The security week that was: 08/19/11 (LP's quandary)

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


LP quandary: Shoplifting or internal theft?

In his annual survey, Mark Doyle, the president of Jack Hayes International, notes that the 23 retailers he surveyed "made almost a million shoplifting apprehensions" and "apprehended over 69,000 dishonest employees." That's pretty impressive for just 23 retail companies (of course, these are big box firms, mass merchants and department stores), but as impressive as that is, Doyle said those numbers are down from the year before.

What's the reason? The research doesn't give a clear indication, he said, but it's likely that an overall decrease in retail staff (and loss prevention staff) is affecting these numbers. Also in the mix, said Doyle, is that apprehension policies have changed at some retailers and some companies are putting more of a focus on internal theft.

If Doyle is right, are we seeing a diminishing importance of the traditional role of the loss prevention agent? Will the floor-walking LP agent eventually become extinct? Will companies decide to just accept the shoplifting losses in hopes that doing so is cheaper than hiring an LP officer?

Somehow I don't think so. One of the issues that Doyle raises in his report is the rise of organized retail crime, and the reality is that a team with EAS-blocking booster bags can clean you out to the tune of thousands of dollars if you don't A) deter them with visible agents, B) burn them so they drop the merchandise before leaving or C) apprehend them.

That said, the pressure is on for retailers. With customers less likely to rack up credit card bills for the latest tight-fitting blue jeans, and greater likelihood of ORC hitting their stores, managers are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But they have to stop the leaks somehow, so it seems that stores are walking away from the "leaks" that are traditional shoplifting incidents, and are heading over to deal with the internal shrink "leaks." If Doyle is right (and I think he is) that there are fewer loss prevention staff and fewer retail employees in recent years, then it would make sense that there would be fewer dishonest employees apprehended. But that's not the case. In fact, the number of dishonest employee apprehended in 2010 was roughly the same as the previous year. So, that probably means Doyle is right – retailers are aiming at their internal losses rather than their shoplifting losses.

Why are they doing that? Why did Slick Willie Sutton rob banks? Because that's where the money is. An average dishonest employee case sees an employee steal $640. Compare that to a shoplifting case, where the average take is $108. You'd have to catch six shoplifters to make up for not catching one dishonest employee. So which do you focus on? For now, the answer seems to be internal theft. [You can read all of Doyle's thoughts about the 23rd Annual Retail Theft Survey.]

Of course, if you're an LP agent, supervisor or retail manager, join the LP forums on SecurityInfoWatch.com where you'll find a vibrant community of seasoned LP pros mixing with the newbies as well. You'll learn tactics like blending in, what constitutes a bad apprehension, ethics, retail management motivation and more.

Let your voice be heard!
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