What You Need to Know About Theft Protection in a Retail Environment

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Theft is a reality of retail. In fact, for most companies- it’s their #1 concern. And for good reason. Inventory is not cheap! It costs money to make money and in the case of retail, this couldn’t be truer. Losing product in small or large amounts can create a serious wound on the operational flow of a retail store. 

Consumer Theft

Consumer theft includes all of the typical criminal acts: Petty theft, coupon manipulation, and organized retail crime. Nearly every case of a customer stealing from a store can be categorized in one of the above. 

  • Petty theft accounts for people who steal one (or several small) items at a time. The value is typically under $300 dollars and is usually a result of teenage troublemaking. 
  • Coupon manipulation is more complex. Customers may use manufacturer coupons to manipulate guest services into refunds that aren’t valid. 
  • Organized retail crime covers situations where one or more people have corroborated to steal from a retail store. A common form of this in grocery stores is customers walking through the door with a full bag of groceries.

A good way to safeguard against these types of theft is by investing in digital theft prevention. Remote security services are especially useful in identifying theft patterns and persons.  

Types of Employee Theft

In a perfect world, no employee would steal from their place of employment. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. A study from the New York Times found that employees steal more from a retail store than shoplifters. So though a small percentage of your employees will steal from you, they’ll be stealing more than the average shoplifter. To protect yourself from these less than ideal employees, learn about the different types of employee theft that occur. 

Draw skimming

For most retailers, a draw that’s a few cents short one way or another is nothing to worry about. However, when that amount starts to look more like dollars- keep a close eye on your employees. Drawers that are consistently a few dollars short have one (or both) of two problems:

  1. Employees are not careful with tickets, receipts, and change. This should be solved by having management over tills more carefully. A ‘cross-check’ system is the preferred system for most retailers, but some go as far as making keeping a good till a necessity to keep the job. 
  2. Employees are skimming the drawer. This is is the situation you hope isn’t the case but needs to be looked at as a reality that can occur. Check footage, assign a manager to keep a close eye on the employee, and use a buddy system for important operational tasks. 


This behavior is typically performed by cashiers who fail to ring their friends and family up correctly at the register. This abuse of power can become very costly, especially if you don’t catch on to the pattern before it becomes a habit. Much like skimming, this can be prevented by always employing the buddy system. It’s a simple fact of human nature that we are less likely to commit a crime in the presence of another. 

Gift card theft

With gift cards raising in popularity, it’s only natural that crime surrounding the popular format would follow. Gift card theft is one of the easiest ways for employees to steal from the store. Typically, employees will refund items from the store and load the funds to a gift card. 

Likewise, it’s becoming more and more popular for employees to sell blank gift cards and keep the funds for themselves. Like we’ve said a few times before, employee the buddy system. This will eliminate a lot of risks. Security cameras can keep you updated on the rest. 


Theft prevention should be at the forefront of your retail store. You need to protect your inventory and your cash drawer from any threat that may occur. This can be done by combing remote security, physical security, and training your employees to use a ‘doubnle-verification’ system that reduces theft from the inside out. 

How do you prevent theft in your retail store? Are there tactics you have found work better than others? Share your experience in the comments. 

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