Solutions To Combat Shoplifting and Employee Theft

Shrinkage – Employee theft, shoplifting, clerical and vendor errors-is an issue that big and small retailers have in common. From Wal-mart to Target and whole-sellers like Costco, shoplifting is a common occurrence that cost the retail industry billions of dollars each year. 

Many small business owners in the retail industry choose to not prosecute the theft.  The reasons? The cost associated with prosecuting a shoplifter or employee theft is too costly for many of them and believe at the end of the ordeal it is in their best interest to take the theft as a business loss. 

For the big retail chains, theft is important and the measures they take to prevent, prosecute and avoid it are serious.  The profits are greatly diminished when shoplifting, employee theft, and vendor or clerical errors occur frequently in their business.

How can they be profitable if they do not combat a financially crippling problem?

 The retail industry’s shrinkage average nationwide is between 1%-2%, and for many retailers that is a big chunk of their profits that will disappear every year.  Big retailers like J.C. Penney and Costco have implemented shrink measures that have seen shrink reduction decrease tremendously.  Costco shrink’s rate is just 0.11% to 0.12% of sales and J. C. Penney has seen a decrease of 20% reduction in shrink dollars. 

The security measures they have been implemented in those stores are the big difference between out of control losses and security measures that are working out for them to prevent theft in their stores.

For many of these stores, implementing technology to combat theft is the first step they take in their quest to prevent it.  

Personnel training is another big change they take into consideration when dealing with theft.  Research has shown for many years now, that a happy employee is an employee that will, in the long run, be an asset to your business. Training employees, and providing them with a good salary are investments that many companies take seriously, and research has shown happy employees provide a better customer experience that results in less theft.

Shoplifting and employee theft are hard to combat and they can be hard to understand when looking at profits. There are solutions your store can implement to combat them and to give you peace of mind. Finding a solution is necessary and too important to ignore for too long.

Cellphones On The Salesfloor – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of It

The use of cellphones in the workplace has become more prolific over the years. It used to be that managers could put out a policy stating that the use of cellphones was strictly forbidden. I used to be in this camp and to a certain extent, I still am. As a Loss Prevention Manager, I saw the negative impact phones could have on customer service. Employees would focus on the phone at the expense of the customers. When the culprit was a cashier I would see the violators of the policy hiding the phone next to the register and texting in the midst of a transaction. That was totally unacceptable and did on more than one occasion result in a register error. Either merchandise was not properly scanned or the wrong change was tendered to the customer. In several cases, I had cashiers texting family and friends telling them to come in and go through their checkout lane. This would result in theft through passing or “giving back too much change” commonly known as cash theft. Of course, using the phone as a means of stealing from the store was the ugly of the cellphone issues. 

     The bad side of the cellphone conundrum is the customer service issues they cause. You have seen it, the sales floor employee looking at their phone and texting or looking through their music. Eye contact is almost non-existent. As a shopper, this drives me up to the wall. If the employees would spend as much attention to shoppers as they do their phones I can only begin to imagine the increased sales stores would enjoy. Now, as a manager in a college library, I have student assistants working for me who all have phones and most carry the phone in their back pockets. We have policies restricting when they can use the phone but often I have to correct them when they violate the policy and pull the phone out and begin texting. We have the policy in place for the same reasons that stores have (or used to have) the policy; to ensure customer service is the number one priority. Making the enforcement of the policy more difficult is that other supervisors are pulling out their phones and using them. This seems a bit hypocritical in my view.  

     There is a good side to allowing cellphones in a retail or customer service environment and it has softened me just a tad to the arguments in favor of them. If a store employee is on the sales floor and sees suspicious activity from a potential shoplifter the employee can quickly get in contact with a manager without looking for a store phone. 2-way radios are not always the most effective communication devices. Some associates keep the volume on their radios turned up and even if an earpiece is in use conversations can be overheard. I have had shoplifting suspects hear employees talking and drop merchandise as I was preparing to stop them for stealing. I have also seen customers get angry when they heard employees talking about them over radios. It could be talking about the customer’s behavior or something the customer was saying that was causing a disturbance. For example, the customer could be causing a scene about a return they were trying to do that was refused. Radios are just not always the best communication tool from a safety or security perspective. Cellphones make a convenient and more discreet method of communication and can even include text messaging which isn’t heard at all.  

     Another pro-cellphone argument is the ability to summon help in a store in the event of an emergency. As we see in social media today there is hardly a significant event that can take place without someone(s) getting it on a cellphone camera. From natural disasters to vehicle accidents and even active shooters, right or wrong people are going to get video and messages out and post it. The more employees that are allowed to carry their phones the greater the likelihood first responders will be notified quickly from multiple sources in the store. Think about the advantages this could have in the event of an altercation or robbery. Someone is likely to get through to authorities much quicker than if a store phone is the only accessible communication device. 

     As much as they can be a pain in the neck to retailers, cellphones are here to stay. By laying out expectations and policies regarding when they can be used managers can try to manage the use of phones while being flexible in allowing them to be in an employee’s possession. Who knows, such a policy might be a lifesaver someday…literally.   

Is Pre-Employment Drug Screening Worthwhile In Today’s Culture?

There are many ways for store owners to reduce the risk of employee theft and fraud. Background checks supplement interviews and screening questions on a job application. Manager training to know the signs and indicators that a worker may be engaging in theft activity of some sort is another preventative step. Electronic Article Surveillance systems and tags are helpful in deterring shoplifters and dishonest employees. Certainly Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Public View monitors and mandatory package checks before leaving work all play a part in preventing internal criminal activity. One of the best tools an employer can use to reduce the chance they will even hire a thief in the first place is the use of pre-employment drug screening. The prospective employee would go to the lab, fill the cup and labs would send off the sample to have it checked for illegal substances. That has been the most common of the drug tests and many employers have relied on it to help them keep their stores profitable and safe. 

     Is this still an effective method for owners to use? With states loosening their own laws surrounding marijuana use it is a mixed bag. Not all states are legalizing it and it is still a federal crime to use, grow, distribute or possess it. So if you are in a state where it is still a crime to use marijuana and an applicant applies to a job with your company but he/she comes from a state where it has been “legalized” do you have them take a pre-employment drug test? What happens if they take the test and results show they use marijuana, do you not hire them even though it was “legal” where they came from? This can pose a dilemma for store owners. If you do hire them, do you put yourself at risk for discriminating against someone from your own state who failed and did not get hired based on that result? 

     Leaving the marijuana out of the equation for the moment, there is still room for drug testing in the workplace, both pre-screening and random drug testing of employees. Drug screening can identify other illegal substances in addition to marijuana. According to thebalancecareers.com, “A typical drug test for employment purposes screens for drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.” While you may decide to overlook positive results for marijuana you can still turn down applicants for the other drugs. States may be legalizing marijuana but the debates about the safety and effects of the drug on behavior remain a concern. Just because it is legal does not mean you necessarily want someone who uses this drug or any other drug working for your business. Pre-employment drug screening is still an effective tool in your efforts to combat theft and safety concerns. 

     Why test for drugs in the first place? By testing and screening out applicants who test positive you significantly reduce the risk of hiring someone who very well may steal from your store. It may be cash or merchandise but they have a habit to feed and they still have bills to pay and they are not going to feed that habit on a retail job. Working in the store gives them access to money and merchandise that will provide the resources for their addiction. Another reason to test is to keep your store safe. Someone who is illegally using drugs or coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a cause of an accident or can be the victim of an injury in the workplace incurred while under the influence. Whether they cause the accident or are the victim of an accident, you can end up paying for it. There is also the safety of your other employees to consider. Someone under the influence of the wrong drugs can be unstable and volatile. What is it that is going to trigger a violent action on their part? Giving them a direction or task they don’t want to do? How about a customer that says something that sets off your employee. There is no place for violence or theft in the workplace and pre-employment drug screening can help prevent both from happening. 

What can a Loss Prevention System do for you?

Loss prevention technology along with the proper personnel training will allow a retail store to reduce loss, improve customer service and provide the data necessary to access up to minute inventory information in the store.

A loss prevention system is a preventable measure retail stores need to adopt to prevent the losses that plague the retail industry. A loss prevention system along with trained personnel can be a deterrent to shoplifting, vendor and employee theft that can save the retail store thousands of dollars a month.

A loss prevention system can protect the merchandise in the store while protecting customers and the employees as well. Incidents, where violence and sometimes deaths occur, can be avoided with the proper systems, training, and the continuous effort to ensure the safety of the employees and customers alike.

A loss prevention system can allow the employees and manager of a store to focus and ensure customers have a good experience shopping at their store. Good customer experience can translate to continuous business, and great customer satisfaction has been linked to less shoplifting in the retail industry.

If you are the owner of several retail stores, a loss prevention system can be adapted to each store’s unique layout and needs while providing the same information you need to prevent shoplifting or to take the necessary measures to prevent it.

A loss prevention system is an investment a retail store cannot do without, but along with an investment in a loss prevention system, trained personnel plays an important role in making sure the system can do what it is supposed to do. Data from the loss prevention system cannot go unchecked, and it cannot be ignored.

Employees have to be trained and knowledgeable of the stores’ policies and procedures regarding shoplifting to ensure an efficient and quick response if shoplifting occurs in the store. Violence can and must be avoided at all costs.

There’s research out there that clearly indicates the cost versus benefits of having a loss prevention system in place.  Profits in a business can be slim, losing them to shoplifting, employee or vendor theft can be detrimental to any business.

Caught A Shoplifter? Now What? To Prosecute Or Not

Do you go fishing? Have you ever caught a fish and had to decide if you were going to keep it or not? Sometimes there are limits to the number of a certain breed of fish you can catch and keep in a day. There are also size limits that are imposed on certain species, for example; a Large Mouth Bass might have to be fourteen inches long or longer in order to keep it in South Carolina. There are even seasons when certain fish cannot be kept if caught. As an example in Texas, according to texas.gov, Red Snapper season in federal waters closed on August 22 in 2018. In some situations where you can keep fish but only certain quantities you may have to decide if you are going to catch and release and keep the larger fish or take a chance and just reach your limit for the day. Shoplifting can be somewhat the same. You were wondering how fishing was going to tie in to Retail Loss Prevention weren’t you? 

     Now I am not talking about catch and release because a shoplifter does not fit the right height and weight limits. I am talking about whether a store management team makes a decision if they are going to prosecute shoplifters if they are caught period. Some store managers make a decision not to prosecute anyone for theft. The reasons are varied but may include the potential danger involved with stopping a crook or the risk of making a stop and the suspect does not have any merchandise (or says they do not and makes the manager question the decision to stop).  Sometimes the decision not to prosecute rests on a dollar amount. A shoplifter might be stopped for an item under $20 but will not be prosecuted for that particular theft. Let’s explore why such decisions are made.

     One of the major reasons for not prosecuting shoplifters, especially when the value of the item falls under a specific price point is that the amount of time spent on the case far exceeds what the value of the item was in the first place. If you choose to stop a shoplifter you will want the manager to write up some kind of report of the incident. In Loss Prevention we have incident reports to complete. There is also the time spent by the manager waiting with the shoplifter in an office for the police to show up. Depending on the jurisdiction police may issue a citation to appear in court for the alleged crime or they may take the suspect into custody. Follow all of this up with time spent in court prosecuting the case. By the time all is said and done a prosecuted case can be more costly to the merchant than just recovering the product and letting the suspect go.

     Before you think that you have made up your mind on the direction you are going to take I would like you to think about the other perspective on this subject. Why would you decide to prosecute a shoplifting case? If you catch and detain someone, decide to release the suspect and they get into an accident you could potentially be held responsible. That is unlikely but has to be taken into consideration. If the suspect is a juvenile and you detain them you absolutely cannot release them on their own. Yes, you could choose to release them to a parent or guardian but there may be reasons it would be better to contact the police. I have seen my share of irate parents and later wished I had released the child to authorities.

     While it may not seem like an important reason for you to prosecute a shoplifter I would ask you to consider one more thing. Each time a shoplifter gets caught, cries and gets cut loose with a promise not to steal again it is another crime that there is no record of being committed. Prosecuting a thief may not make a significant difference to you but in the big picture a shoplifter with no official police record is a shoplifter with a clean record. That minimizes any penalty they may get when they are finally caught and prosecuted. Shoplifters who get away with their crimes continue to hurt retailers until they do get caught and prosecuted. 

     Catch and release when fishing may or may not be your choice. Prosecuting a shoplifter or not is up to you. Safety, efficiency, productivity and ramifications must all be taken into consideration. Ultimately the choice is up to the store owner. Just remember, whatever you decide to do be consistent and be fair with everyone you deal with.

Post Holiday Retail Blues

 

Did your sales meet, exceed or fall short of your expectations? Regardless of how they turned out it is likely they could have been better when you factor in your inventory shrinkage. Shoplifters, employee theft and paperwork errors all create additional loss that drain away some of your profits. What strikes me is that these losses are like adding insult to injury. You ordered, received, put the merchandise out and paid your vendor for it. On top of that you have your expenses, payroll, rent, utilities and more.

After all that someone, a shoplifter, comes into YOUR store with the intent to steal from you. They do not care if it hurts you, your staff and your family. They simply do not care about that. It is ALL ABOUT THEM. And on top of that it just keeps going on year after year.

But, shoplifting is no different than any other business problem. You can fix it the same way by simply paying attention to it and attacking it head on. The problem that most retailers face with shoplifting is the feeling of despair because you are not sure what you can or cannot do. What is legal? The Police seem to have little interest in helping you. The times you have caught a shoplifter have met with mixed results. The shoplifter seemed to get nothing but a slap on the wrist, if that.

So how do you attack the scourge of shoplifting? From a business’ standpoint is actually fairly simple. Cast aside the concerns about prosecution with the criminal or civil courts. We should be concerned about what could happen to us legally but the reality is you want a program to keep shoplifting from happening at all. You must get into a prevention mindset.

A prevention mindset or loss PREVENTION is exactly that we want to prevent the losses from occurring at all. Because when a shoplifter attacks us it costs us money, even if they are not successful. Not just the loss of merchandise but our time and expenses. 

The really great thing about a prevention mindset is that it costs us little in the big picture and actually is in alignment with our sales goals. Yes, you do need an anti-shoplifting system like a Sensormatic system but that is only fifty percent of the equation. 

Step one is to change the way you approach customers. Customer service is king here. Shoppers love attention. They are there for a little retail therapy. They are interested in purchasing something from you and favor the attention that your staff can shower on them. Answer their questions, help them make a choice or just let the customer know that you appreciate their being there.

On the other hand shoplifters HATE everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Shoplifters need privacy even if just for a moment to steal from you. They do not want any attention, assistance or help. They are there to steal your goods and YOU ARE IN THEIR WAY. So what should you do? Remember this, good customers want your attention at various levels depending on the customer’s wants and needs. Any sales floor staff that have any experience at all know when to turn customer service up or down. 

It starts the moment that the customer walks in the door. Every person that enters your store must be greeted. A greeting should include brief eye contact, a smile and a “welcome to (my store) how can I help you?” Very reliable studies have proven over and over again that impulse shoplifters which make up approximately fifty percent of the average retailers shoplifting losses will most likely not steal from you in that visit if they are greeted. This is a win-win situation. Good customers love the attention shoplifters hate it. However, you cannot stop there. Amateur and professional shoplifters will not be deterred by that alone. They require additional customer service. Approaching them to help, suggest additional items they may want to consider not only increases your sales to that customer but it puts the shoplifter on notice that they have been seen and are being observed. The shoplifter will try to shun that help. So what do you do in that case? Step back and still be in range to “help”. Many shoplifters will simply leave. If this is consistent then the shoplifter will go elsewhere to steal from a retailer that is not prepared.

So what is the second part? You must have a Sensormatic system. As much as we would like, we do not have unlimited payroll. We cannot be everywhere at once. Shoplifters look for or even create conditions where the customer to staff ratio is out of whack. That is where the Sensormatic system comes in. Merchandise that is higher value or frequently stolen is protected with a label or a hard tag. If the thief tries to steal it, the Sensormatic system at the customer doors alarms. Your merchandise is protected 24/7.

The combination of these two creates a pretty impenetrable wall that will reduce most of your shoplifting losses and at the same time increase your sales. 

And yes, Loss Prevention Systems can help you with both. As the former Director of Loss Prevention for several major companies I have worked my way up in the trenches from personally apprehending shoplifters all the way to starting and running LP programs for those companies. When you purchase your genuine Sensormatic system from us you get the training and support to fix your shoplifting problems.

Contact us today or call 1-866-914-2567 to find out more about our Sensormatic systems and getting your staff trained up to go on the offense. 

Proper EAS Tagging Tips For Retailers

There’s no question about it electronic article surveillance (EAS) retail anti-theft devices work in every store they are used in. In fact they are so effective that according to the Sensormatic Global Retail Shrink Index, EAS is the most popular Loss Prevention and Asset Protection investment among retailers in the United States. 92.16% of retailers surveyed indicated they are investing in electronic article surveillance (pg. 45). Is it enough that EAS tags are used or is there more to making them an effective tool? 

     In order to get the most out of an electronic article surveillance system tags retailers should ensure they have effective tagging guidelines in place. It may not seem like it would make a big difference at first glance but the reality is a proper tagging program can make a theft prevention program stronger. Here is are some suggestions to consider as a guideline of where you should tag your merchandise: 

  • Keep visibility in mind. While hiding tags may seem like a good idea at first it can cause some problems for the retailer rather than a thief. Hidden hard tags may not be seen by a cashier and removed when a piece of clothing is purchased. That can cause an unnecessary EAS tower alarm and an embarrassing moment for your patron. A similar problem can occur with an EAS label if it is hidden. It may not deactivate properly at the point of sale and cause a false alarm. 
  • Location of tags is important to prevent concealment by a shoplifter. If a pair of pants is protected with a hard tag on the waistline it is not difficult to untuck a shirt and hide it. Keeping the placement where the tags are hard to cover improves the deterrent effect of the devices. 
  • Another thing to avoid is placing soft tags or labels on manufacturer hang tags if possible. I encourage retailers to place labels directly on merchandise packaging. For example a Sensormatic label is difficult to remove from a box of razor blades but if it is on a hang tag on a shirt sleeve a crook can pop the hang tag off and the label goes with it.  

So what do I suggest when it comes to tag placement? Here a few suggestions that I have found to be effective: 

  • When tagging pant or slacks a hard tag can be pinned through a seam near the knee. If that is a bit more work than you want to do, the next best solution would be a couple of inches above the cuff. Both solutions make it difficult to hide the tag and if the location is consistent on every pair of pants cahiers will be accustomed to looking for hard tags in the same place every time. 
  • If your store sells shoes people are going to want to try them on. I suggest tagging them through an eyelet. If there is no place to that a hard tag can be attached the next best solution would be a label on the bottom of the shoe. Tag both shoes as an extra precaution against shoplifting. 
  • Shirts should be tagged near the front of the neckline. The next best option would be the cuff of the shirt sleeve. The point is to keep the tags in as visible a location as possible. The problem with a cuff versus a neckline is that a cuff can be upturned and a tag hidden. Also when a tag is placed too close to the end of a cuff it is easier to make a small cut in the garment to remove a tag and repair it with a stitch or two. 
  •  Purses can be protected with a hard tag. If you are tagging purses the key to doing so efficiently and reducing customer distractions is to tag them as closely as possible to one place for all bags. Wallets may have an EAS label hidden inside because they are more difficult to tag with a hard tag. If this is the case for your store make sure cashiers are all aware of this and carefully placing the merchandise on the deactivation pads at checkout. 

These are the most common items of clothing and softlines merchandise to be protected. Hopefully the message you are reading is that the consistency of a tagging program is what matters. Do it properly and you will have minimal false alarms and customer distractions and the alarms that do go off will be real attempts to steal. When supervisors and employees respond to real alarms and fewer false alarms they will be more thorough in their receipt checks. That will result in more recovered dollars and less shortage for you. 

How Does Your Leadership Style Impact Your Store?

Leadership. It varies from person to person and company to company. As a business owner how you lead your team impacts the overall health and prosperity of your store. Does your team work for you and follow direction out of a feeling of obligation or fear? Do your employees do what they are told to do because of a concern that failing to do so could result in the loss of their job? If this is the feeling of the store associates they may not be doing more than the minimum to get their jobs done. This affects customer service and how employees interact with patrons. Poor service results in poor sales and inefficiency in operations. Leadership is as important as customer service and I would argue the two go hand in hand. I cannot think of a customer service driven business where the delivery of customer service thrived when the managers were loud, bossy or came across as distant.  

     Personally I have attempted to incorporate in my own management style a mix of a couple leadership influences. One is advocated by John Maxwell. The first book of his I read was, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. In his book he lays out what he describes as 21 principles that apply to leaders. There were a couple of his points that I made a conscious effort to apply (some were already an integral part of who I am) when I was leading my Loss Prevention team, my freight unload/ stocking team and as a Manager on Duty. Two of the characteristics Mr. Maxwell lists, “The Law of Solid Ground” and “The Law of Empowerment” are dimensions I believe can make a major shift in how a store team functions. The first idea is that people have to trust their leader. As a leader do you follow through on commitments to your team? Do you treat every person equally and fairly and do you provide honest feedback even when it may be difficult? The second is that strong leaders are not afraid to give power to others. As you empower your team to make decisions you build their trust in you and you are developing them into leaders. This means you train your team, set expectations and as they are learning, you correct and provide recognition to them.  

     Another leadership style I embrace is servant leadership. This manager is the leader who leads by the example he/she sets. It is also a manager who invests in the development of others. I have incorporated this in the course of my careers. Rather than ask a team member to clean up after a child has been sick in the store I have done it myself. As a freight team manager I frequently came in on a day off to help my team unload a truck and push freight. It is the willingness of the leader to be seen doing the unpleasant tasks alongside the rest of the team. A 70 foot trailer gets awfully hot and humid in the south during the summer. When your team sees you willing to get in that trailer first and rotate others out to avoid exhaustion they are willing to work harder to get the tasks done. Servant leadership does not mean supervision does not take place or that discipline is not occurring. It only means that the manager/supervisor attempts to be empathetic to situations where discipline may be required. These leaders do not allow themselves to be doormats but do look at individual circumstances when the situation warrants it. Think about how an employee is likely to respond to this manager as opposed to the heavy-handed supervisor who gives orders and barks directions.  

     Leadership styles directly influence the way a business operates and how employees function on the job. Yes, you can be the owner and expect workers to do what you tell them to do, but it won’t foster a happy workforce. A leader who cares about the staff helps in their development and empowers them to make decisions will get far better results than the other leader. As customer service improves, productivity improves and the atmosphere of the building is one where shoppers enjoy spending time. It also creates a customer-focused climate where sales associates are actively engaging clients and that leads to a reduction in theft. Happy employees are also less likely to steal and that can impact up to 30% of where shortage traditionally takes place. 

     Evaluate your leadership style. Are you leading the way YOU would want to be led and are there adjustments you can make that can enhance nearly every aspect of your business? Leadership determines how successful your store can be. 

An Attitude Of Service Or Just An Attitude? Attitudes Affect Customer Service

This is going to seem a bit odd to some of you but I want to know if you have an attitude? Store owners, do you have an attitude? Store Managers, do you have an attitude? Has anyone taken a look at the attitude of their employees? EVERYONE has an attitude, the statement isn’t necessarily a negative it can be positive. The problem is we have grown accustomed to thinking of it with a negative connotation. Why is that? Because in some form or fashion we have adopted the idea that an “attitude” shows our independence or ability to be self-reliant regardless of what others think. At times it can be very course and abrasive to others. If that is your “attitude” how does that relate to your customers, or those who work for you? I would like you to consider for a moment that an “attitude” may look more like a chip-on-the shoulder than some sort of independence (in some cases if looks like a boulder more than a chip).

     An owner with a poor attitude makes the job more difficult for the managers who work for her or him. The “I’m the boss” temperament may be unstated but if that is how an owner thinks it can reflect into how they give direction and interact with their managers. It frequently means that no one else can have a better way of doing things and leads to a stale operation. I will also tell you that the negative attitude rolls downhill.  The way you interact with your managers will be reflected in how they interact with the store associates and they, in turn, have attitudes with the customers. I have seen it in action and I can tell you I have experienced it and have allowed it to impact my interactions with my team in spite of my best intentions. By the end of a workday, everyone leaves in a grouchy mood. 

     The attitude of the owner affects the attitude of the managers has a direct impact on your customers who don’t have to shop at your store. I happen to work for a company that has two stores in the immediate area. On more than one occasion we have heard comments from customers that they don’t like to go to the other store. They tell us the customer service is poor and the employees are not friendly. On the other hand the manager of the store where I work makes a point of telling the managers they are to do whatever they can to keep customers happy (within reason and without violating policies). Employees may get busy but they enjoy working for this manager. The atmosphere is welcoming and we make every effort to greet our customers and offer assistance when they walk into the building. I have gone into the other store and the climate is different. If a greeting is offered it is more of an obligatory hello that a genuine one.  

     What is the climate in your store? What do your managers and employees think about your management style? If you aren’t concerned think again. If your store employees are providing poor customer service to customers because of the treatment they receive it as a direct impact on sales and a direct impact on theft prevention. Shoplifters who have been interviewed have said that they target those stores where employees are unhappy. They don’t have to worry about someone trying to give them too much attention. If shoplifters aren’t receiving service, neither are your customers and that means no one is trying to sell let alone up-sell for a store. 

     Customer service starts with leadership. When the management team seeks to make the climate one where employees enjoy coming to work that attitude will be reflected in the interactions between workers and customers. Owners and managers cannot assume the team is happy. Truly anonymous employee surveys will help gauge what employees are thinking. They can also be a tool for seeking ideas about what employees might want to see done differently or an outlet for ways to improve. Happy employees make a world of difference. What is the climate in your world? Is everything great or is an attitude adjustment in order? 

Resolved Or Solved? How Planning Can Make New Year’s Resolutions Work

Have you ever noticed how we all anticipate a New Year will bring new and exciting things into our lives (or businesses) but after the first month we often realize that nothing is new or improved or better? In fact, we may be disappointed as the year progresses that problems we hoped would be resolved (read, “magically disappear”) are still there. We make resolutions at the beginning of the year that are meant to help “improve” or “fix” something we know is an opportunity but then we slide back into our routines and those “problems” don’t get any better.

     In retail, those problems may involve personnel issues such as hiring and retention. Concerns may be for store profitability including expenses, sales, and shortage. Maybe concerns are over what may be classified non-controllable expenses, building rent, taxes, etc. Wishing problems away is not a solution nor is a resolution. If you want to resolve to solve problems you have you need to create an actual action plan and then take a partner(s) to stick to it, often one of your store managers or department management team. As you look at the areas of opportunity and break them down you can find that correcting one area can make a significant impact on other areas. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

e.g You identify that you have an issue with excessively high merchandise shrink.

      You need to identify all of the possible causes of the shortage problem.

  1. Do you use retail anti-theft devices?
  2. If you use a Sensormatic security system are you tagging everything?
  3. What areas are your highest shortage departments and are they vendor serviced?
    • If they are vendor serviced are you checking in and out vendors?
    • Are you improperly tossing out of date merchandise rather than receiving vendor credits?  
  4. Is employee theft causing shrinkage you haven’t seen?
    • Do you complete pre-employment background checks before hiring?
    • Do you require pre-employment drug screening?
    • Do you know the signals to look for that would indicate an employee may be stealing?
  5. Do you control your compactor and who throws out the trash and if you have a baler who is crushing cardboard?
    • Employees and vendors who are stealing and have access to a compactor will toss out the empty packages they would otherwise leave behind.
    • Uncontrolled compactors mean anyone can throw away anything that looks like trash but some small items can be overlooked and thrown away and cause a shortage.

These are not all of the contributors to a shortage. You can continue to drill down and I would encourage you and your team to do so. The project doesn’t stop there. Once you have identified the issues you need to create an action plan to address each concern. The plan should also include benchmarks or measurements that will show you are doing what you said you would do. There must also be deadlines for completion.

     There are areas that will cross over and can be beneficial to each section. Let’s say that you have focused on shortage and you also believe you have a hiring/retention problem. It seems people are going in and out like a revolving door. You have to ask yourself are you hiring the right people in the first place. If your employees keep leaving it could be they have stolen from you to get what they want and they are leaving before you catch on to them. If you start doing background checks you will be more selective in who you are bringing on your team. You may have been hiring a lot of people with criminal records or spotty work histories. Being selective and hiring the right people can also build a more dependable workforce. This leads to improved morale, more initiative and a better work ethic overall. Improving your hiring can improve shortage results due to dishonest employee activity.

     Another example of crossover would be compactor controls. Start regulating who is tossing out the trash and you impact retail shrinkage but you may also find that merchandise that was being overlooked is now being stocked more carefully. Overlooked items are getting back on the sales floor. Not only do you reduce shortage you improve sales.

     Wishing the New Year will bring improvements is no way to operate a business. Planning and follow through on those plans will bring about the positive changes you want to see. Resolve that 2019 will be a year of growth and profitable sales! Happy New Year!