Two shocking reports of employee theft that brought convenience retailers close to bankruptcy have come to our attention in the last couple of weeks.

In both cases the criminal actions of just one employee brought the businesses to near disaster, and it would seem as though retailers too often struggle with cutting the cost of employee and customer theft. It can be detrimental for retailers to ignore opportunities to prevent theft and turn their backs on understanding the cost in their business.

Mark Fletcher shares his best practice advice, which, if followed, can help reduce the cost of theft in any retail business.

  1. Establish a theft policy to show to your staff and stick to it. Download ours here.

2. Check references of prospective employees. When there is money and stock at risk even ‘friends’ should be subjected to reference checks.

  1. Ask candidates if they would agree to a background check.
  1. Only sell what you order and bring into the store, through Point of Sale software. If you track it you can know if it has been stolen or not. (Most often businesses I work with to resolve theft issues would have found it sooner had they been doing this.)
  1. Track ALL sales – by scanning, touch screen button or PLU (product look up code), a hot key on your computer screen.
  1. Stop all department sales, sales where the employee gets to enter the amount of the item.
  1. Scan out ALL returns, i.e. products that are returned to suppliers.
  1. Undertake regular spot stock takes throughout the business. The discrepancy between what you have and what the system has reflects theft.
  1. Reorder stock using your retail management software. This stops poor buying decisions. It also identifies stock theft and employee fraud around stock.
  1. Use employee initials, codes or bar codes against each sale. Yes, this adds time to each sale. The benefits far outweigh the time cost.
  1. Set an end of shift balance target of no more than £5.00. Many retailers achieve this – it takes discipline.
  1. Change your system passwords regularly. Make it a condition of employment that these passwords are never shared.
  1. Do random register balance checks. Check that the cash your computer system thinks should be in the cash drawer is what is actually in the cash drawer.
  1. Use your software to check and report on behaviour that could indicate employee theft.
  1. Follow your suspicions regardless. Put your business ahead of friendships.
  1. As owners you should account for all products that you buy from your own business.

The cost to any retail business of customer and employee theft can be significantly reduced. The keys are retail owner and management engagement, full use of the software, and relentless application of a zero tolerance approach.

You can download a theft policy template for your employees to sign here