By Claire Reilly

As retailers start to prepare for more sales and more customer activity in the lead up to Christmas, they are also being warned to be vigilant against shoplifting. 

As shopper numbers increase and stores get busier, the temptation for shoplifters to take advantage of busy staff and greater foot traffic can lead to a jump in shoplifting according to ADT Security national retail manager, Phil Brown. 

“Christmas shopping environments provide thieves with the perfect cover,” said Brown. “With so many extra customers in stores, it’s easy for even experienced staff to miss suspicious behaviour. New, casual employees are less likely to spot a thief and often won’t know what action to take if they do suspect someone.”

That increase in casual staff can also lead to other theft issues, as Brown explained. 

“Capitalising on the same conditions that make theft so tempting for shoplifters, dishonest employees may swipe cash or goods for themselves — sometimes even before the stock reaches the floor. Sweet-hearting, whereby staff provide unauthorised discounts or ‘freebies’ to friends and family, is also rife at Christmas.”

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Sweet-hearting isn’t the only calculated tactic that can reduce to a shortfall at Christmas, with returns and refunds proving to be a particular problem area. 

“Savvy thieves may return stolen goods and ask for a cash refund, enter the store with a receipt from a previous purchase and steal the exact same item, or return boxes which on later inspection don’t contain the original product,” said Brown. “Meanwhile, some returns policies make it easy for a sales clerk to grab an item off the shelf, register it as returned and pocket the cash.” 

To minimise the risks, Brown offered a number of tips which are useful for retailers to bear in mind, regardless of the time of year. 

“As a basic loss prevention measure, we recommend that retailers minimise cash held at the point-of-sale area and always use safes to secure cash,” he said. “In the lead-up to Christmas, retailers should also provide refresher training to employees on safety and security procedures.

“Ensure procedures are in place so staff know what to do in the event of theft. These should include how to approach a suspicious customer, how to respond to aggressive behaviour, what to do if the store EAS [electronic article surveillance] system is activated, and who to call to report an incident.”

In addition, Brown said retailers should keep lines of sight clear in their stores, consider using security tags on high-value or small items and acknowledging customers when they walk into store. 

And to minimise the risk of employee theft?

“Remove all handbags, phones and personal items from the point-of-sale area; implement random end-of-shift cash balances; use employee cards for tracking sales by employees; reduce the cash on hand at the point-of-sale area; [and] consider CCTV surveillance as a possible solution.”