What Every Retailer Needs To Know

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Theft against shops can account for a major reduction in their profits. We have found a small CCTV system to be the most cost-effective form of prevention for shops of all sizes and type. Tagging is expensive while mirrors are often used more effectively by the shoplifter than the shop assistants. Because a camera does not allow the shoplifter to know whether they are being watched, or recorded, at any particular moment they are uneasy about stealing while under the camera's view. They will, therefore, normally go to another shop where the odds are in their favour rather than being against them or unknown. For the majority of those tempted to shoplift it will provide a very high level of deterrence. Letters we receive from customers indicate that a professionally installed camera system can reduce shoplifting by up to 90%.

Retail Crime Surveys

Retail crime is slashing shops' profits according to two of the largest studies ever conducted into retail crime.

One of these studies examined 54,000 shops which account for just under half of all retail sales in Britain, the other studied retail outlets responsible for over 27% of sales, so no shopkeeper should ignore these results on the basis that, "it isn't relevant to my business".

Survey 1 was the National Survey of Retail Theft and Security and is part of a three-year study.

Survey 2 was the Retail Crime Costs Survey by the British Retail Consortium of which many shopkeepers, both small and large, are members.

Some of the facts that have come out of the surveys make very sombre reading.

  1. Shrinkage from small retailers (1.91% ) is nearly one third higher than from the large retailers (1.49%)
  2. One survey found that average shrinkage of 1.6% results in an average loss of profits of 17.8% (See chart for details of your own retail sector), while the other stated that without the two million crimes suffered by retailers last year profits would have been 25% higher.
  3. Over 97% of shrinkage is undetected by retailers at the time of the crime or subsequently.
  4. For every theft that is detected over 46 go undetected.
  5. Almost 80% of theft is attributable to customers or staff, with customers accounting for the largest amount.
  6. Shrinkage is rising dramatically, estimated to having doubled since 1986.
  7. 14,000 shop staff were attacked last year with 106,000 being threatened with violence.

Security Tags

CCTV companies are often asked, "What benefit does CCTV offer compared to Retail Tagging?"

The main advantage that CCTV offers over tagging is that it provides instant and positive identification of the person committing the crime which can be handed over to the police for arrest and prosecution. This is important as tagging systems are unlikely to prevent items being stolen where there are no security personnel at the doors. By the time the tag alarm has sounded the person is already out of the shop and half-way down a busy high street. Even if a shop assistant is near the door it is unlikely that they will put their safety at risk by tackling the thief. We note that Safe or Sound Tags offer higher protection as the alarm is on the tag and will normally sound before the shoplifter reaches the door causing the item to be returned or jettisoned.

Shrinkage Rates

This table shows the average shrinkage rates and the consequent loss of profits for your sector of retail sales according to those shops in the survey.

Average Shrinkage (%) Shrinkage as proportion of profit (%)
CTN's/book shops 1.91 28.75
Clothing and fashion 1.91 27.55
DIY, hardware and car products 1.86 25.70
Department Stores 1.70 17.80
Electrical goods 1.63 13.33
Footwear and Sports goods 1.12 11.70
Furniture and textiles 0.75 12.90
Grocers and supermarkets 0.83 25.00
Jewellers 1.53 18.20
Pharmacy and drugstores 2.54 15.50
Specialist food etc. 1.24 21.90
Toys, video and music 2.14 21.20
Overall % 1.62 17.78

If you are a large business your figures are likely to be lower than the above.
If you are a small retailer your figures are likely to be higher than above.

You may also be interested to read the CCTV User Guide for Shopping Environments article from Security Management Today magazine.

Update - 2009

From the Professional Security Magazine editorial of November 2008.

Mick Neville is one of those people who, earlier in the year, was, for the security industry, the most famous man in the country for 24 hours. He was on all the news, for what he said about CCTV. The main media’s message, you may recall, was that CCTV is no good. But when you hear the man, it’s quite the reverse. Indeed he makes speeches to make the case for more staff - he leads the Met Police unit that handles video and other images - to better use the ‘excellent’ images given to police. He makes a powerful case that police use CCTV badly or not at all (from page 51). I’d only add one thing: politics. Conservatives then Labour put hundreds of millions into public space CCTV kit, then never thought to pay a pittance (by comparison) on standards, operator and police training, you know, the things to put the kit to best use. It must be that the politicians were content to spend (our) money so they could say that they were doing something about street crime. That is not the same as truly tackling the problem. The public space CCTV story so far does not reflect well on our democracy.

This article first appeared in Professional Security Magazine. Contact us if you are interested in finding out more about Professional Security Magazine or subscribing to it.