Secure your holiday retail profits

Essential tips on how to avoid being taken during the giving season

Location, location, location It makes sense to move high theft merchandise to an area where your sales associates can easily observe it. Keep high-ticket merchandise away from your entryway. This will help eliminate someone from grabbing an armful of merchandise and running out the front door.

Biting the hand that feeds I often hear from retailers, “I don’t think any of my employees would ever steal from me.” However, the NRSS report found that 42.4 percent of your shrinking profit dollar was because of internal theft. Consider this, 25 percent of your employees will not steal from you under any conditions - they are completely honest. Another 25 percent will look for or create opportunities to steal. The remaining 50% will only steal from you if the right conditions present themselves. Most people who fall into this percentage are young, first time, employees.

Tips to help you combat employee theft:

• Keep track of who has keys to your business, and change the locks when key carriers leave your employment, - even under the best of circumstances.

• Put policies in writing. Even if you only have a one or two employees, put some basic anti-theft policies in writing, making it clear that you will not tolerate theft. This will set the tone and strengthen civil and criminal hearings where the employee may use the lack of unwritten policies as their defense.

• Examine your sales floor and stockroom areas frequently. If you find out-of-place merchandise such as a piece of jewelry hidden under an article of clothing, you could have an internal theft issue. An employee might be planning to come back at an opportune moment and steal the merchandise.

• Designate a trusted employee to do your merchandise receiving. Make sure they are properly trained. A dishonest employee teamed up with a dishonest vendor can be devastating to your business.

• If more that one employee is working, designate someone to ring employee purchases. If you have more that one register, designate a single register to be used for all employee sales.

• Designate one employee to remove trash from the store. If your business uses an EAS system, make sure the trash bags are passed through to help insure high value merchandise is not being discarded.

Lack of cash controls is a major factor. Many store operators fail to exercise proper cash controls by using what I call the “community till” system: Associates operate on one register, and at the end of the day, the owner finds that she is short cash. Was it an honest mistake? Did an employee give a customer too much change back? Did someone take the money? You will never know unless employees are held responsible for their own registers. Employees should be given a fresh register drawer at the start of their shift, and make sure they count it. The register should be counted down just before they leave for the day. This method tells associates you take cash handling seriously.

Do not allow employees to keep personal belongs, such as coats, purses and backpacks on the sales floor. Provide a secure area for personal items. Lead by example; lock up your personal items too.

In the bank
If your business makes deposits at night, always make them after the store is closed. Remove your name badge - no need to advertise your company while going to the bank. Always, drive your deposit to the bank even if your bank is close by in the same shopping center. By walking the deposit to the bank, you become an easy target. Do not let this become a casual event. Use the team approach: One person should exit the store with the second person remaining inside with the doors locked. The first person – bringing a cell phone - should drive around the parking lot checking for suspicious cars or people. The person conducting the parking lot check should have a cell phone. If there is anything suspicious, he or she should drive to a safe location, and call the police department. If all is clear he or she should drive to the main entrance of the store and shine the headlights on the door. The other employee, with the cash, should now exit and immediately enter the vehicle. If all is clear proceed to the drop box, quickly make the deposit, and leave the bank.