We all love to witness it. Whether we’re sitting back and watching the men in Ocean’s Eleven pull off a seemingly impossible casino heist or watching Tom Cruise being carefully lowered into a high-security room during Mission Impossible, everybody loves a good robbery scene.

But it’s another matter entirely when these scenarios leave the big screen and start happening in real life. Unfortunately, organized retail crime is a common issue for Canadians. In fact, organized retail crime costs Canadians over $4.6 billion a year, according to statistics from Calgary police. Their stats also say that 87.5 per cent of independent stores fall victim to this kind of crime. That’s why a retail theft prevention plan should be a vital part of any retailer’s business model.

87.5 per cent of independent stores fall victim to organized retail crime.

Behind the numbers

Organized retail crime in Canada may sound improbable. Unlike in The Italian Job, criminals aren’t necessarily stealing bars of gold (or even jewelry and electronics). Groups are systematically taking specific items from stores and reselling them to recoup huge profits. Often, they’re going after items that one might not even think were worth stealing, like razor blades, brand clothing, perfume, cologne, and baby formula.

For instance, in 2013 a Hamilton man faked a disability to steal $500 in razors before trying to get away by bus, and in 2014 another Hamilton man tried to steal 30 boxes of shaving razors by shoving them down his pants, before running from police. Recently, three men stole $20,000 worth of Lululemon clothes from a yoga studio in Stoney Creek, after breaking the front glass door with a hammer.

Items like clothing and razor blades are targeted not just for their resale value, but also because they’re difficult to track. While many electronics have serial numbers, clothes, razor blades, and baby formula do not.

But surprisingly, the people you should be most concerned about may already have keys to your store. Employee theft is a big issue, costing Canadian businesses about $1.4 billion every year, according to The Retail Council of Canada, a non-profit that represents more than 45,000 retail stores across Canada.

Employee theft costs Canadian businesses about $1.4 billion every year.

The council found that employees steal, on average, about $2,500 in cash or goods from their employer before they’re caught, while customers steal about $175. The $2,500 is not normally stolen all at once but done over time, and the council believes there are approximately 556,000 employee thefts that go undetected each year.

Some retail theft prevention tips

Limiting the risk of theft can be difficult, but there are some retail theft prevention steps you can take. We’ve listed a few of them below.

Store design and set up: Make sure your store is organized in the best possible way to prevent theft. That means having adequate lighting, bell alarms that notify you when customers enter and exit the store, and an elevated sales counter for better visibility. It’s also always a good idea to place expensive items that are easy to steal near the checkout counter, so you can keep an eye on them.

Surveillance cameras: No matter how alert you are, it’s hard to constantly be on the lookout. Security cameras or closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras can be great assets: when you’re busy attending to customers, or simply momentarily distracted, video surveillance ensures you’ve still got your bases covered.

Use electronic tags and check receipts: Electronic tags are a great way to deter people from leaving your store with items they didn’t pay for. It’s also important to issue receipts for every purchase and refund, so that shoplifters can’t return to the store with a stolen item and demand a refund or store credit.

Adequate staffing: The more eyes you have looking out for theft, the greater chance you have of catching someone in the act. Depending on the size of your store, more employees could be helpful. The added bonus is they can help with other things too, like re-stocking shelves and assisting customers.

Store policies: It’s all well and good to have these preventative measures in place, but what will you do if you actually catch someone stealing? It’s important to have clear policies and procedures in place to deal with shoplifting incidents. This includes listing all emergency contact numbers and media protocols. And as the numbers point out, sometimes it’s your own employees that have sticky fingers, so make sure to have procedures in place to address that situation, should it arise.

Make your presence known: Greet every customer who walks in. Or, if your store is large, consider hiring an employee to greet customers as they enter and exit the store (and also to keep an eye out for any shady behavior). Never leave the store floor unattended and consider posting signs around the store clearly stating your policy of prosecuting shoplifters.

And last, but not least…

While retail theft prevention should be a top priority, it’s also vital that you protect your business with insurance. Preventative measures can help reduce crime, but things can still go wrong. Without the right coverage, you may have to cover all the costs if you’re a victim of theft. Luckily, Federated Insurance offers insurance specifically designed for wholesalers and retailers.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.