According to the results of two recent studies conducted by the Global Retail Theft Barometer and the National Retail Security Survey, shoplifting continues to be a major issue for the retail industry. Understanding why people steal, what makes a retailer an easy target, and what might prevent someone from shoplifting can only be learned from the shoplifters themselves. This article is a follow up to interviews with actual shoplifters from a recent loss prevention industry event.
Each year, LP Innovations participates in the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) Impact Conference, an industry conference focused on research and development to “sell more and lose less”; using science and analytical study within the field of loss prevention. One part of this conference includes a Q&A session with actual shoplifters in an effort to better understand their mindset; how and why they steal, and what might prevent them from stealing.
Last year we posted a similar blog titled, “Shoplifting From The Mouths Of Thieves,” discussing last year’s interviews. If interested, read last year’s blog to compare that panel to this year’s panel of shoplifters. Here is what we learned from this year’s conference.
The group was comprised of 4 male shoplifters, all which could be classified as “professional” shoplifters, based on the frequency of their shoplifting. Based on the need to steal however, I would consider two of the individuals “amateur” as they stole mainly for personal need. The other two individuals explained that they stole to sell the merchandise for cash (profit), which would be classified more as professional than amateur. None described being part of a larger “organized group” or “ring”, which would be classified as organized retail criminals.
The two shoplifters who stole for profit obtained financial benefits differently. One would first legitimately purchase items. Later he would return to the store, steal the same items he originally purchased off the sales floor and using receipt from his original purchase, approach the counter to “return” the stolen items for cash or gift cards. The originally purchased items would then also be returned for merchandise credits or gift cards. The shoplifter would then sell the credits and gift cards online or to individuals for cash. The second shoplifter would steal items in order to sell to a pre-determined individual buyer.
Risk versus Reward
When asked how they chose locations, items to be stolen and whether to steal once in a location their responses included;
Choosing the location was based on vulnerability (see what makes a store a target)
Choosing items was based on why they were stealing
Personal Need: What they needed or wanted
Financial Gain: items that are easy to steal and that reap a large financial benefit
Determining whether to steal once in a location and item choice was primarily based on employee attentiveness and ability to be recognized.
All members on the panel agreed that EAS tags were not a concern as they could easily be defeated. All admitted to carrying a pocketknife or screwdriver to remove security tagging devices if necessary. CCTV, depending on how it was positioned, was also not a concern. Distant, ceiling hung CCTV devices posed less of a threat as one shoplifter stated, “Just because there are cameras doesn’t mean they are being watched.” Monitors (like public view monitors) or cameras positioned in close proximity to the items of choice were more of a deterrent than longer view camera systems.
What did they say are the best deterrents to shoplifting?
Written by David Johnston, Director of Business Development