The holidays are a stressful time for retail. Nobody knows this better than retailers themselves December brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, you have stores full of Customers, merchandise flying off the shelves, and cash registers 'dinging' away. On the other hand, training seasonal employees, preventing shoplifters, and trying to get inventory accounted for in the chaos can be daunting...
Inventory shrinkage breaks down to this: something that should be there isn't there anymore. Shrinkage cost the global retail industry more than $112 billion last year, which amounts to almost 1.4% of annual sales. This can happen for many reasons, including expirations, human error, damage and misplacement, but the biggest threat of all is theft (both employee theft and shoplifting). Shoplifting happens to small businesses just as easily as the big guys, but the difference is that 2% loss makes a much more serious impact on a small business.
Prevention is best, so we rounded up a few ways to fight those bad apples, prevent shoplifting and keep your inventory safe.
1. Design your shop with shoplifters in mind. Don't display pricey items near the door. Utilize mirrors to see around corners. Avoid creating "blind spots" with shelving and layout. Keep the shop organized so that you will recognize right away when something is missing.
2. Walk around. Engage. Make eye contact. This applies for customer service too, but simply be attentive. Don't be afraid to leave your assistant manager behind the register while you help a customer find what they need.
3. Recognize the signs. Thanks to Winona Ryder, we know that profiling a shoplifter is not going to work. Anybody (even a famous celebrity) has the potential to shoplift. And the majority of shoplifters are not so brazen that they just grab a big screen TV and run off. It's best to look for subtle things like anxious movements, big and baggy clothing (or unseasonable jackets), dressing room heists, customers who make frequent returns without a receipt, strollers without a baby, shopping bags that look old or aren't from nearby stores, umbrellas on sunny days, hangers and price tags on the floor, etc.
4. Understand how shoplifters will steal from your store. Basically, take note of the chinks in your armor when it comes to your layout and your inventory and take extra care in those areas. If you sell shoes, for example, make sure you confirm that the shoes in the box are the shoes on the box (and that there are no little surprises in the box or the shoes themselves). Or if you have only one shopkeeper working at a time, a shoplifter may ask for you to check if something is in stock and then walk out with something while you're in the back room digging around. Do you sell any of the most commonly stolen items like cigarettes, small electronics or designer clothing? You might need to shore up your defenses even more than the average retail business owner.
5. Have a plan in place for when you catch someone red-handed. Nothing is worse than spotting a shoplifter and then doing nothing out of fear or intimidation. Do you have a zero tolerance policy? What will you do if the shoplifter is under 18? How will your employees discreetly notify you of the situation in the moment? Create a protocol for you and your employees based on the laws and policies in your area.
6. Don't let suspicion rule you. Yes, shoplifting is a real problem, but treating your customers like criminals isn't going to do anyone any favors either.
Have any crime-fighting tips for dealing with shoplifters? Let us know in the comments!
When it comes to cyber attacks, being a small business basically puts a bullseye on your back. The National Security Alliance reports that one in five small businesses fall victim to cybercrime each year. Of those who are hacked, 60% go out of business within six months of the attack. So yes, you could say that cyber attacks on small businesses are a serious concern.With the recent Target security breach affecting millions of people across the country, it's more important than ever to take care of your own customers' personal information. As a small business owner, there are a number of simple ways to protect yourself from hackers.
1. Lock up your Wi-Fi network (like, yesterday). Enable WPA2 security protocols and use a totally nonsensical, unreasonably long password. Isolate your payment system so that credit cards are processed on a different network from the one you and your employees use for tooling around on the web.
2. Update your software. Make sure you're using the best security you can afford and keep it current. Outdated anti-virus software, firewall security or credit card processing systems can be easier to crack because the latest security patches are missing, so install updates as soon as they are available.
3. Get suspicious. What kinds of cyber security and software do you use now? Whatever it is, study it so you can recognize when something's not quite right. If you use Square, read about their policies here. If you use complementary software that accesses customer information, learn about their encryption methods too. Make sure only you and your employees are logging in to your servers or any other password protected systems. Flag unusual traffic surges or login attempts that might be caused by hacking attempts.
4. Back up your data regularly. In case of theft, outages or cyber attacks, you don't want to be caught without any of your important information. Vendor invoices, sales data, customer information... this could all be lost if you don't back up your devices using something wonderful like Box or CrashPlan.
Image via Shane Pope on Flickr