As technology evolves, c-stores’ loss prevention tactics continue to mature. CStore Decisions spoke with Terri Caldwell, director of loss prevention for Par Mar Oil Co. — which operates 156 Par Mar Stores in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania — about the company’s best practices for loss prevention and plans for the new year.
CStore Decisions (CSD): Which loss prevention strategies or tools does Par Mar currently implement?
Terri Caldwell (TC): One of the big things is scanning. We call them ‘controllables’ — tobacco, smokeless cigarettes, lottery and any kind of beer, wine, liquor — which stores are required to count. Cigarettes and lottery are counted every single day.
And that way you can tell what you’re missing. You can tell the exact pack of cigarettes that was taken because our registers are set up where everything connects with our scanners to our registers to our computers.
CSD: In what ways has the pandemic affected loss prevention?
TC: I really haven’t seen a big rise (in theft). From when I was a manager and came to work for Par Mar in 1998 to today, there’s always been theft. Where you get a rise is when cigarette retail (prices) go up. Twenty years ago, if you stole a carton of cigarettes, that was $30. Today it’s $90.
We’ve only had one instance (with masks) that really affected us, and we couldn’t see the person’s face. Only one instance since March. Of course, it’s harder for (bigger stores), I’m sure.
CSD: What’s the biggest challenge in your role right now?
TC: I would say staffing — making sure you have that person who’s doing their scans, and they’re watching their store and communicating with the manager. You’ve got to have that line of communication.
And you have different supervisors with different techniques. The main thing is accountability and ownership. If you give your district manager, your leads, your shifts — different companies call them different things — everybody needs to take ownership in that location to make it successful.
CSD: Are there any new loss prevention strategies or new opportunities that you’re looking at for 2021?
TC: Camera systems. We are definitely looking into camera systems. And bringing everything together, where as soon as you do a transaction, it’ll be on the camera, on the register. I’ll get an email right to me and the manager. It is very nice with modern technology because the choices are so much better.
We went from 50 to 156 stores in four years, so we have many different systems out there at this time. We’re working to get it down.
Of course, you always have to make sure the cost is going to save you money. If you’re going to spend a million dollars and you don’t have a million dollars in loss, then there’s really no point in spending that money in dollars. And we have a big enough IT department now that we can install cameras in-house. Because it’s just like a plumber at your house; everything has a cost.
CSD: Overall, what do you think is the key to successful loss prevention?
TC: My biggest thing with loss prevention is being aware and being proactive. Those are the two best formulas. And greeting people. One thing I learned when I was a manager is if you greet them coming in the door, they know you see them.
But I think being proactive is the biggest thing: knowing where your merchandise is and where your cameras are and watching the camera.