Retailers lose over $13 billion worth of goods each year to thieves, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. That’s about $35 million in stolen products daily.
How well do you prevent thefts and shoplifting at your store? Scott and Lisa King, owners of King’s Archery Outfitters in Louisville, Kentucky, had their store equipped with an alarm system and security cameras. Still, those precautions didn’t stop four thieves from breaking through their front door at 2 a.m. last October to “clean house.”
Scott King said the theft was likely planned and choreographed. Each suspect had a role and went through aisles sweeping items off pegs and into large trash bags. They stole about $18,000 worth of arrows, broadheads, crossbows and other accessories in about three minutes before escaping by truck.
King said the break-in was disheartening. “It’s your stuff, and you work so hard to make a living and feed your family,” he said. “There’s a strong sense of protection there.”
Since that night, King improved the store’s security features, and advises other retailers do the same. “You can’t stop theft, but you can take precautions to minimize the chances of it happening,” he said.
Brian Wenzel, a patrol sergeant and K-9 handler for the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin, has investigated hundreds of retail thefts the past 21 years. Let’s review some of King and Wenzel’s tips for thwarting thieves.
Wenzel said shoplifters look for stores with few anti-theft devices. Surveillance cameras in strategic locations can thwart thieves and help investigators piece together what happened. Photo Credit: gohunt.com.
“The biggest thing is to be aware,” Wenzel said. “Don’t get tied down or become too consumed in a task. Always pay attention to your surroundings.”
King agrees. He said an employee must be in the shop at all times. “It’s easy to get complacent and go into the back room or something,” he said. “That tempts an honest guy to steal. It’s a house rule for us to always have a person behind the counter.”
Wenzel said shoplifters look for stores with few anti-theft devices. Surveillance cameras in strategic locations can thwart thieves and help investigators piece together what happened. Place cameras in the entryway to catch faces, inside the store to track customers’ movements, and in the parking lot to identify vehicles and license plates.
King recommends keeping the video feed off-site so it can’t be stolen. “We got lucky because the thieves couldn’t find our footage,” he said. “We have since hidden our live system, and set up a dummy.”
Wenzel advises owners to arrange aisles so cameras and employees can see everything. Use an open layout and install mirrors to eliminate blind spots. Photo Credit: bulbasinarcherytuscon.com.
A store’s setup is an easy way to reduce thefts. Wenzel advises owners to arrange aisles so cameras and employees can see everything. Use an open layout and install mirrors to eliminate blind spots.
King’s store also has an open floorplan, and its aisles form a bottleneck at the entrance. And by placing the checkout counter near the exit, employees can monitor customers before they leave.
“Small, high-value items like sights, releases and broadheads should be put behind the counter, or locked behind glass where a sales associate must help the customer access them,” Wenzel said. Cables or hanger locks are also inexpensive options to consider. Don’t tempt customers to slip small items into their pockets and walk away.
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A good inventory-management system, like ATA ePRO, helps identify what’s missing. The program can specify the item’s brand, model, color and serial number. That information is valuable to police officers searching for the items, and your insurance company. Photo Credit: kandbarchery.com.
Talk to your insurance provider to identify what your policy covers and what it excludes when retail thefts occur. Adjust your coverage to ensure you’re protected.
King is grateful he had good insurance because it made the break-in easier to handle. “My wife researched insurance companies and got us the best coverage when we started our business,” he said. “I was absolutely blown away with how well we were treated and how quickly things settled.”
But what should you do while a theft is occurring? If you believe someone is shoplifting, stay calm and call the police immediately, Wenzel said. Then write down as much detail as possible about the suspect(s). Try to snap a picture of their face, too. If they start to leave, try talking to stall them until the police arrive, but do not take physical action. If they don’t stop to talk, let them leave. Follow them outside and write down their license-plate number, vehicle description and direction they went.
“Never try to retain or apprehend a suspect,” Wenzel said. “A physical altercation is dangerous, and there’s a lot of risk involved. You never know if a suspect is carrying a knife or gun. A piece of property isn’t worth risking your life. Wait for law-enforcement to arrive because they’re trained to handle the situation.”
Wenzel said to determine what was taken. “It’s not illegal to act suspicious” he said. “While owners can suspect something was taken, someone can’t be charged with theft unless an item was actually taken.”
A good inventory-management system, like ATA ePRO, helps identify what’s missing. The program can specify the item’s brand, model, color and serial number. That information is valuable to police officers searching for the items, and your insurance company. Insurance claims must be thorough to recover losses.
For more information about ATA ePRO or other best practices for theft protection, contact the ATA business and membership office at (866) 266-2776.