In today’s convenience store environment, efforts at preventing theft have become tech intensive. More and better cameras are merely the start. POS systems now provide exacting time stamps of transactions, fine-tooth inventory tracking, employee shift in and out and break times, pre-programmed and instantaneously flexible price books, etc.
But when it comes to product disappearing without a customer paying for it, it is sometimes best to do things the old-fashioned way, especially in stores that have a long-term shrinkage problem. For those stores, here are some of the major points that once understood and adhered to will slow the bleeding and set you on your way to getting things under control.
Tobacco Inventory – Always a theft target, both externally and internally, because of the small size of both packs and cartons combined with the value of those items. While it is both an extra expense and takes time out of your schedule, if you are serious about preventing shrink you need to have a professional inventory taker/team conduct a full monthly store inventory.
Make the team stay until you compare the inventory team’s categories – in this case, tobacco – to that done by the sales system data and the back office. Know that before you invest the money in taking an inventory that not only must your paperwork be 100% up to date, it must reach the office in a timely enough manner to be reconciled by that team, too. Remember, that perfect timing must exist every month for every inventory.
If tobacco counts and values are off too much, I strongly recommend that each shift physically count the inventory – departing shift workers recount and arriving shift workers recount until the numbers are in agreement. This is an everyday job. It’ll be slow going at first, but will get faster and more accurate quickly. Know that this investment of time is a key to your future success.
Keep a Clean and Organized Store – You may ask what a clean and properly merchandised store has to do with an accurate inventory. I assure you, it is another key to a successful operation. A messy storage area in your cooler with half-full beer cases hidden under full cases, singles scattered in the back room and evidence of broken bottles are not only signs of laziness, but also possible theft. A messy storage area presents an obstacle to accurate inventory counts. And make sure all lights in the cooler are working.
Delivery boxes should be broken down and flattened before they leave the store. If they can’t be broken down, they should be opened to make sure they do not contain product.
Vendor Control – Insist that all vendors check in before bringing product into the store and that they bring the product to a neutral area for counting. More than once, I witnessed a beer delivery where the driver went to the existing display and – intentionally or unintentionally – loaded cases from our inventory on to the product he brought in.
Do not allow employees to attempt to check in deliveries from behind the counter – store employees should do the product count and delivery person should verify it. It’s that simple.
Beware the overly friendly delivery person. While it is tempting to accept food and product samples from a chummy vendor, please warn associates to refuse. As the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt!”
While electronic safeguards and hi-tech solutions have their place in today’s c-store back office, they can’t catch all of the ways inventory can wander away from your store.