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. 

A Proper Reflection Of The Past Year Can Make The New Year Even Better

It is January and you are ready to get started on your new year. What does the start of a New Year look like for your business? Are you still trying to move out seasonal and clearance merchandise? Are you preparing to trim back payroll by releasing seasonal employees? Maybe you are already thinking about inventory and what you will need to do to prepare for that day. There are all sorts of ways retail owners and managers start the New Year but I would suggest that before you look forward you take time to look back on the previous year. 

There are a couple of reasons I would suggest reflecting on what the past year has been like for the business. First, by taking the time to reflect on the year you can celebrate the store wins with the entire store team. Employees want to know how their contributions have helped the store meet goals that were set. You may have one or one hundred successes to share but your entire team has put in the work and should be given a chance to share in the successes. It can be a simple cake in the breakroom or a small in-store party but let your employees know that their efforts paid off and are appreciated.  

 Another reason for reflection is that you can evaluate what did not go as planned. This is when you pull out planning documents or action plans and look at what goals were not reached. Did you meet your sales goals? Did you make stock shortage objectives? Did you meet your employee turnover goals? If you cannot celebrate an item as a win you will want to move that to the new store action plan for this year. You and your management team will need to consider what can be done differently to achieve the goals you set and missed. This is not a 5-minute task. This will require the team to drill down to the causes that led to a missed goal and then plan how to improve it. Sometimes this can feel personal and everyone needs to leave their feelings outside the room. Approach the problem as a group and find ways to help each other with action items. 

One of my favorite tools for a New Year is what I have adopted from several workplaces, a “What Works/What Didn’t Work” session. I have seen these done by only a management team but the truly effective sessions include team members and hourly staff. The employees will often provide you with insight into problems you did not know existed. Here is an example; you may think you have a good return policy and your return desk employees are happy. You don’t see anything that indicates problems with your refund program. What you may not be aware of is that your service desk employees are unhappy because they feel that managers are not supporting them after they turn down a refund with no receipt. The managers are called when the customer is upset and the manager arrives and tells the customer they “will take care of it”. Sure, the customers are happy and the policies look like they are enforced but the service desk employees feel foolish and undermined. A “What Worked/What Didn’t Work” session can help you see how you can improve policies, services and improve morale. When you conduct one, make sure you also ask your employees for suggestions on how to improve what they think did not work. Don’t let it simply be a gripe session. It also allows you to clarify reasons some policies may be in place that employees were unaware of before the meetings. 

After you have celebrated, evaluated and set new goals you are almost ready to jump into your New Year. Make sure your goals are realistic and create plans that will be effective in achieving those goals. If reducing shortage by .5% is your goal, you may want to install an Electronic Article Surveillance system. If making your hiring process easier and reducing paperwork is a goal, Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. can help you with their Applicant Management Center. If parking lot break-ins are an issue you can request improved lighting from your property management company. If you need help in risk assessment and loss reduction Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. offers a consultation package that involves everything from an onsite visit to a comprehensive loss prevention policies and procedures package. 

Start your year off right with a look back at the previous year. Share wins, evaluate opportunities and work as a team to create plans that will lead to an even better year than last. Make 2019 a year of growth and prosperity and consider taking Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. along as a partner!


 

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!


          

New Year’s Resolutions That Help The Environment And Can Keep Stores Profitable

It’s 2019 and time to make some New Year’s resolutions! We all know how easy a resolution can be to make but they are hard to keep. We also know that it is just as easy to break a resolution but are there resolutions a store owner can make that would benefit the store AND benefit society? I think one resolution that would be mutually beneficial for both would be the implementation of environment-friendly policies and procedures. We are talking about sensible measures that would appeal to anyone on either side of the political spectrum. Right now there is a big push for the elimination of plastic shopping bags. There are also those opposed to going back to paper bags. What could the solution be? Try encouraging the use of recyclable, reusable shopping bags for your customers. You make those opposed to one-time use bags happy and you save money on the need to regularly purchase more shopping bags (which can be a rather pricey supply on your monthly expense report). To implement this type of change you would want to have reusable bags ready for your customers and you might even give them away for the first few weeks you start the program. After that, you might give customers a small discount to customers who bring their own bags, say 1% on every transaction.

     Problems that may arise by allowing recycled bags into the store. The first concern is the potential for increased shoplifting. Inviting customers to bring their bags into the store to bag groceries is going to make shoplifting that much easier. Thieves already walk by unattended cash registers to pick up plastic shopping bags as they enter the store. They fill them up, look like any other customer who has made a purchase at an in-store terminal and they leave. Most customers are honest but I would remind readers that one of the necessary ingredients for shoplifting is opportunity. Without opportunity, some people who may be tempted to steal for a thrill are kept in check. You provide opportunity by permitting reusable bags and some will take advantage of it. You also have to think, are the bags only allowed at the checkout stand? How do you keep shoppers from filling them up as a convenience rather than using a shopping cart? How do you monitor the shoppers for those who may be stealing and those who are simply picking up merchandise for purchase? It can lead to problems for store owners.

     There is a way to allow the use of shopping bags and minimize the risk of increased shoplifting and that is the installation of an electronic article surveillance system (EAS). If you are going to resolve to help the environment you can still do it just by adding an EAS System in your store if you don’t already have one. You tag all of your merchandise with EAS tags or labels depending on what the merchandise is or how you strategize your theft prevention procedures. If a shopper has concealed merchandise in a bag they brought in and did not pay for it the alarm is going to be activated and your employees will respond to it.

     Since we are on the topic of being environmentally responsible it is important that retailers know that many EAS tags are built out of recyclable materials. Hard tags can be used multiple times to tag and re-tag merchandise thereby saving on the need for constantly purchasing new tags and since they are recyclable they help the environment. It should also be noted a lot of Sensormatic systems help to reduce power consumption. When the systems are not in use (during non-working store hours) they go into a power saver mode. Stores save money and wasted energy. The use of EAS loss prevention equipment saves stores money by preventing theft and it allows stores the ability to appeal to their environmentally focused customers thus driving sales.

     Another environment-friendly step you can make as a retailer is to look at recycling those cardboard boxes your merchandise is shipped in. A cardboard bale can bring in anywhere from $10 to $20 a ton. If this does not seem like a cost-effective move for your store you could try partnering with a neighboring store and combine efforts. It isn’t a lot of money but it does keep cardboard out of landfills and you can advertise that to your customers.

     Resolutions may not be easy to keep but once you start down the road of using merchandise protection and you see the money you save in shortage and how easy it is to implement you won’t find it difficult to stay on track. In 2019, resolve to make some changes that will help the environment and make your store more profitable at the same time.


Loss Prevention Systems For The New Year

For a loss prevention officer, the holiday season is a hard time to be jolly when the busiest shopping season of the year brings with it its shoplifters, crime, and theft.  During the holiday season, the number of incidents involving shoplifting increases considerably, and the losses the store suffers can be devastating to their bottom line.

For any retail store in the United States and across the globe, having a loss prevention system in place or a loss prevention officer in their store can be the difference between having profits or losses during their fiscal year. 

According to recent studies, more than half of retail stores in the United States have stopped investing in their loss prevention teams or systems even though their inventory shrink rate has seen an increase in the last year.  The inventory shrink rate takes into consideration the following:

  • Shoplifting
  • Employee theft
  • Vendor fraud
  • Administrative and paperwork errors

Shoplifting theft accounts for almost 40% of the total theft a store experiences, and even though the amount an employee steals can surpass that of the common shoplifter each instance it happens, the shoplifting theft can be considerable every year.

According to many pieces of research, retail stores lose approximately $35 million a day due to shoplifting or $48.9 billion in a year. Those detrimental statistics in the retail industry are worth considering when many stores and businesses decide whether to invest in a loss prevention system or a loss prevention team to combat the shoplifting in their store.

A loss prevention system expense can be recovered within a short period of time, and if your losses are increasing each year, the time you will recoup the money invested in the system shortens considerably. 

The introduction of a loss prevention system in the store allows your employees to dedicate more time with the customers entering your store, than attempting to catch the shoplifter. The system also allows your store to be protected and send a message to the shoplifters. Shoplifters know where and which stores to target.  If you are a store that doesn’t prosecute shoplifters or doesn’t have a loss prevention team or system, you are vulnerable and can become the target store for many of these shoplifters.


Thanksgiving – Pros and Cons of the shift of Thanksgiving sales from Friday to Thursday

Traditionally Black Friday has been the kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Families spent Thanksgiving together dining, celebrating, catching up with each other and maybe even watching a football game on television. Early Friday following Thanksgiving store employees would start reporting to work preparing for early openings which often took place at 6:00 am. Retailers had advertised their Black Friday specials (Door Busters) and customers would start queuing up at the doors ready to find bargains. The shopping would then continue into Saturday and even Sunday patrons continued to look for bargains to stretch their dollars further. Then something began to happen, stores started competing for those dollars by opening their doors earlier and earlier. We ( I did this for quite a few years) would report to work and 3:00 am for a 5:00 am store opening. The next year we moved to 2:00 am arrival for a 4:00 am opening. Today stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. There are Pros and Cons to this shift that I think is worth exploring in a bit more depth.

Pros to an opening on Thanksgiving Day:

  • Shoppers are going to stores on Thanksgiving, according to the balance.com in a story, “What Is Black Friday? Sales and Trends” by Kimberly Amadeo, updated June 20, 2018, 29 million people went shopping on Thanksgiving Day, 2016. That is a significant number of shoppers to just ignore.
  • According to bestblackfriday.com, 16.22% of Americans said they are in favor of stores opening on Thanksgiving and 5.60% were strongly in favor of it. “Thanksgiving Day 2017 Shopping Survey and Analysis”, Nov 4, 2017, by Phil Dengler. Americans may say they are against it but go out shopping anyways.
  • Bestblackfriday.com also reported that “younger Americans favor stores being open on Thanksgiving more than older Americans do.” Appealing to younger shoppers could be a way to increase their patronage on Thanksgiving Day.

Con’s to an opening on Thanksgiving Day:

  • Being open on Thanksgiving can create problems for retailers trying to generate sales on Black Friday as well as Thanksgiving. According to a New York Times article, “More Retailers Are Choosing to Close on Thanksgiving”, by Rachel Abrams, Nov 15, 2016, there are problems in keeping store shelves full for Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day.
  • The same article points out that stores can give a bad impression to customers if they come in on Black Friday and shelves are empty and employees seem to be exhausted. Joel Alden a partner in a retail consulting firm is quoted as saying, “If you do a lousy job over the Thanksgiving period, it may be a while before those customers come back and visit you again.” 
  • “…retailers that open Thanksgiving risk backlash from consumers who would rather the day be preserved for family get-togethers” according to a story in Richmond.com, written by Tammie-Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Nov 23, 2016, “Retail employees working Thanksgiving as stores offer customers some of the biggest sales of the year”

There is finally a mix of feelings about working on Thanksgiving from the employees who have to work when their company chooses to be open on this day. Some are unhappy that they are expected to work when they would prefer to be enjoying the time with their families. There are those employees who prefer to work the holiday for the extra pay they receive. An article from floridatoday.com “Working retail on Thanksgiving: Here’s the scoop”, by Ilana Kowarski, Nov. 26, 2014, provides a glimpse at this split between retail worker opinions. One employee was quoted as saying she wanted “…to make more money for my family, and that’s on me.” A bit further in the article though another employee said, “Corporate greed drives the business to stay open and, therefore, forces us to work on holidays.”

     So what’s the answer? It would seem there is no right or wrong answer, only pros, and cons for the retail owner to consider. Balance the benefits of opening on Thanksgiving with the potential problems that may arise from doing so. Perhaps the best answer you can get is to talk with your employees and find out what their thoughts are on the subject. If enough workers are on board to open the store and run it each day of the holiday weekend and do so with a great attitude you may have the winning solution to the problem!


Children shoplifting: how parents are using kids to steal for them and/or kids shoplifting on their own

I was once asked why I kept toys on my desk in my Loss Prevention office. I had two reasons, the first was they were collectible superhero figurines (The Tick to be precise) and the other was to keep children entertained. It is a sad fact in Retail Loss Prevention but there are children who shoplift, there are parents who shoplift and there are parents who use their children to help shoplift. As a Loss Prevention professional, it is not hard to handle an adult who steals. There may be anger, tears, and pleading but these are adults and they made a choice to steal so there should be consequences. What is not so easy to cope with is the child who has to sit in the office while the parent is being processed and does not understand what is taking place. There were many instances when I had to try to keep these young ones entertained as mom or dad were answering questions about the crime, providing personal information or trying to contact a family member or friend who would be willing to pick up the child. Add to the mix a parent who is throwing a conniption fit or making the scenario worse by bawling and wailing in front of the child begging you to let them go “Just this one time and it won’t ever happen again, I promise.” It becomes quite annoying. It also upsets the child who becomes a prop for the parent. The toys were my prop to entertain the children in a pinch.

     It may be hard to comprehend but aside from just shoplifting with their kids in tow, there are parents who use their children as tools or props to commit their crimes. What is worse than a parent who removes a price tag from a purse, straps it over their daughter’s shoulder and walks out with her and the purse? Well, it could be worse when the parent scolds the child and tells her she shouldn’t have done that when the parent is caught by Loss Prevention. Then there are the parents who walk through the store pushing a baby in an infant stroller with the little baby covered by a blanket. What can these doting mothers and fathers do with a cute little baby you may ask? It turns out baby strollers with blankets make great hiding places for designer blue jeans…MANY pairs of designer jeans. Aw gee, let’s not forget one of my all-time favorites, the pregnant mommy who gets more pregnant simply by walking through the store gathering clothing.

     If you aren’t shocked by now it could shake you up to know that some parents not only use their children as props or to disguise their own theft, some will steal while the children steal too. I caught two mothers and their combined five children ALL stealing in my store. The children wandered around areas of the store that interested them and the mothers did likewise. Everyone took their turn cleaning house. I once caught a father and his teenage son stealing jeans in a department store I worked in. It really gave perspective to the term, “Like father like son”… although I think the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” also came to mind. The unfortunate reality is, those cute, cherubic faces and tiny tots may not be just little cutie pies accompanying their mom or dad in your store. It is not uncommon for these youngsters to be covers for theft or potentially cranky crooks themselves.

     So how should retailers handle situations like these to prevent shoplifting family frolics? The number one deterrent to all shoplifters is customer service for everyone. Adults, as well as children, should be acknowledged and assistance offered. Electronic Article Surveillance systems will discourage adults from stealing. And while the systems may help prevent teenaged terrors from 5-finger discounts they will probably not have the same effect on young kids. It is probably not a good idea to try to stop a shoplifter if you do not have trained Loss Prevention Personnel working for you. Bad stops and aggressive shoplifters can lead to costly and/or dangerous situations. Aggressive, non-stop customer service is in order if you have a strong suspicion someone is stealing. Most importantly don’t let yourself be duped by those cute-chubby cheeked darlings. Those families might not be as charming as they look.


      

RFID Technology

For a small business owner, bringing sales to their business is not an easy feat.  It requires lots of hard work and diligence.  For an owner or manager of a retail store, it requires a lot of hard work to be profitable and to prevent shrink and losses in their stores. 

For them, the acquisition of affordable technology and software to help them prevent losses due to shoplifting, shrinkage, clerical or merchant errors is instrumental in having a successful and profitable business.

For many years now, the increased use of technology and the benefits associated with it has been self-evident in many industries, and the retail industry is no exception.

The value and transformation technology has brought to retailers, merchants and customers have been invaluable to them and to their bottom line. Technology usage has allowed them to decreased costs while maintaining better data and solutions that allow them to target specific areas within their business.

RFID systems and software have been around for many years now, but the adoption rates have increased considerably over the last few years due the lower cost and ease of use. Still, small retailers that are struggling financially will be less inclined to invest in an RFID system or any other type of loss prevention system despite needing it most.

The cost associated with acquiring a system that will help prevent losses, and help you target issues in your retail store can help you recover the cost associated with the system within a year in many cases.

Loss prevention systems and the costs associated with them can vary considerably, but businesses have many options depending on what they want the system to accomplish. Here is a technology linked with the retail industry that may be gaining ground with many benefits associated with its adoption.

RFID technology

  • RFIDs systems usage has provided many merchants great ROI and revenue increase within the first year of usage. The capabilities of this system to provide accurate inventory to the store owner or manager of the stores has seen an increase in their revenues while providing customers the merchandise they need and want.
  • RFID technology will allow businesses across industries up to the minute data and reliable inventory data.
  • RFID technology will save expenses where inventory related labor is concerned while achieving better and more accurate inventory data.

Acquiring a  loss prevention system can be daunting in the beginning due to the financial expense the business has to go through, but it is necessary if the business wants to stay competitive and profitable.


Suspect Signs Of Employee Theft? What Is Your Next Step?

Maybe you have seen it before and never gave it much thought, you walked by a cash register and saw a gift card lying next to it. A customer probably just changed their mind, right? Perhaps you saw your salesfloor person wearing a heavy jacket while working but you just attributed it to them being cold all the time. You may notice cash shortages periodically but they are under $10 and some people get busy and make little mistakes, it happens. Then there is the cashier that seems to be really interested in the store and always reports suspicious people he sees. He even asks managers if there might be security camera footage that could be reviewed to see the “suspect” in case they return. There is the saleswoman who finds a lot of empty packages on the floor and reports them to the manager and where she found them so managers would know about theft taking place in the store. These each seem like harmless issues on the surface but could there be something more nefarious going on under your nose? Is something starting to seem a bit curious after all? If you are suspecting something dishonest may be going on in your store what is your next step?

     You may be thinking this would be the time to call the police and report your suspicions. Hold your horses, what are you reporting, a gift card tucked next to a register? A couple of low dollar cash shortages? You won’t get very far with the police and they certainly aren’t going to do any investigation for you. The appropriate step is to contact Bill Bregar at Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. He will walk you through the next stages of what you need to do to look into this further. Sure you are busy and have a million things to do each day but if you suspect theft is taking place something has to be done before it gets out of hand. Then again maybe there is another way to tackle this. Yes, Bill will be happy to talk to you and discuss your case but it might be in your best interest to let Bill conduct the investigation for you.

     Why hire Bill to do the investigation for you? Well for starters Bill served in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman, a Military Intelligence Officer and he was a police officer.  He is no stranger to conducting investigations. He is a trained and licensed private investigator, skills that are well suited to a successful retail investigation. Bill has also been a Retail Loss Prevention Director at the national level which makes him uniquely qualified to conduct store-level dishonest employee investigations. Who better to have on your side as a detective unless you could hire Sherlock Holmes and I hear he is currently unavailable?

      Are there other signals you might be overlooking that may indicate dishonest activity other than those touched upon earlier? Do you know where to begin looking? Do you know how to look for indications of employee’s conducting fraudulent refunds? What are the signals of sweetheart deals taking place under your nose? You can have an inkling that theft is happening in your store but if you know what signals to look for you can be sure when it takes place. The critical piece to getting your merchandise and/or cash back and restitution is a successful investigation. Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. has training seminars and workshops that can educate you on how employee theft takes place, signs to look for and how you can prevent it. When it does take place you will know what is going on and can call on Bill to be your personal gumshoe.

     Investigating employee theft is no game. Private investigators are a dime a dozen but finding a reputable company that is experienced in retail theft investigations is a more difficult task. Hiring an investigator with the background Bill has may seem to be an unattainable goal. Fortunately for the small and medium-sized retailers searching for a sleuth is simplified with a single stop at Loss Preventions Systems, Inc. Theft is probably happening in your store, the question is, what are you going to do about it?


What is Shrink And What Does It Mean For Your Profit And Bottom Line?

 What is shrink? Obviously, that will depend on the context in which you are referencing it. It may be what happens when we wash a new pair of jeans in hot water. Maybe it is what happens to our household budget when our children get older and require more food, clothing, and school supplies. In retail, it has a different meaning altogether. Shrink is not a downsizing of a store or reduction of staff (although it can lead to those things if not addressed). Retail shrink is merchandise we cannot account for due to any number of reasons. It impacts the profit margin of a store and since those losses directly affect the retailer there are usually steps the store owner takes to try to offset those lost dollars. If not well thought out those measures the store owner takes could hurt the business further. There is a vicious circle that follows and can lead to a store closing down.

     In Retail Loss Prevention we generally identify four primary causes of shrink, shoplifting, employee theft, vendor shortage/fraud and administrative errors. According to the 2017 National Retail Security Survey, approximately 66.5% of shrink is attributable to shoplifting and employee theft combined. 21.3% of shrink is due to administrative and paperwork errors, 5.4% is related to vendor fraud or error and 6.8% was unknown (pg. 8). The same report states that the average retail shrink rate in the U.S. was 1.44% in 2017 (pg. 6). Since this is an average that means there are industry sectors that are higher and others that are a bit lower so where your store may fall can depend on what you sell.

     What mistakes do retailers make when trying to cover the profit losses from shrink? Often they increase prices on merchandise. Those price changes may be a few cents per item or a few dollars but no matter how small the increase regular customers notice those hikes. There comes a point when customer loyalty takes a backseat to customer’s budgets. No matter how minute you may feel a price increase is there is a threshold that customers will finally say enough is enough and they relent and shop at a big box retail store. Some store owners will make up for the lost revenue through reduced payrolls. This may include getting rid of full-time positions and making them part-time positions saving on benefit expenses. Employee hours may be reduced all around with the store owner picking up more of the workload themselves. The impact of this strategy is a blow to employee morale and loyalty. It can also lead to increased employee theft as those employees feel the financial pinch of the reduced hours and feel cheated. Reduced employee hours also means fewer people on the salesfloor providing customer service which results in more shoplifting, ergo more shrink. As you can see taking the wrong steps to address shrink can lead to a cycle that is hard to break and can lead to a store shut down.

     So if a retailer opts not to raise prices what is the resolution to solving the problem of shrink? Retailers cannot afford to continuously bear the costs of shrink. Assuming over 60% of a store’s shrink is incurred through theft then anti-theft measures are a logical starting point. Sensormatic security systems and tags play a critical role in theft prevention. They are proven to significantly cut into theft related shortage. They also help reduce a portion of administrative shortage. If it is tagged, merchandise overlooked in a shopping cart will activate an alarm and be paid for or returned to the store. Requiring vendors to check in and out of the store on a sign in sheet and making them talk to a manager about what they have done that day holds them accountable. Store managers should be doing weekly reviews of vendor credits to ensure they are not losing money for product removed from the store.

     Shrink can cut into your profit margin and if that isn’t bad enough addressing it improperly can make the situation for your store worse. Taking positive steps to address each of the areas where losses occur will improve shortage results. It will make you, your employees and your customers happier when your actions are directed towards the real culprits of shortage.