I love the holidays, especially Christmas (with a name like Noelle, I better like it). I love the snow, family time, and finding the perfect gift and keeping it a surprise until December 25. However, as an introvert who has an intense love affair with my sweatpants, my couch, and the amount of sleep I get, I don’t enjoy shopping—especially Black Friday shopping. The long lines, hours of waiting, and the cold don’t appeal to me, no matter how good the deal. However, each year millions of people emerge from their turkey comas to brave the stores. In 2019, the National Retail Federation (NRF) stated that 84.2 million shoppers were in-stores on Black Friday, and the entire weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday saw a total of 189.6 million shoppers.
Retailers rely heavily on the holiday shopping season to stay afloat, making roughly 19% of their yearly sales. From November 1 to December 31, shoppers in the United States spend almost $730 billion on the holidays. While that includes online sales, there is still an increase of in-person traffic. With that increase also comes an increase in merchandise shrink from shoplifting, cargo theft, and other crime. Furthermore, the increase in crime increases safety concerns for customers and employees.
Increase in shrinkage
Shrinkage, or the loss of inventory due to theft, shoplifting, error, or fraud, increases dramatically during the holidays by more than 15%. In fact, according to Security Info Watch, 37% of retailers’ annual shrink loss happens during the holiday shopping season. But why is there a dramatic increase in theft?
One of the main reasons is increased foot traffic which creates chaotic stores and busier employees. Thieves are opportunistic and take full advantage of occupied employees. They also have a better chance to hide in the crowd. Furthermore, because more customers are in bulky clothing thanks to the colder weather, shoplifters can hide items in their heavy coats without attracting attention.
Shoplifters aren’t the only ones to take advantage of the busy holiday season. Employee theft and fraud also increases during this time of year. The NRF estimates that employee theft accounted for 33.2% of yearly shrinkage and costing more than $15 billion, the second highest after shoplifting. Part of this is the increase in the number of temporary, holiday staff members in any retail location. These workers tend to be less committed to your company/store and have less training. Since their job is temporary, they have less qualms with stealing.
Organized retail crime
Organized retail crime, or ORC, is a type of theft that includes cargo theft and pushout theft but also expands beyond that. Unlike typical shoplifters, these professional thieves work as an organized group to steal massive amounts of inventory at a time. They target high priced items that are easy to resell—everything from razors to baby formula. This type of theft can result in billions of dollars’ worth of losses for retailers and it increases the likelihood of violence on a retail property. After stealing, ORC gangs sell their ill-gotten gains online or through different businesses.
Like other thefts, ORC increases during the holidays because there is more opportunity. The stores are busier, employees are distracted, and there are more products in the store.
Read more about ORC here.
The FBI defines cargo theft as:
The criminal taking of any cargo including, but not limited to, goods, chattels, money, or baggage that constitutes, in whole or in part, a commercial shipment of freight moving in commerce, from any pipeline system, railroad car, motor truck, or other vehicle, or from any tank or storage facility, station house, platform, or depot, or from any vessel or wharf, or from any aircraft, air terminal, airport, aircraft terminal or air navigation facility, or from any intermodal container, intermodal chassis, trailer, container, freight station, warehouse, freight distribution facility, or freight consolidation facility.
While this definition is extremely comprehensive (and a run on sentence), it fails to mention that cargo theft accounts for as much as $30 billion in losses every year.
During the holidays, shipping increases dramatically especially as more consumers turn to online shopping. Last year an estimated three billion packages were delivered across the United States. Obviously, this leads to an increase in planes and trucks, more temporary delivery workers, and more potential for theft.
Cargo thieves target almost any product, from medical and farm equipment to computer pieces and even food. They use multiple methods including leakage operations, fictitious pickups, coerced stops, and grab and go.
Cargo theft doesn’t just hurt the retailers. Often drivers or warehouse workers can be physically hurt by the thieves. Furthermore, consumers, insurance companies, manufacturers, shipping companies, and even local governments end up paying for the theft in increased costs, higher premiums, and loss of tax dollars.
Pushout theft is often a type of ORC. It involves a thief filling a shopping cart with merchandise and then walking out the front door without paying. Typically, these thieves go unnoticed until they walk out. Unlike typical shoplifting which relies on concealment and opportunity of smaller items, pushout theft targets larger items and more of them. The average loss of pushout theft is $1,342 and 10% of the thefts end in violence. Furthermore, the goal of this particular type of theft is to make a profit on the stolen goods. They aren’t stealing for personal need or want.
Pushout theft also benefits from a crowded store and busy employees. It is much easier to take a cart full of items out the front door when there are hundreds of people doing the same thing.
Safety on property
Safety of those on your property is the number one concern. Without a safe shopping and/or working environment, both your customers and employees will refuse to set foot on your location. Black Friday and the holiday shopping season see a huge influx of people on the property which will also increase the likelihood of crimes and accidents happening both inside and outside the store.
The parking lot is one of the most dangerous places. Crime is rampant in parking lots. This includes everything from smash and grabs to violent crime. In fact, the FBI reports that parking lots and garages are the third highest location for violent crime in the nation. Criminals take advantage of the lower lighting, high people turnover, and lower surveillance to steal, vandalize, and commit other violent crimes. During the holiday shopping period, criminals are looking for easy marks, including cars full of previous purchases.
What can you do to prepare
Black Friday and the holiday shopping season are just weeks away. Now is the time to start preparing to help prevent theft and crime. While there is no surefire way to stop theft, there are steps that retailers can take to help prevent it. Many loss prevention methods can and do reduce theft, and several of them are extremely simple. To aid your preparation we suggest following these simple tips:
- Post signs warning against shoplifting
- Check your security system to ensure it’s functioning properly
- Hire seasonal employees (be sure to conduct background checks)
- Consider stationing security guards
- Hold special employee trainings
- Install extra security cameras
LiveView Technologies (LVT) specializes in security for big box retail. Our mobile surveillance units are stationed in parking lots across the nation, and they are proven to decrease theft, parking lot incidents, and other crime.
LVT Units are equipped with high-quality cameras, a two-way speaker, and lights. They are easily configured to protect your property with bounding boxes, analytics, automated responses, and instant alerts. They combine sleek hardware with proprietary software for a completely mobile, self-contained surveillance system. The units do not require traditional hardwire connections to power or internet and are ideal to monitor parking lots, loading docks, employee parking lots, side alleys, and more.
Our trailers are focused on overt security that deters criminals. In fact, one retailer saw a 69% decrease in grab and go theft by placing our mobile security trailers in their parking lots. While LVT Units are typically stationed outside of the store, this retailer found that our units reduced merchandise shrink inside the store because bad actors saw the cameras and never entered the building.
Another retailer decreased parking lot incidents by up to 70% by deploying LVT Units in their parking lots. This included a reduction of break-ins, violent crimes, loitering, and other incidents that negatively impacted the store. To learn more about how we helped this retailer, check out our case study here.
If you want to learn more about LVT and how we can help the retail industry, request a free quote. Also explore our retail use cases so you can be better prepared for the holiday shopping season.