Advice for small business retailers on managing shopper theft

The importance of accurate stock on hand data is  critical, especially for retailers with online sales.

We recommend regular custom stock takes for the categories where you transact online.

A consequence of more regular stock takes is greater understanding of theft from the business. Rather than getting angry about discovering the extent of theft, which a lot of retailers do, act to manage theft. This is the best reaction you can have to theft of stock.

  1. Know the problem. Regular custom stock takes will help you achieve this.
  2. Own the problem. Based on evidence, take the problem on board as yours to fix.

Too often, retailers sit in the office or the back room. Problems like this are not fixed from the back room – they are fixed from the shop floor.

Too often work is done in the back room or away from customer sight that could be done on the shop floor and thereby reduce shopper theft. The more work you do on the shop floor the greater deterrent to those who would steal.

  1. Ensure all staff know about the problem. The more they understand the problem the better the opportunity for them to become engaged. Understanding must include knowing the cost to the business and the impact this has on the business and on them.
  2. Encourage staff to greet shoppers, explain this is a starting point to reducing theft.
  3. Spot (custom) stock take weekly or at least fortnightly. Record the number stolen from a category somewhere for staff to see. This sets a target for all.
  4. Move the product you are concerned about, try different locations.
  5. Place a portable work table near the often stolen products and move most there such as product pricing, invoice checking or other tasks that could be easily done on the shop floor.
  6. Ensure you have camera coverage of the location.
  7. Place the stock so there are no blind spots that make theft easy.
  8. Watch the location or stand from outside your business to see how shoppers interact with it.
  9. Bring in a retail security expert for their advice on your specific situation.
  10. Keep your staff informed about progress on resolving the problem.

The only way to reduce theft is to change things. If what you change does not work, change more. Keep changing until you find the answer.

Note: those often stealing the most are not those you suspect.

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