According to a recent Business Week article, the retail industry lost $41.6 billion to shoplifting and other fraud last year, up 11 percent from the previous year.
The article mainly focuses on Wal-Mart and a shoplifting issue at one of its stores. It turns out the store has a unique way to punish shoplifters — they have to wear a sandwich board stating they shoplifted at Wal-Mart as they parade around in front of the retailer wearing their Scarlet Letter.
It’s an interesting concept. But the real story here is the state of theft and fraud at retailers. Let me repeat that stat — the retail industry’s losses from theft and fraud are up 11 percent from the previous year. Eleven percent. You’re fooling yourself if you think that it’s not happening to you.
THE REAL-WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
You can check out some ways to reduce theft in your stores by employees in a previous post. Here’s some tips on reducing shoplifting by the general public.
1. Keep products away from doors.
It’s the biggest opportunity for shoplifting. Shoplifters pop in unseen, pocket a couple products, and pop back out. Move your feature table or fixture back a couple feet and keep the threshold clear (a store should have some breathing room where customers first enter anyway so they can assess the store and determine where they want to go).
2. Practice extreme customer service.
Of course you should be doing this anyway, but you can reduce shoplifting by intercepting customers when they first walk in the door. Walk up to them and greet them — it will make shoplifters hesitate. If you notice customers are lingering and checking out things without much interest, engage them again. They could be trying to lull you into a sense of comfort so you’ll forget about them.
3. Check out each customer.
Big clothing and big bags may mean big trouble. It’s easier to hide things with all that extra room.
Assume every customer is a shoplifter (even though they obviously aren’t). If you use the tools above to sharpen your shoplifting senses, chances are you’ll reduce shoplifting by a significant amount.