Maybe People Are Stealing From Your Drugstore Because You Only Have One Employee

I’ve stopped shopping at the two large drugstores in my neighborhood because they’ve put all the antiperspirant behind plastic flaps, like bagels at a supermarket. When you lift the flap to grab a Right Guard or Speed Stick, an alarm goes off that makes it clear to everyone in the store that you’re a potential criminal with stinky pits. My guess has been that this embarrassing anti-theft deterrent is needed because there’s almost no staff at either store anymore, and a new retail survey and a couple of loss prevention experts seem to back that up.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association just released a new survey on retail crime trends, and they report that 78% of retailers have seen an increase in amateur and opportunistic shoplifting. (I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the report–you can download it here (PDF) and judge for yourself.) The study doesn’t give reasons why crime has gone up, but a VP at a loss prevention firm told RetailWire that during the same period, retailers were cutting staff levels.

Derek Rodner, VP, product strategy at the retail loss prevention firm Agilence, Inc., told RetailWire, “The economic downturn in 2009 created a perfect storm for retail theft. Retailers significantly scaled back expenditures and capital projects in all areas, most significantly loss prevention. In addition, many retailers cut their LP staff up to 50 percent. At the same time, more people were losing jobs and otherwise honest folks were forced to resort to theft just to get by. These two factors combined to cause a dramatic increase in shrink. Retailers are now redoubling their efforts to combat this trend and are being forced into updating their legacy technologies and procedures to adapt to the changing dynamics.”

Another loss prevention company executive said it’s not just a problem with loss prevention staff:

The real problem has been the actual reduction of sales staff in the store. We have literally tens of thousands of stores in the U.S. opening each day with only one staff member on duty. Here lies the real opportunity for [organized retail crime] thieves and I assure you this is where they go.

Which leads us to drugstores empty of shoppers and staff, where a hidden speaker goes off whenever you try to buy a stick of deodorant.

“Staffing Levels Playing Into Retail Crime” [RetailWire] (registration required)
“Leading Retailers Report Continued Growth In Retail Crime” [RILA]