All retailers want customers coming through the front door. But what they do not want is to be targets of petty crime from students searching for something exciting to do during the summer.
It’s well known in the security industry that rates of petty crime – shoplifting – tend to increase in retail stores during the hottest months of the year. All those stolen razor blades, jeans and cameras, among other goods lifted, are very costly to retailers – especially the small ones.
What’s more, 87 per cent of retailers in Canada have experienced theft of some sort, be it by employees, customers or loiterers, as highlighted by a 2009 documentary on CBC called “The Secret World of Shoplifting“.
So what can retail store owners do to help reduce petty crime during the summer?
1. Install cameras – Video installations, used in conjunction with off-site monitoring and alarm systems, are effective deterrents to petty crime, especially when customers know the cameras are watching their ever move. The cameras won’t stop all petty crime, of course. But the obvious presence of cameras will make some young shoplifters think twice about what they were about to do. In-situ security guards have the same positive effect.
2. Use a checkpoint tag system – Wanna-be shoplifters are often attracted by the idea of stealing new clothes for themselves and/or their friends. Checkpoint tags are useful for many reasons in this regard, especially when it comes to dissuading what might be called the “bored lifter” – a young person with nothing to do in the summer who thinks about shoplifting as a way to be cool among his/her peers.
Getting caught and written up by police is definitely not cool, and inventory management systems such as checkpoint tags help reduce the temptation for those otherwise inclined.
3. Talk to your employees and customers – Every employee should be trained on loss prevention strategies. This will increase their diligence in looking for shoplifting and for confronting it when it happens. The corollary is the fact that employees, generally speaking, are responsible for massive amounts of theft from their own stores. So managers have to be particularly diligent in watching their own staff, especially young staff who may be asked by peers to “help out” and look the other way.
Similarly, engaging young customers in conversation as they walk around stores will help distract them from pocketing items into knapsacks and baggy shorts.
As a group, students are not the biggest problem when it comes to shoplifting. One study from the US-based National Association for Shoplifting Prevention showed that 75 per cent of shoplifting was done by adults – although that same study showed that 55 per cent of adult shoplifters began do so as teenagers.
However, idle young minds during summer may lead to fast hands and lost inventory. Increased diligence by retailers during the summer could lead to fewer such losses and more time spent by teenagers in other, more-productive pursuits.