According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), crime cost the UK retail industry £603 million last year. That figure represents an 18% increase on the previous 12 months. Of course, the period covering the run-up to Christmas brings with it a particular risk of retail losses to theft with increased footfall, distracted staff and thieves targeting a range of premium products to use as gifts and also convert into cash.
Unfortunately, the growing use of self-service displays and open merchandising at this time of year encourages shoplifters just as much as it does legitimate customers. There’s also an escalating threat to staff – particularly in smaller, independent stores with fewer employees – arising from large sums of cash held at the Point of Sale and which often has to be taken and deposited at the bank at the close of trading.
Now, Lodge Service has formulated some Top Tips/steps that retailers can take to counter the threat of crime at Christmas.
Review the use of Security Guarding
The presence of trained security officers is a reassuring presence for customers and staff, as well as an active deterrent to shoplifters. Good security and customer service go hand-in-hand, with trained officers able to help and interact with customers at busy times and watch out for any suspicious activity.
Research at Lodge Service consistently shows that where there’s a physical guarding presence, thieves will usually move on to premises that are seen as being unprotected.
Retailers can book contract staff for shifts that match peak times of business, such as during the late afternoon and at weekends in the Christmas period, and all day over the holiday period.
Store detectives are increasingly recognised as being critical to a security strategy, particularly to counter the threat of organised criminal gangs who are targeting high value items in fashion and food stores, but also retail customers too, with bag snatching and ‘purse dipping’.
Teams of plain clothes detectives can provide an average of 40% Return on Investment on contract costs through goods recovered and private prosecutions for civil recovery proceedings in Courts of Law.
Those teams are trained to identify where gangs are preying on customers and spot the range of covert methods that criminals use. The latter may involve switching price labels or collusion with dishonest staff, for example, at the Point of Sale.
Deploying detectives is notably effective when they work in unison with uniformed officers and security systems to prevent thieves legally and safely, subsequently securing the evidence necessary for a conviction.
Check Your Security Protection
Does your CCTV equipment monitor the products and areas most vulnerable to theft (including those areas accessed only by staff)? Can recorded images be easily checked and identified on a monitor after an event?
Conducted at the very least on an annual basis, a thorough security audit is recommended to ensure the retailer is benefiting from the range of services, equipment and systems now available. They can be particularly effective when combined together.
In larger stores, for example, it’s possible to specify the ‘triangulation’ of technologies for maximum protection. This can include the use of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tagging, CCTV and Electronic Point of Sale (EPoS) till monitoring such that if a tagged product triggers the alarm at the exit, the event is filmed on video and transactions at the EPoS can be checked.
Consider Remote Monitoring
The expertise and technology required for protection is increasingly specialised. Outsourcing the monitoring of CCTV and other systems to an ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) offers the opportunity to benefit from the service provider’s investment in training and systems. Retailers can also benefit from a proportionate and timely response by dedicated security and emergency teams to any incident.
Security companies are now increasingly protecting logistics chains for major retailers, using GPS tracking, CCTV and two-way voice communications to monitor each high-value consignment from departure at the warehouse overnight to arrival at a retail outlet and then storage of the goods on site. Such a solution enables the end user to reduce the numbers of staff on a safe basis and protect lone worker-related deliveries.
There are further cost benefits from central monitoring of premises over a secure Internet connection, with the 24-7 control of building services such as lighting, heating and refrigeration services.
Theft by Staff: Prevention Measures
The BRC states that, across last year, stealing by dishonest employees represented 6% of direct cost losses to retail crime. Incidents may go undetected, particularly in busy periods over Christmas, with the increased quantity and movement of merchandise both in customer and storage areas.
On that basis, retailers need to be aware of methods that thieves use, such as ‘sweet-hearting’ and collusion between dishonest staff and customers (which may occur at the Point of Sale, returns areas and changing rooms in fashion outlets, for example).
Again, the combined use of store detectives and CCTV can prove highly effective in terms of detection and deterrence.