Theft continues to pose a significant challenge for retailers in 2023. In response, retailers are finding new ways to reduce shoplifting and to keep customers and employees safe.
In a recent Coresight Research survey, customers expressed concern about how increases in theft could impact their local stores. The survey found that 48% of consumers are concerned that stores serving their community could be closed due to retailers experiencing high levels of theft. The survey also noted that 75% of consumers are worried that retailers will raise prices to cover the cost of increasing retail theft.
To avoid raising prices on items, experts predicted some retailers might start locking up products that are likely to be stolen.
“Convenience stores are likely to pursue similar loss-prevention measures as many other affected retailers: locking up merchandise with high value-to-weight ratios that are easy to steal,” said John Harmon, senior retail and technology analyst for Coresight Research. “We have seen this among drugstores and bodegas, with their locking up everything from ice cream to jugs of Tide to beauty items. These items are generally shelf-stable commodities that are easy to resell.”
While putting high-value items under lock and key could prevent shoplifting, Harmon warned it could possibly cause consumers to purchase their items elsewhere.
“Retailers can lock up merchandise or use other means to protect it. However, this friction hurts the customer experience, and inconvenienced customers are likely to go to a different store or shop online,” Harmon elaborated. “A recent Coresight survey found that regarding retail theft, 26% of consumers would shop elsewhere, and 26% would move online if their local store put items under lock and key.”
Enhancing Loss Prevention With Technology
Nonetheless, some retailers are taking a different approach to keep down theft in their stores. Englefield Oil Co.’s Duchess, which has 120 c-stores throughout Ohio and West Virginia, is focusing on technology for its loss prevention tactics.
“Mitigating crime is our goal, and we are continually investing in new camera systems; upgraded, bright LED lights; enforcement of towing and loitering; and partnering with local law enforcement agencies,” said Nathan Arnold, director of marketing for Englefield. “We recently upgraded the camera systems in many of our locations and plan to continue to invest in these upgrades to ensure that we are using the best technology.”
Harmon agreed that using technology is one of the best ways to help decrease theft in stores.
“Stores can use a combination of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which identify what items left the store and when, and video footage to help collect evidence to build a case against the perpetrator,” said Harmon. “Computer video can also detect other customer behaviors such as loitering, sweeping an entire shelf into a bag and threatening behavior.”
Harmon explained that autonomous stores can also expect a lower theft rate. These stores see lower theft rates because the consumer must log in by scanning a QR code or swipe a credit card to enter the store, encouraging shoplifters to go somewhere else.
Keeping Employees Informed
Keeping security systems up to date is essential when dealing with theft, but retailers should also ensure their employees are involved and informed on any new tactics being implemented in the stores.
Englefield Oil’s Duchess has made keeping its employees involved in loss prevention its main priority when making any changes to security.
“Store security is always a priority of ours,” said Arnold. “Our team members are continually trained on safety and security measures, plus weekly communication through operations is occurring so our team can be knowledgeable of any possible issues or patterns of issues.”
Duchess employees also receive hands-on training from professionals in order to handle any incident in the store.
“All team members and sites have security training and work closely with our safety and IT departments on continual training and resolution for any incident,” Arnold said. “We consider this a top priority for our team.”
All in all, retailers should continue looking into more ways to improve loss prevention in their stores, whether locking up certain items or adding more cameras. Theft will continue to be an issue for c-stores, but with the improvement of technology, loss prevention tactics will become better, hopefully resulting in lower theft rates.
“Security should be a top priority for all retailers, and I think this will continue to be for the convenience store channel,” Arnold said. “Technology is advancing quickly, and I think in the future it will be commonplace for artificial intelligence and other systems to assist with reviewing tapes for possible shrink, notifying authorities automatically of issues and being able to capture much-needed documentation without the laborious task of reviewing video footage.”