Crime cost the UK retail industry £603m last year, 18% higher than the previous 12 months, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC). But the period in the run-up to Christmas brings 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 to convert into cash.
The growing use of self-service displays and open merchandising at this time year encourages shoplifters, as it does legitimate shoppers, unfortunately.
There is 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 having to be taken and deposited at the bank at the close of trading.
These are steps that retailers can take to counter the threat of crime at Christmas:-
1. Review the use of Guarding
The presence of trained security guards is a reassuring presence for customers and staff, as well as an active deterrent for shoplifters. Good security and customer service go together, with trained guards able to help and interact with customers at busy times and watch out for suspicious activity.
Research at Lodge Service consistently shows that where there is a physical guarding presence, thieves will usually move on to premises that are seen as 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.
2. Go Undercover
Store detectives are increasingly recognised as critical to a security strategy, particularly to counter the threat of organised gangs, who are targeting high value items in fashion and food stores – but also retail customers too, with bag snatching and ‘purse dipping’.
At Lodge Service, teams of plain clothes detectives provide an average of 40 per cent Return on Investment (ROI) on contract costs through goods recovered and private prosecutions for Civil Recovery proceedings in Court.
Teams are trained to identify where gangs are preying on customers and spot the range of covert methods that criminals use – which may involve switching price labels or collusion with dishonest staff, for example, at the point of sales or goods returns.
Deploying detectives is especially effective when they work in unison with uniformed guards and security systems, to stop thieves legally and safely, securing the evidence necessary for a conviction.
3. Check your Protection
Does your CCTV equipment monitor the products and areas most vulnerable to theft – including areas accessed only by staff? Can recorded images be easily checked and identified on a monitor after an event?
A security audit, annually at least, is recommended to ensure the retailer is benefitting from the range of services, equipment and systems that are available. They can be particularly effective when combined together.
For larger stores for example, Lodge Service is increasingly specifying ‘triangulation’ of technologies for maximum protection. This can include the use of EAS tagging, CCTV and EPoS till monitoring – so that if a tagged product triggers the alarm at the exit, the event is filmed on video and transactions at the point of sale can be checked.
4. 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.
Lodge Service is increasingly protecting logistics chains for major retailers, monitoring each high-value consignment – from departure from the warehouse overnight, to arrival at a retail outlet and storage of goods on site, using GPS tracking, CCTV and two-way voice communication. The service enables users to reduce staffing safely, to protect lone-worker 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,
5. Protect against Theft by Staff
Stealing by dishonest employees represented 6 per cent of direct cost losses to retail crime in 2014 (BRC). Incidents may go undetected, particularly in busy periods over Christmas, with the increased quantity and movement of merchandise both in customer and storage areas.
So retailers need to be aware of methods that thieves use, such as ‘sweet hearting’, collusion between dishonest staff and customers, which may occur at the point of sale, returns areas and changing rooms in fashion stores, for example
Again, the combined use of store detectives and CCTV can prove highly effective in detection and deterrence.