Genuine shoplifters are of many kinds and may be stealing/ shoplifting for different reasons; some maybe doing it for need, some as a challenge and some might be suffering from kleptomania. It is understood that thieves today are intelligent enough to understand the bar coding concept and often attempt to change the barcode of an expensive item with a cheaper product.
Most of the shoplifters today come from an educated and well-to-do background and indulge into shoplifting either for fun or for greed. “One is organized operators who list and target soft low security operations; two is crowded days and three is the thrill of shoplifting. Lastly, most rampant is internal theft,” says Hayagriv.
Thus, it can be said that shoplifters can be classified into the following major heads – Professional shoplifters, Amateur shoplifters, Addictive shoplifters, Needy shoplifters, Thrill seeking shoplifters and Absent minded shoplifters.
Undoubtedly, retailing in India is gradually moving to the next boom industry. But the path is not so easy. This growth is bringing along lots of issues and challenges to be met by the retailers. “It is a very critical matter for all retailers and especially multibrand, multi-product large format stores where the manpower is lesser and not well trained,” opines Ansul Agarwal, MD, Dhananjai Apparels Pvt. Ltd.
Vinod Hayagriv, MD, C Krishniah Chetty & Sons adds, “Shoplifting is a by-product of loose systems. Lack of control is the primary reason shop lifting occurs and mostly this is an inside job. Precious metals have always lured the weak hearted. So let's understand that when you have a fish in front of a cat it will disappear, sooner than later.”
Spot the shoplifter
Though there is no particular way to identify a shoplifter but there can be surely certain points which can be taken into consideration in this regard. These can include points like a shopper spending more time watching the cashier than actually focusing on his own shopping; wears bulky, heavy clothing during warm weather; takes several items into dressing room and only leaves with one item; enters the store but never makes any purchase; appears nervous and picks up items randomly; a member of a target group causes a disturbance to distract sales staff among other things.
“According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer Study, India ranks highest when it comes to retail shrinkage – a reduction or loss in inventory which might be due to shoplifting and theft. The Indian retail sector lost Rs 9,295.9 crore to shoplifting and theft during the 12-month period ended June, 2010 reported one of the leading print publications of South India recently,” avers Hayagriv. However, regarding the loss borne by retailers, Agarwal defines the figure to be apx 1% of sales.
Addressing the issue
The various ways in which this issue can be tackled includes the use of technology and good internal auditable processes. Hayagriv further adds, “That will also mean more compliance. A readiness of top management is essential to make shrinkages low. With the availability of technology and tightening of security, shoplifters have also become smart hence we need to make use of all possible available security measures in order to curb this menace and stop it.”
These days we have a lot of surveillance options, there is close circuit television, electronic article surveillance and of course security guards and retailers need to make the best of these options if they want to stop people from shoplifting. “But yes, most importantly good examples set by leaders in the organization will help,” adds Hayagriv.
However, Agarwal feels that there is nothing much which can be done regarding this except to charge the shoplifter(s) because no one accepts the crime and creating a scene is against the favour of the retailer.
In order to deal with this issue, it is also understood that management can focus on the training and educating of the employees; physical security measures to raise the deterrence level and use protective equipments.