The pandemic changed the retail landscape indefinitely and proved the luxury sector has a customer desire for both an in-store brick and mortar shopping experience as well as accessible digital purchasing. As consumer buying patterns are increasing in both in-person and online buying, retail businesses need to reassess the preeminent risks based on the increased crime rates across the U.S. and the challenges around shipping due to the high volume of packages being shipped daily.
According to National Retail Federation and their 16th annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) study, “Organized retail crime is continuing to grow, with the number of dollars lost topping a key threshold for the fifth year in a row and three-quarters of retail companies that have been victims saying activity is up.” Nearly 60 percent of retailers reported a rise in ORC violence and general criminal aggression during the pandemic according to the most recent Retail Violent Fatalities Report by The D&D Daily – retail’s leading digital news source for Loss Prevention, Asset Protection and Cyber Security.
The New Face of Retail
With the in-person retail sector expected to boom this holiday season nationwide, businesses can expect to see a higher volume of traffic. But not all new traffic to your business is good news. As customers entering a business may have face coverings based on CDC guidelines and holiday trunk shows and events resume, retailers need to be prepared that criminals can blend in and be less identifiable.
- Be vigilant for signs that someone is casing your business to commit theft – a new customer more curious about store operations than items for sale or a customer who fidgets, avoids eye contact, wears a hat and sunglasses plus a face covering.
- Review your plan for in-store thefts. Make sure all employees know a predetermined phrase that alerts them to a potential threat without alarming customers. Employees should know the proper steps to take when the code phrase is used.
- Have your local law enforcement phone number saved on all employee phones and always report any suspicious activity.
- If staff members work alone or leave the business by themselves, provide them with a personal safety alarm that can attach to their keys. A personal safety alarm when pulled creates a very loud noise that can alert others and deter an attacker.
- Check all camera and alarm systems and the backup radio or cell. Ensure everything is working properly. Always activate alarm and camera systems when you leave.
- Regularly check all entry access points like doors, windows, roofing and neighboring businesses to ensure there are no cracks, broken latches or other damages that could allow a criminal to penetrate the business easier or quicker.
Grab & Go
You can’t prevent every theft, but you can prevent some and limit the amount of loss in others. Most thieves posing as customers shy away from attention and conversation. In the latest losses reported in the jewelry industry, thieves are engaging in significant conversation to gain the trust of the salesperson. In almost every case the salesperson felt there was something wrong, but the dialog and time spent with the thieves made the salesperson second guess themselves. Trust your instincts; they are usually correct.
What should you do if a “customer” seems suspicious?
Certainly, you don’t want to treat a potential customer like a thief. However, you can take steps that a good customer won’t notice or might appreciate while causing a thief to seek an easier target.
- Lavish the customer with attention. Give your name and ask the customer’s name. Ask whom they are shopping for and the occasion. Inquire about what they do in life, where they live, what they enjoy doing. Be chatty!
- Make mental notes about age, hair and eye color, height and other attributes that may be helpful to police if the customer turns out to be a thief.
- Be prepared with a display pad, loupe, cleaning cloth and any other tools, so you won’t have to turn away from the customer.
- Be mindful of where everyone is in the store.
- Ask a co-worker to assist.
- Have a code word that alerts other staff about your uneasiness. Another staff person should position themselves between the showcases and the door. Alternatively, your colleague could walk out the front door with a cell phone in hand and watch – ready to call law enforcement if needed. If you are dealing with a thief, this will make him or her think twice.
- Show only one item at a time. If the customer wants to see a second item, put it on your hand or a model for comparison. If the customer does run with the item, you have limited the loss.
- Assure that showcases are locked when not in use.
- If the customer asks to see high value items, escort him or her to a sitting area toward the back of the store, if possible. Ask another associate to bring items and return them to showcases.
- Require identification, such as a driver’s license, to show high value items. If your customer asks about the identification request or why are you showing only one item at a time, blame your insurance company.
In an effort to keep the public and their employees safe and adhere to social distancing guidelines many of the shipping companies have stopped obtaining signatures upon delivery. The lack of signatures opened opportunities for a number of issues to develop like theft from door and no accountability on delivery which makes it hard to determine who is stealing these packages.
The pandemic has led to a significant increase in the daily volume of packages shipped globally. This influx has resulted in delays for delivery. The shippers have possession of the packages for a much longer period of time, which increases the opportunity for a loss. This also makes it difficult for the sender to follow up with the recipient to confirm delivery.
- Establish a new 2021-2022 shipping plan.
- Maintain a shipping log with dedicated staff that handles shipping; this includes packing and tracking the shipment and calling the customer to confirm delivery.
- Communicate clearly with the customers around shipping terms and delivery dates.
- Insure high value packages and follow all safe packaging guidelines.
- Send the client the tracking number and ask them to make sure they are home for the delivery.
- Identify and report any missing packages as soon as possible, the quicker they are reported the more likely they can be recovered.
While some losses can be prevented, others cannot. The most important thing is to ensure the safety of employees and yourself. That’s why insurance for your inventory and business is so important.
For additional Loss Control tips, visit BerkleyAssetPro.com/Loss-Prevention.
If you have questions, please contact Berkley Asset Protection at 212-922-0659 or firstname.lastname@example.org.