Vendor Theft: Causes, Effects and Prevention

Having worked in retail for nearly thirty years I have found that more people work in the store than just the people directly employed by the store. My encounters have included working with various external vendors. I have worked with representatives for jewelry and accessory servicing, cosmetic reps, snack vendors and even cleaning vendors. I have checked in soft drink vendors and food vendors through our loading dock receiving procedures. Just like our store employees, the vast majority of vendors who service stores are honest and work hard to satisfy their clients. Unfortunately, just as there are in stores there are bad apples for vendors and they can cause shortage in stores through theft, fraud and even paperwork errors.  

     The good news for retailers is that in the big scheme of things vendor theft generally accounts for the smallest amount of shortage. According to the National Retail Federation 2018 National Retail Security Survey, vendor fraud or error accounted for 5.4% of retail shrinkage in 2017 (pg. 5). That said it is still a source of shortage that can be controlled thereby saving stores potentially thousands of dollars a year.  

     So how does vendor theft and fraud happen? Just like any other theft it requires the person committing the crime to have the opportunity to steal, the means to steal an item and the perceived risk of being caught or punished. Just like a three-legged stool, remove one leg and the whole thing falls over. You cannot control whether or not someone has a desire to steal but you do have control over the conditions that make theft appealing.  

     Depending on what the vendor is doing in the store can impact how they might steal from you. Having controls in place in the store and requiring vendors to follow those procedures or controls can influence whether that person decides to attempt to steal. For example, many stores have vendor log books and vendors are expected to sign in when they enter the store. They may even be issued temporary name badges once they sign in. When someone has to register when they enter a building there is a sense of accountability, anonymity is lost.  

     The type of vendor can also play a part in how theft or fraud transpires. I have seen cosmetic vendors in stores with large satchel purses and bags. Their paperwork and checklists are stored in the bags but they also make great hiding places to conceal merchandise if they are stealing. A store should have the same requirements for vendors as they have for their own employees. A vendor should be required to have their bags or packages checked before they leave following a visit.  

     A food or beverage vendor may have empty boxes broken down that they are carting out for reuse. An employee of the store should be inspecting between the boxes to ensure no merchandise has been concealed between the layers. A vendor should also never be throwing out their own trash. Store compactors should always be locked and only a manager or store owner should have access to it. The manager should be the one to inspect vendor trash and throw it away as they look for empty packages that could indicate a theft took place. 

     All store entrances should be protected with electronic article surveillance pedestals. This serves as a deterrent to vendors who may be reluctant to try to walk out with merchandise that might cause an alarm to sound. There are many businesses which set up pedestals at the front entrances and even at employee entrances but neglect to place them at vendor service doors. If a vendor has thoughts of stealing they are looking at the anti-theft strategies and will take notice of unprotected access points. 

     Vendor supplied merchandise should also be detail checked in. Validating what an invoice says is being delivered and billed to a store and what is actually received are important steps in the vendor process. It is possible for a vendor to short an order accidentally but that still counts towards the shortage for the store. A driver can also intentionally short an order if they know the merchandise is not detail checked in. The product that is not brought in can then be sold on the side and the profits pocketed. 

     As I stated in the beginning there are very few dishonest vendors but they do exist. Build strong partnerships with them but remember that some may try to take advantage of you. Make your vendor partners follow the same guidelines that your employees follow. Be clear from the beginning and you will run into few difficulties and you will have a relationship that fosters sales for both parties. 

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.

Alpha High Theft Solutions Blending With The Checkpoint Label

As many of you know Alpha High Theft Solutions was acquired by Checkpoint Systems many years ago. Checkpoint has encouraged Alpha’s brand growth and innovation. Alpha has produced the best high theft solutions, hands down in the industry. Innovations like Spider Wrap, Keepers, Bottle Locks, Cable Locks, Shark Tags, specialized hard tags literally protect billions of retail products worldwide.

As the largest nationwide Checkpoint Dealer we have watched and even helped with the research and development of some of these products.

It comes as no surprise to Loss Prevention Systems and many of you, that the Alpha High Theft Solutions name is being blended into Checkpoint High Theft Solutions. From the inside, the accounting and management functions have been the same for some time. But this has been accomplished slowly and carefully over time. The Alpha DNA is still there, stronger than ever.

When we at Loss Prevention Systems met recently with Checkpoint High Theft Solutions, we clearly saw the Alpha DNA. In fact to us it seems that it is even stronger than ever. We were shown new products, some we cannot discuss yet, as they are still in development with R&D and will be real game changers. The scientists and product specialists at Checkpoint overwhelmed us with the new items they are working on.

These are concepts that are becoming reality other companies have never even thought of. The application of science is, well, amazing. As soon as they give us the green light we will begin rolling them out to you. Maybe even a few lucky LPSI Retailers will get to test and evaluate some of these new game changers.

Checkpoint has evolved into inventory control solutions not just shoplifting electronic article surveillance solutions. When we couple that with Loss Prevention Systems actual loss prevention experience in both the shoplifting and employee theft arenas, you have a powerful partner to help you achieve the profitability you want and deserve. Our real world live training is included on every system we sell, as often as you need it, for the life of your Checkpoint System, FREE of charge.

Loss Prevention Systems includes even more. We are there to help protect you from the bad guys. Shoplifters, employee theft, robbery, burglary, pre-employment investigations, pre-employment interviewing, vendor fraud are threats to your very livelihood. We have personally dealt with all of these for large and small companies alike. A single store owner can have the same loss prevention programs that the big box stores have with Loss Prevention Systems and Checkpoint Systems High Theft solutions.

But rest assured the Alpha brand is alive and well and living in Checkpoint High Theft Solutions. It courses through everything we do and stand ready to help you with. There are exciting times ahead for retail loss prevention and security so stay tuned for more information.  

And remember that if you hate shoplifters and theft as much as we at Loss Prevention Systems, please share this with your retail friends.