Winter bummerland: protecting your retail business during the Black Friday crime surge

Winter bummerland: protecting your retail business during the Black Friday crime surge

woman walking through a mall decorated for christmas

woman walking through a mall decorated for christmasWhile many people nap away their turkey feast this Thanksgiving, some more motivated and savvy shoppers will be gearing up for the single largest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is infamous for the throngs of consumers rushing through stores to get the best available deals, with over 100 million people estimated to have braved the crowds as recently as 2016. While customers love the deep discounts and great sales, it’s also an exciting day for retailers. In 2017 alone, shoppers purchased $5 billion in goods the day after Thanksgiving, setting retailers up for a very merry Christmas.

Of course, a massive increase in foot traffic, even for day, leaves retailer open to an increase in theft. The rate of retail theft skyrockets by 28% for retail properties on Black Friday—an especially shocking statistic when considering non-retail theft only jumps 2% on the same day. The higher rate of retail theft is especially concerning, as an estimated $50 billion dollars is lost by retailers due to the crime each year. The problem is only compounded by the fact that the higher volume of bodies in and out of the door puts a strain on security resources that may be sufficient on less busy days of the year.

Despite the foreboding statistics, it isn’t all doom-and-gloom. Establishing additional layers of security and implementing best-practices with employees can go a long way to minimizing the threat of retail theft and better prepare your business to have a successful start to the holiday shopping season.

Holiday retail theft woes…

Shoplifting is an ever-present threat to a retailer, but Black Friday poses a particular set of challenges that makes preventing the crime even more difficult. Customers come in and out of stores at will and in great numbers. Toys, clothes, and video games are all highly coveted and often easy to conceal. Even with security guards physically present, the tendency for most stores to become overcrowded means their attention is too narrowly focused to be effective. Even customers can feel the sting of the Black Friday crime surge: items left in cars as people hop store-to-store are often targeted by opportunistic thieves.

As if shoplifting wasn’t enough to worry about, incidences of employee theft also spike over the holiday weekend. Because attention is turned toward preventing mobs of people from carrying off inventory, less attention is paid to employees, many of whom are often temporary holiday workers hired to assist with the seasonal rush. This lack of oversight can lead to an increase in employee theft, a crime which costs employers nearly $2,000 per incident by estimates. Employee theft incidences are becoming more frequent and more costly every year and cost the retail industry as a whole tens of billions of dollars a year.

Cases of return fraud are also on the rise. While variations of the crime exist, a popular version involves purchasing a high-value item, removing the item away from the store, and then returning the empty box. Return fraud often requires assistance from an employee who is also a friend of the culprit. This scenario is particularly easy to accomplish during the busy holiday season and especially on a sales day such as Black Friday. On average, retailers lose more than $1,800 per incident of retail fraud, making the prevention of the crime essential for as many cases as possible.

…and what you can do to prevent them

While addressing the increased threat of retail theft on the busiest sales day of the year can seem like a daunting task, there are several measures you can take to minimize the risk of inventory loss.

  • Staff the dressing rooms. Because cameras are not allowed in dressing rooms (for good reasons), changing areas are often a hot-spot for theft-related shenanigans. Having an employee (or two) man the dressing rooms can help make sure the same amount of clothes going into a room are coming out.
  • Minimize the clutter. Keeping sales displays short and small can increase visibility and limit the places shoplifters can discreetly conceal your inventory. By keeping aisles clear and installing mirrors throughout the store, the chances of you or your employees catching a thief in the act increase dramatically.
  • Put up anti-shoplifting signs. It may seem passive, but placing warning signs in locations shoplifters are likely to see (near cameras, at entrances) has been shown to actually deter prospective thieves from committing the crime in the first place.
  • Vet your seasonal employees. Some businesses cut corners when it comes to vetting their seasonal employees since they will only be around for a short span of time, and yet a lot of damage can be done in that limited timeframe. Run background checks and scrutinize your prospective hires with the same thoroughness you would a regular employee.
  • Count cash at the end of every shift. The weekend after Thanksgiving is going to be busy, but it’s worth taking a few moments between each shift change to balance the cash registers and credit card receipts. Doing so can prevent employees from walking off with cash or catch discrepancies early.
  • Double up on trash duties. One of the most common ways employees abscond with inventory is by throwing it in the dumpster outside the store and picking it up after hours.

retail cameraThe benefits of electronic eyes-in-the-sky

The key to safeguarding your retail property is planning. Scheduling the right staff, organizing your store layout, and implementing security protocols can all reduce the risk of inventory loss. Even then your manpower and resources will be stretched to the limit by the heavy holiday traffic, so for an added layer of security, consider using surveillance cameras. Surveillance cameras work both as a proven deterrent against crime and a method for catching perpetrators in the act or identifying them at a later time. Placing cameras above points-of-sale, at points of entrance and egress, and in inventory rooms can help keep an eye out for instances of both shoplifting and employee theft. An effective surveillance system can make back your initial investment in it many times over with by preventing many instances of retail theft and aiding in the apprehension of culprits.

If you’re interested in protecting your property with a surveillance system, look no further than EPS Security. With almost 65 years of experience in protecting local businesses, we’re experts in the design, installation, and maintenance of top-of-the-line video systems in addition to our vast experience with intrusion, life safety, and access control solutions. Your business is your livelihood, so invest in some peace of mind with a comprehensive surveillance solution by EPS Security.

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