The Importance of Loss Prevention in Retail Businesses
To combat loss, you must understanding the most common causes. They include external and internal theft, supplier fraud, inventory shrinkage, and administrative errors. In this post, we’ll explain loss prevention best practices, such as retail security, proper cash handling, and staff buy-in.
Retail Loss Prevention Is Crucial
Loss, also called shrinkage, takes away from your hard-earned profits. More seriously, it can lead to problems that make it impossible to stay in business. While loss may occur in any industry, prevention is especially critical for retail stores.
If shrinkage is too high, you may have to raise your prices, which can damage your relationship with your customers. You may find yourself unable to pay employees, purchase inventory, and cover your building lease. The risk is especially high for businesses that already have low profit margins, like grocery and liquor stores.
Investing some money and effort into loss prevention is likely to lead to higher profits and more business growth.
Addressing loss can have unexpected benefits for your business, beyond saving money. For example, if you find that internal theft is frequent, you may need to revamp training or install surveillance cameras. If administrative errors are causing shrinkage, you can address factors like outdated software.
High, ongoing shrinkage can be a sign that your business model isn’t working. Perhaps you’ve implemented loss prevention strategies, but your loss percentage is still high. If this is the case, you might need to employ new sales or marketing tactics to generate more profit overall.
How to Start Planning
It’s essential to understand the different types of loss to begin preventing them. Understanding how loss occurs will help you develop a strategy to avoid it.
Loss can occur inadvertently or through deliberate action. Theft and fraud are examples of loss that happen because of an employee or other person’s purposeful actions. Errors and mistakes, while unintentional, also lead to loss.
Internal theft, or employee theft, is when an employee steals money or property from their employer. This type of loss is surprisingly common. Compared to non employees, employees are 15 times more likely to steal from their place of business.
External theft leads to 36.5 percent of shrinkage, according to a National Retail Federation study.
The two main types of external theft are shoplifting and organized retail crime (ORC). Shoplifting is when a person steals while acting as a customer, and can be planned or spontaneous. ORC, on the other hand, is a planned form of theft involving two or more participants.
In addition, your employees should be aware of return fraud, which occurs when a shoplifter steals an item, then returns it to the store for cash.
There are different types of supplier fraud, also called vendor or procurement fraud.
Someone can pose as a legitimate vendor that doesn’t actually exist, obtain payment, and then disappear. An employee of an authorized vendor can inflate the cost of goods or services and pocket the difference. In addition, vendors sometimes use bribes or extortion to gain an unfair advantage from clients.
Understandably, your employees are human, and humans make mistakes. In addition, outdated POS systems and software can also cause errors. These types of administrative errors contribute to 19 percent of retail shrinkage.
Admin errors may be the result of improper training, overwork, or carelessness. Examples include mislabeling or mispricing merchandise and overpaying vendors.
Loss Prevention Best Practices
It’s impossible to avoid loss entirely. However, following strategies to reduce loss can make a big difference in how much it affects your bottom line.
Handling Of Cash
Even as credit cards and payment apps continue to grow in popularity, many customers prefer cash. Unfortunately for the retail industry, handling cash leads to opportunities for theft and mistakes.
Automating cash handling processes reduce the likelihood of errors. There are equipment options that can help. For example, a currency counting machine counts cash for you and is faster and more accurate than a person.
A cash recycler is another option. It stores cash securely after counting it and ensuring its validity. It then dispenses money and tracks the amount that was dispensed and the remaining funds.
If you decide to invest in cash handling equipment, ensure that your employees know how to use it. To avoid theft, you must keep cash physically secure at all times.
Physical Location Security
Properly securing your physical location reduces internal and external theft. Depending on factors such as your store’s size, you may decide to appoint staff to prevent shrinkage. You can also work with a loss prevention contractor. Below, you’ll find a few ways to ensure physical location security:
- Ensure your store is properly lit, because shoplifters rely on shadowy areas to steal .
- Limit exit points as much as possible. A single exit is easier for cashiers and other employees to keep an eye on. Also, arrange shelving to allow employees to have a line of sight to the exit.
- Surveillance systems deter thieves and can help you pinpoint where loss is occurring. Conduct research or speak with a loss prevention professional to determine the best placement for cameras.
Keeping your products secure without discouraging sales can be tricky. However, security solutions can help combat this common problem.
Electronic article surveillance (EAS) is a popular method in which you can attach security tags to items. A cashier must deactivate the tag at the point of sale. If the tag isn’t deactivated, it sets off an alarm when someone removes the item from the store.
EAS systems may use electromagnetic, acousto-magnetic, or RFID scanners to detect the tag at the door. RFID is gaining in popularity, partly because RFID tags contain a unique identifying number. If a theft does occur, you can identify what item was taken.
For high-ticket items like electronics and jewelry, a locked display case is a useful option. Ensure that customers can still look at the products in the case.
Buy-In Of Staff Members
Even the best loss prevention strategy will fail if employees aren’t committed to implementing it. Staff buy-in and attentive customer service is crucial for reducing internal theft.
Be transparent with your team about the effects of loss on your business. Understanding that their paycheck or job could be at stake will inspire employees to get involved.
Create a system of clear goals and rewards to motivate your employees. Depending on your business’s finances, you may be able to offer employees a monetary bonus for meeting loss prevention goals.
If a bonus isn’t possible, consider recruiting employees for a loss prevention team. These employees should be detail oriented and be trained to identify suspicious behavior. By being recruited for this team, employees will feel pride knowing they are trusted members of your company.
Even if employees aren’t on your loss prevention team, they should be trained on loss prevention measures. Proper training takes time but will pay off down the road. Ensure that employees know what to do if they witness internal or external theft or notice an admin error.
In addition, when working with vendors, employees should be able to identify signs if something isn’t right.
Conclusion: Make Loss Prevention a Priority
Small retail business owners invest countless hours and dollars into their store’s success. Taking steps to prevent loss is an essential way to protect your investments. By understanding different causes of shrinkage and how to address them, you can keep your business safe.
Do you need extra funding to implement a loss prevention strategy or to recover from a loss? Receive a free quote from the team at Fora Financial today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is loss prevention?
Loss prevention is how businesses avoid losses of money and property.
What are the most common causes of loss or shrinkage?
Theft is a common cause of loss. Internal theft is when employees steal from their workplace, while external theft includes shoplifting and organized retail crime. Suppliers can commit fraud, as can a fraudster posing as a supplier. Administrative errors are a frequent unintentional cause of loss.
What are some best practices for avoiding loss?
Handle cash carefully and automate processes when you can. Keep your building and products secure. Obtain staff buy-in through proper training and motivational tactics.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in October 2020.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.