Ever been in a store and spotted someone that doesn’t appear to be behaving like a normal shopper? Your intuition could be right on the money – literally. Unlike the tag on a pair of socks, the typical shoplifter is not a “One Size Fits All” offender. It is easy to assume that the suspicious looking kid in the dirty sneakers, black hoodie, and carrying a backpack is the one to watch but this is a misleading stereotype. Shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes and they are getting more and more cunning in their goal of ripping off Australian shop owners.
Retailers simply cannot cover all the bases when it comes to shoplifting and theft. They can exhaust themselves trying to serve their honest customers and simultaneously scan for the ever-present danger of shoplifters says Dudley van Staveren, State Security Manager for InFront Security Services. He speaks daily to frustrated retail business owners who are suffering from the impact theft has on their profitability and staff morale. Sadly, the losses incurred from retail theft in Australia are part of a multibillion dollar problem that is getting worse as the perpetrators become increasingly more sophisticated in the scams they adopt.
The reality is, technology has been a blessing and curse for retailers. Solutions such as magnetic security tags on stock and contactless payments at the register can be misused and exploited to deceive the store owners. Mr van Staveren points to such scams as price label switching to pay a cheaper price for a product, returning stolen items without receipt for refund in either cash or credit voucher, and credit card ‘cloning’ as new ways that retailers can lose money to theft. Small handheld devices are also available to quickly remove magnetic security tags, requiring greater vigilance in the changing rooms and areas out of sight of staff.
Although not a fool-proof rule of thumb, there are things to look out for if you want more than an outside chance of spotting a potential shoplifter. Watch out particularly for these signs when someone:
Spends time watching the staff within the store
Wears bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather
Frequently comes and goes without making a purchase
Appears nervous and/or is walking unnaturally
Be careful not to overlook those legitimately buying something to distract you while accomplices are walking out the store with stolen stock.
Mr van Staveren reveals that shoplifters are adept at knowing the optimum time to strike. They are sophisticated, proficient and often work in organised groups to maximise their “take”. They like a busy store and other vulnerable times when staff are opening up, closing, or during a shift change – anytime when the staff might let their guard down and be distracted momentarily.Obviously, it’s impossible to have your merchandise permanently under lock and key so being vigilant and perhaps investing in some experienced security personnel is worth considering. Remember, shoplifters will be looking to strike with speed and stealth so the following items categorised as the acronym CRAVED are especially attractive to them. Handheld electronics, jewellery, personal care items and clothing are all ‘CRAVED’ items targeted by shoplifters.
The one thing shoplifters hate and will most likely see them moving on to easier pickings is pro-active sales staff who will make contact with customers and remain engaged with them for the duration of their time in the store. This may annoy customers who are just looking, but in the long run, the losses a store suffers at the hands of shoplifters are inevitably passed on to customers in higher prices, borne out of increased insurance premiums and security measures to combat crime. In 2014/2015 losses due to product theft in Australia’s retail sector were in excess of $2.4 billion. Consider the increased in-store attention to your browsing habits a necessary inconvenience.Many retailers are now employing the services of a security guard. On hand to greet customers and keep an eye on the comings and goings in store, their subtle yet visible presence means sales staff are then free to focus on what they do best – serving customers. A skilful and experienced security guard can act quickly, is trained to handle incidents and frequently serves as a pre-emptive deterrent for any would-be lawbreaker. Additionally, they can alert staff to customer’s needs in busy times and they will accompany personnel as a minder for the banking run.
Dudley van Staveren and the highly-trained team at InFront Security Services have over 15 years of experience in retail security. Specialising in the premium retail sector, InFront counts among its clients some of the top luxury and premium retailers in Queensland. If you are a retailer who wants your security requirements fully evaluated and a plan instigated for the ongoing protection of your business then get in touch with InFront for a confidential discussion.