A new study shows the down economy may be changing the face of retail crime. The report, sponsored in part by ADT and its Sensormatic Retail Solutions group, suggests that employees are stealing less merchandise while shoplifting or theft by consumers and gangs is on the rise.
The online survey of 83 small-to-large multi-national retailers was conducted by Retail Systems Research (RSR) and is titled “Loss Prevention 2010: Retailers Battling Shrink in Tough Times.”
“Traditionally employee theft has been the largest portion of the retail crime pie and it still is, but we believe we are seeing a shift in employee theft as retailers get better at spotting it,” said Lee Pernice, retail director for ADT Security Services. “At the same time, the economy is reducing the number of employees in the stores and creating more opportunities for shoplifting and gangs.”
Retailers were asked to name their top three sources of theft. In 2009, 68 percent named employee theft of merchandise as one of their top concerns – down 12 percent from the previous year. At the same time, 62 percent of retailers listed shoplifting by customers as a top concern, compared with 52 percent in 2008. While employee theft of cash is a smaller portion of retail crime than merchandise theft by employees, customers and gangs, it has become of increasing concern to retailers. More than 45 percent listed theft of cash by employees as one of the top three concerns, which is 13 percent more than
in 2008. According to Pernice, retailers have gotten better at identifying employee theft. Still, the economy presents more opportunities for shoplifters because in addition to there being fewer watchful employees on the store floor, there are more opportunities to resell discounted stolen items online or at flea markets to bargain-hungry consumers.
The good news for retailers is that new anti-theft technologies like point-of-sale and analytic software are working to help reduce theft of all kinds, according to Pernice. “Deterrence is the name of the game in retail theft and today’s technologies are making employees think twice,” said Pernice. “We are continuing to work with our retail customers to help them maximize and add technologies like cameras, video analytics and anti-theft tags to target shoplifters and organized retail criminals.”
According to Pernice, there are also solutions available for employee theft of cash that include new and more extensive data collection and analysis of transactions.
The “Loss Prevention 2010” report shows that loss prevention remains a focus for retailers. In 2009, more than 68 percent said limiting retail theft had increased as a priority compared with 57 percent in 2008. The most successful retailers, with sales out-performing their competitors, were even more likely to indicate an increased priority for reducing retail crime.