Advice for small business retailers on theft

Most theft from independent retail businesses can be identified and reduced through a consistent application of simple management processes and smart use of specialist retail software. Tower Systems has been helping retailers cut theft for decades through issuing advice, responding to requests and by continuing to provide functions in our retail software that allow business owners to identify and track suspicious behaviour – by shoppers, managers and store employees. Over the years our expertise has been called on by police and prosecutors as well as individual retailers.

Follow this advice on how to use our specialist retail POS software to hamper opportunities for theft and bolster the certainty of detecting it before it’s too late:

  1. Employ stock control for high volume items. Enter new stock as it comes in, scan all sales and only reorder based on what the software says. Perform a stock take regularly each month. High volume item stock discrepancies are an indicator of theft.
  2. Scan everything you sell. Do not use department tracking only – your data needs to be granular to prevent employees taking advantage of loose stock on hand quantities. Not scanning individual stock items is unfortunately an invitation to dishonest employees.
  3. Use the software-based end of shift procedure and have a zero-tolerance policy on cash balance discrepancies. Reconcile banking to your computer software at end of shift. We have seen businesses failing to do this: one was being skimmed regularly of $200 a day.
  4. Do spot cash balancing. Unexpected checks can uncover surprises. One business owner needing to perform banking during the day uncovered a $350 discrepancy that lead to the discovery of systematic theft.
  5. Mix up your roster. Sometimes people work together to steal. One retailer found a family friend senior and their teenage daughter stealing consistently.
  6. Check your audit Log. Look at cancelled sales, deleted sales and items deleted from a sale. Leaving a cash drawer open from the previous sale, scanning items, taking the cash and cancelling the sale is the most common process used by employees to accrue cash they then take from you. Our software tracks cancelled sales and what was in them. This can be matched with video footage.
  7. Check GP by department. If GP is falling outside what you expect, always research further.
  8. Publish a theft policy. Put this on a noticeboard in the back room. Get staff to read it and sign up to it. At the bottom of this page is a sample theft policy.
  9. Keep the store counter area clean. A better organised counter reduces the opportunity for theft. Reducing nooks and crannies makes detection of any cash hoarding easier.
  10. Have a “no employee bags” at the counter policy. This makes it harder for dishonest employees to hide stolen cash.
  11. Beware employees who carry folded paper or small notepads. These can be used for them to keep track of how much cash is in the register that is theirs – i.e. not rung up in the software.
  12. Beware of calculators and mobile phones at the counter. Employees can use these devices to track how much cash could be stolen prior to balancing for the day – cash from sales not processed.
  13. Do not let employees sell to themselves. If an employee wants to purchase something ensure they purchase it from the customer’s side of the counter.
  14. Be professional in your management of the business. The more professional your approach they less likely your employees will steal as they will see the risk of being caught as high. Do not take cash handling lightly; if you respect your business procedures your staff are more likely to too. Never take cash from the till for your own personal use, i.e. to buy lunch.
  15. Advise all job applicants that you will require their permission for a police check. From the outset this indicates that you take your business seriously. In many situations applicants who have been asked for permission to do a police check advise they have found a job elsewhere.

These steps work. They are based on decades of helping small business retailers to reduce and manage employee theft.

Employee and customer theft costs a typical independent retail business between 3% and 5% of non-agency sales revenue each year. Management attention and smart use of retail software can cut this dramatically. It does not take much time – it is simply about smart procedures and professional processes.

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