Top Tactics Business Owners Need to Prevent Retail Theft

While large retailers can afford to absorb the cost of a robbery, it may take just one to cause a small business to shutter permanently.

As inflation remains a top concern for most small business owners, there is growing concern over the real threat of the rise of retail theft. Some small businesses are taking this crisis seriously, using various strategies to keep their doors open and prevent a forced closure from happening.

According to a recent survey, more than half of small business owners reported a rise in shoplifting last year. At the same time, 89 percent of small businesses experienced a shoplifter in 2021. Additionally, daily shoplifting nearly doubled in the previous year compared to 2020, with 23 percent of small business owners reporting it as an everyday experience. According to the survey, the items that are reported stolen the most include food and drink, clothing, money, cosmetics, and electronics.

Small Businesses Take Action to Prevent Theft

Because of this significant rise in organized retail crime, large and small retailers are taking action to prevent further losses. Besides the potential of thousands of dollars in inventory loss, shoplifting can also directly impact employee morale and cause massive amounts of debt.

While larger corporations have the resources to hire former law enforcement officers and security companies to follow suspected shoplifters around the store, small business owners may not have the ability to finance more expensive strategies.

Nonetheless, some small business owners are unwilling to sit back and do nothing, with 28 percent reporting that they have implemented shoplifting policies to prevent further theft. About a quarter of businesses in the survey chose to increase prices for their products - a direct response to being a victim of shoplifting.

While price increases may work in some circumstances, experts caution against steep hikes as it might cause customers to shop elsewhere. Instead, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommended the following tips to help mitigate shoplifting:

  • Customer Acknowledgement: It may be Customer Service 101, but greeting everybody who enters your store may also prevent them from stealing. Get your staff to say hello to each person that walks through the door as it alerts the potential thief that you’re aware of their presence.
  • Keeping it Tidy: Organization matters as it allows you to know immediately when an item goes missing. If the store is a mess, it may take a while before you realize an item is missing.
  • Technological Tools: Place cameras throughout your store to deter criminal activities. Strategically placed mirrors will also help if there are “blind spots.” If you have luxury, high-priced items, consider locking them up.
  • Loyal Employees: You’ll need to rely on your employees to keep your business secure. Your staff will be able to watch out for any illegal activity, especially if they feel connected to your business.
  • Knowing Your Neighbors: Creating a tight network with other surrounding businesses is crucial as you’ll be able to share information. You may want to consider pooling resources to share the cost of security personnel to help keep your businesses secure.

“Not Victimless Crimes”

“These are not victimless crimes; they jeopardize employee and customer safety and disrupt store operations,” said Jason Straczewski, Vice President, Government Relations and Political Affairs for the National Retail Federation, in a blog post. “They’re also not non-violent — customers, employees and community members are traumatized by these incidents.”

In its 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey, the National Retail Federation found that organized retail crime had cost retailers, on average, more than $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales. Nearly 70 percent of retailers surveyed in 2021 reported seeing a rise in these crimes during the year prior.

“Due to curfews, closures and overall pandemic restrictions, shoplifting was suppressed for a prolonged period of time,” Straczewski wrote. “Once restrictions began to loosen, shoplifting incidents increased higher than pre-pandemic incidents.”

“Due to curfews, closures and overall pandemic restrictions, shoplifting was suppressed for a prolonged period of time. Once restrictions began to loosen, shoplifting incidents increased higher than pre-pandemic incidents.”                              
- Jason Straczewski, Vice President, Government Relations and Political Affairs for the National Retail Federation.

More Action Needed to Curb Growing Problem

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently shared that more policies were needed to prevent the continued surge of organized retail crime, such as ones that would make it more difficult for criminals to sell stolen goods online.

“The retail industry – already struggling from the impacts of the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain problems – is now faced with large-scale theft and looting, much of it stemming from organized crime,” said Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Retail theft is becoming a national crisis, hurting businesses in every state and the communities they serve …. No store should have to close because of theft.”

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