Shoplifting is a persistent problem for home improvement retailers across the country, from big-box and specialty supply stores to independent hardware shops.
There are multiple causes for loss of inventory — or shrink — within the retail industry, including internal theft and damage, but external thefts remain the leading cause. The issue has grown over the past few years, with labor shortages straining retail establishments and the popularity of online shopping making it easier for shoplifters to offload their stolen goods.
In light of this crisis, home improvement retailers must step up their shoplifting prevention methods, with suppliers having an important role to play as well.
Hardware and home improvement stores contain a wealth of high-value items, and it can seem like an overwhelming task to keep them secure, especially in large stores that are spread out or filled with blind spots. As shoplifting is often described as a crime of opportunity, the goal is to limit or undermine the opportunity in a variety of ways.
To help reduce shrink due to theft, here are a few strategies to employ:
All home improvement retailers—regardless of size — can preemptively create a shoplifting plan of action and make sure it is shared with employees. Part of this training should involve helping them understand common shoplifting tactics and signs to watch out for. Along with feasible policies, protocols and tips for how to deal with shoplifting incidents, include what they should not do — both to prioritize their safety, limit liability, and de-escalate scenarios. Also, research the most at-risk home improvement supplies within your inventory, such as power tools, so you can take extra precautions when it comes to those items.
Another typical way to mitigate shoplifting is to install anti-theft devices for retail stores. Security cameras are one example. Include signage that warns potential perpetrators that cameras are in use and you’ll take action. A security alarm system is another typical prevention measure, and, again, have a visible post about the alarm company that you’re working with to monitor and secure the premises.
Other relatively low-cost measures for smaller stores include anti-theft mirrors to increase visibility for employees and physical locks on certain high-value items or those identified as being at particularly high risk for theft. Modern anti-theft devices — such as locks and recoilers — can be customized to fit the various shapes and sizes of equipment and materials contained in your inventory. They can be configured to integrate seamlessly into your store displays, allowing customers to adequately view and handle the items while making it harder for shoplifters to fully remove them or setting off an alarm if they attempt to do so.
Not all shoplifting prevention methods have to be overtly deterrent. You can apply customer service techniques that are designed to both provide a positive experience to shoppers and also confront external thefts. Acknowledge all customers and ask if they need assistance finding the right products for their professional or DIY home improvement project. This alerts them that you’re being attentive and you’ve noticed their presence. Also, it’s important to properly staff your home improvement store, as shoplifting is more likely to occur when employees are distracted or overly busy.
Power tools are a big-ticket item when it comes to shoplifting. One anti-theft method that some larger chains, such as Lowe’s, are experimenting with involves the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips that would be scanned at the point of sale. It is coupled with blockchain technology that records legitimate transactions. Home Depot has previously mentioned the idea of trying a similar system. This would allow retailers to essentially “unlock” tools when they’re purchased by a customer, and there also would be a public record of transactions for manufacturers, retailers, and law enforcement officials to refer to if they need to confirm authentic purchases.
Make sure your home improvement retail store is organized and laid out well — placing your checkout in an optimal location and limiting blind spots — and ensure that you’ve adopted regular stock organization tasks into your daily routine. To bolster those physical steps, use effective inventory management tools and establish good practices around them. Doing so may help you and your staff recognize shrinking patterns, enabling you to take extra measures when needed.
One way that suppliers and manufacturers can help their retail partners is by incorporating anti-theft solutions into product packaging. For instance, making packages more difficult to open dissuades prospective shoplifters from trying to open them in store aisles and hiding the items in bags or purses. Embedding security features directly into the packaging is another way manufacturers can contribute to retail loss prevention.
Although the responsibility of creating effective in-store displays falls to the retail establishments themselves, manufacturers can be supportive partners by helping to subsidize such displays. Pair your materials and equipment with ideas for securing them and consider supplying some appropriate anti-theft devices with your items. In this way, you’re sharing the burden with retailers when it comes to securing products, which benefits both of you in the long run.
Deterring shoplifters and reducing retail loss is imperative for home improvement stores, and it requires attention from both retailers and product manufacturers. To aid in this process, learn more about product purchase trends, changes in demand for particular products, and the home improvement retail sector in general through member-supported research provided by the Home Improvement Research Institute.