Every single hour, 220 shoplifting offenses take place in the UK, making it one of the most common causes of stock loss. In the last five years, the number of shoplifting offenses in England has risen by a quarter and now costs the retail industry more than £600m a year. Add to that the cost of potentially lost sales, and this can begin to have a huge impact on profitability.
What do shoplifters look like?
When we say ‘shoplifter’, what do you think of? Poor, antisocial, uncouth, hoodie? It’s such a cliché, isn’t it? There’s the addict putting booze in his pocket; the desperate mum concealing food or baby items in a pushchair; the adolescent stealing cosmetics or jewellery in her handbag; and then there are the professional criminals who shoplift items like electronics with the intention of selling them on. All of these classic examples have one common theme, and that’s a lack of money.
Therefore, you might be surprised to learn that the more well-off amongst us are just as likely to shoplift as the hard-up. And that includes those in the public eye.
There’s the famous case of Winona Ryder being convicted of shoplifting after stealing around $5,000 worth of designer clothes and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. And, closer to home, remember when celebrity chef Antony Worrall-Thompson was caught shoplifting onions and ready-made coleslaw from a branch of Tesco? It was apparently the fifth time he’d done it – and he had no idea why. “On one occasion I paid £180 for three crates of champagne and at the same time nicked £4 of stuff – how ridiculous and stupid.” – Antony Worrall Thompson
This just goes to show that shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes, reputability and financial status, making a ‘typical’ shoplifter extremely difficult to define and therefore identify in store.
What do shoplifters steal?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that certain products you sell are unlikely to be shoplifted, either. There are, of course the common ones: cheese, meat, alcohol, pregnancy tests, cosmetics, clothes and electricals – these are popular due to their value relative to size. However, some of the largest and strangest things that have been shoplifted include: an 8ft Christmas tree, which the salesman helped tie to the car; £1,000 worth of condoms from Boots in Leicester, and a shopping trolley full of butter. Also, Britney Spears once allegedly stole a wig off a mannequin in a lingerie store, but that’s another story…
Again, it goes to show that nothing is off-limits when it comes to opportunists and seasoned shoplifters.
What can we do about it?
Your obvious first step on the road to taking control of any stock loss situation is to review your store security. But there are only so many cameras and security personnel you can put in place to help deter, identify and catch shoplifters. And if they don’t look like your ‘typical’ shoplifting candidate or are stealing unexpected items, they can be even harder to spot.
That’s why you also need to take control of the stock itself. Knowing how much stock of each item there should be in store at any one time and comparing that to your actual stock levels will help to highlight any stock losses and therefore identify the items that are being targeted by shoplifters. This information can then be fed back into your security actions to help prevent further losses of these items – for example, by moving the stock to a more visible area of the store, adding more security around it, or directing your staff to be particularly vigilant of this item.
The other thing is, of course, if you don’t know exactly what or how much has been stolen, you’ll not be able to re-order those products and sell them, which will only add to your losses. This is why getting a good grasp on the stock you’re currently holding, as well as an understanding of any stock loss, is absolutely crucial to reducing your wastage costs.
Time to take some control?
Effective stocktaking puts you firmly in control. It’s not just about numbers, figures and counting; it’s about the range of information that those facts and figures give you as a business owner and what you can then do with them to not only improve the current financial position of your business, but also increase profits and performance going forward.
We’ve been working with businesses to help minimise the causes of stock loss for more than 30 years. If you’d like to talk to us about improving your retail stocktaking then please call our team on 01637 874609 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.