), restitution (civil recovery) and so-called whistle blowing services etc. According to the survey, overall the losses came down to an average of 1.41% of sales compared to two years ago when the figure was at 1.46%. The Fashion Forum members’ interpretation of this decrease is reflective of the whole of the high street” when foot fall is sluggish and sales are down, businesses put more focus on protecting the bottom line i.e. the reduction of stock loss through better LP technology and improved systems for stock file accuracy. Key findings include: – The 1.41% figure is in line with Global Retail Theft Barometer for 2012, but out of kilter with the BRC’s figures (BRC 2012 reveals a bigger fall – 1.21% compared to 1.55% in 2011) – The Fashion Forum figure highlights the fact that external theft remains the biggest issue for retailers – Store theft by customers at 45.5% means external threat is still the biggest risk – Deterrence is still the main focus, but a reduction in staffing levels driven by the recession has had an impact – Fashion retailers are also witnessing an increase in employee theft” an average of 32.3% of loss is attributed to internal theft, which is no longer ‘the elephant in the room’ and is a key focus for shrinkage reduction. The last Global Theft Barometer suggested that internal theft was at 35% while, by stark contrast, the BRC reported employee dishonesty was just 4%. – 65% of those surveyed reported an increase in internal theft – Data mining has enabled retailers to identify and report true figures on internal theft – Companies are careful of brand damage and don’t always want to ‘publicise’ internal theft issues by going to the police – More than one-third of employees involved in internal theft were in a position of trust. The higher their position, the more damage they can do – 18% of shrinkage was attributed to administrative error – Increase in violence against staff The findings reveal some interesting and representative findings that will chime with non-fashion retailers and resonate around the High Street. The future could see more investment in retailer collaboration, technology and restitution. This could be triggered by the fact that LP professionals envisage fewer police officers and poorer returns from town centre partnerships arrange in their day-to-day work and retailers take a more strategic approach to protecting their people, property and profits.

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