When you think of anti-theft devices for retail stores, likely the first thing that comes to mind is Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS). But data show that stores continue to suffer significant losses from shrinkage even with anti-theft store security. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s National Retail Security Survey 2021, retail shrink rates hit a high of 1.6% in 2019 and have remained at that level since.
It’s not that EAS systems aren’t effective — it’s just that they only address part of the problem. And there is good evidence that the challenge of retail security became more difficult during the pandemic.
While retail anti-theft devices are an important component of your retail security system, you’ll need a more encompassing program to maximize effectiveness. Here are three risks to anticipate and mitigate for store safety and security.
1. Internal theft: the threat on the inside
The NRF’s Retail Security Survey reported that the average company dollar loss per shoplifting incident was $461.86. The average loss per dishonest employee was more than three times higher at $1,551.66. That’s because employee theft can go on for a long time before it’s discovered.
Some of the common methods that employees use to steal from their employers reveal why you can’t rely on EAS systems alone:
Removing security tags from inventory
Keeping cash from a false refund
Ringing up an item for less than its listed price, collecting the full amount, and pocketing the difference.
You need security solutions in place so that employees know that theft and fraud won’t go unnoticed.
2. Loss is a 24/7 threat
One of the disturbing pandemic trends flagged by the NRF is the growth in Organized Retail Crime (ORC). While it can take many forms, one of the key characteristics is that it is not limited by time or place. Retail security is now a 24/7 concern.
It’s important to review how you’re protected after hours, especially for stores that are at high risk because of high-value inventory. With e-commerce now a part of almost every store’s strategy, cybersecurity is just as important. On-line security and bricks-and-mortar security have essentially merged together, and every business needs to be ready.
3. You need to protect more than inventory
Your inventory is certainly a major part of your business. But it’s not the only thing of value you need to protect. There are a range of other valuables that your EAS system won’t safeguard, from cash to IT assets.
Even more important: how are you protecting your people? If it’s a worry for your organization, you’re not alone. In the survey that underpins the NRF’s report, fully 82% of respondents said store violence/shooting incidents was a greater concern than five years ago – the biggest increase of any risk factor.
Looking Beyond Anti-Theft Devices
So, what can you do in response to the ever more complex loss prevention landscape?
As e-commerce giant Shopify notes, a good first step is with your people. Training for both managers and staff on how to spot and reduce theft, fraud, and errors will help them be your first line of defense. One of the most simple and effective ways to deter shop lifting is to greet every visitor in person. It’s a true win-win. It makes real customers feel welcome while strongly discouraging anyone contemplating theft.
The culture you build also matters for preventing internal loss: you can nurture and model integrity and pride in the workplace. When you are clear about your security policies, everyone knows what’s expected of them.
There are also a range of retail security solutions to consider to help you address the core dilemma of anti-theft security: maintaining an open environment with customers able to see and handle items while minimizing loss. You can lock items up, but that may reduce sales. You can also increase the number of staff on the floor to deter theft, but that might affect profitability. The right technology can help you solve this puzzle.
Leveraging video for synergistic security
If you haven’t yet made video surveillance part of your security, or haven’t reviewed your needs for a while, now is the time. Video forms the core of a synergistic security solution that opens the door to predictive and proactive loss prevention techniques.
It is easier than ever to add cameras almost anywhere with minimum disruption, even in existing buildings. IP cameras run on your local area network just like any other type of network device, and don’t need any additional cabling. You can even free yourself from managing local video storage through a cloud-based solution that gives you access to your cameras at any time no matter where you are.
It’s no longer necessary to have someone monitoring video footage live to identify crime. By adding in a layer of analysis or data from other systems like inventory control, your video surveillance system can help you manage shoplifting, internal theft, and shrinkage in real-time. Let’s look at each one.
An emerging generation of technology actually helps stores to identify behavior that might be indicative of intent to steal. A typical application is in areas with high-value inventory. By looking at factors like dwell time, gestures and movements, and eye motion, the software flags individuals for review and alerts store staff to investigate.
Identifying exposure to employee theft
Like much crime, employee theft isn’t really random. It’s more likely to happen where the conditions make it possible – in other words when people believe they can get away with it. Predictive technology can help organizations identify which stores are at most risk. By looking at a range of performance indicators – revenue, profitability, staff turnover, etc. – and comparing it to averages, it’s possible to identify outlets that may be a problem.
Knowing where to focus on shrinkage
Shrinkage can be due to several factors. It might be direct employee theft, or it could be outside service providers like delivery companies. But there is one source of truth, and that’s the inventory management system. If there’s a discrepancy between expected and actual inventory, retail organizations can check their video systems for clues about where to begin investigations
Technology Supporting Culture
Retail security is a complex problem, but the right technology paired with a strong culture can do a lot to protect your organization. When employees and outside vendors know that loss prevention technology is in place, they become part of the solution. They know that theft will not be tolerated as something that “just happens” and will be more willing to speak up if they see something.
To learn the best options for your retail security needs, speak with one of our specialists.