How to Reduce Shoplifting Now — 4 Tips

Shoplifting — or shrinkage as it’s called in the retailer community — is bad for everyone. It hurts the retailer (no dollars at the cash register), the supplier (no payment for merchandise delivered to the store), and the honest consumer (higher prices to cover shrinkage losses).

It’s not a small issue. According to, each year Walmart alone loses about 3 billion dollars (or 1% of its total revenue) to theft. So how can shrinkage be controlled?

Tip 1: Maintain Accurate Inventory

It starts with the inventory in the store, says security expert Eric White. “Inventory accuracy is critical. It’s critical not just for shrink reduction but also for improving sales. No one wants inventory distortion, and accurate inventory forms the basis of a successful operation.”

During a recent episode of Focus on Suppliers, White, Walmart Relationship Team Leader for Tyco Security, acknowledged that some items are easier to pilfer than others. “In big-box retail, shoplifted items are often color cosmetics, over-the-counter items, and electronics — high priced items and highly sought-after items. And if it’s also something small, it’s even more likely to be taken. Something that’s easily concealed is both harder to protect and easier for bad guys to do what they do.”

Tip 2: Embrace Technology

RFID is a technology that can help considerably, White said. Smart labels, also called radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, track every product purchased and report to a networked system what’s been put into a shopping cart. RFID makes shopping faster and shoplifting harder.

“Such a tag put inside a product or the packaging will set off the alarm at the door. With Walmart’s more-at-the-door policy, there are simply more people at the door – which in itself is a big deterrent to stealing. But in the end, you’re just trying to put speed bumps in front of the person who is considering a theft. Just give them an opportunity to make a different choice, and many of them will.”

Tip 3: Keep Shelves Looking Sharp shelves impact shrinkage, too. “First of all, a clean, fresh store is a symptom of a well-run operation. Thieves don’t like that. There are easier places to steal from than a store that’s doing things right.

“Second, someone who wants to do something not normal like stealing is less comfortable operating in a well-maintained environment. Their thievery is more likely to stand out in a neat store than in a messy store with empty shelves. If I’m considering deviant behavior, I stay away from a sterile, organized environment and gravitate toward chaos where my actions may go undetected. It’s more likely a product taken from a well-stocked shelf will be noticed.”

Tip 4: Set Up Roadblocks

White, who has spent his career in security across the country, suggests suppliers continue devoting 95% of their time figuring out how best to serve their customers’ needs. “But the other 5%? Spend some time thinking about retail from a deviant’s perspective. Then ask yourself, ‘What can I do to prevent someone from taking my product.’ Or better still, figure out how to help someone make a better decision than stealing some item.”

Focus on Suppliers is broadcast on NBC in Northwest Arkansas on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 a.m. It is also available on YouTube and Vimeo. To see White’s complete interview on the replenishment episode of Focus on Suppliers, click here. For more information, learn about Tyco Security.