What to look for and how to properly equip your staff for effective loss prevention
According to a National Retail Federation survey, retail theft in 2022 accounted for almost $1 billion in losses. While a certain amount of theft is normal (the industry calls it “shrink”), rising shrink and reduced consumer spending add up to a big problem.
To combat this rising tide of shrink, many retailers are turning to loss prevention specialists. But while the need for such specialists is great, the job is often too big for just one person. Looking deeper at retail theft and loss prevention, there are multiple roles that, if filled, could contribute to reduced shrink and a more secure retail experience. Read on to learn the roles you should consider adding to your retail security force.
Loss Prevention Specialist
The Loss Prevention Specialist is an employee who, as the title says, specializes in loss prevention. A Loss Prevention Specialist is in place to ensure the protection of property by displaying a physical security presence and also to enforce loss prevention policies set at the upper management level.
However, the Loss Prevention Specialist can do far more than simply guard the door. Loss prevention in the modern workplace covers all manner of considerations, which, taken as a whole, reduce loss of every kind. Think of loss as more than shoplifting. Think of it as any activity or incident that reduces profitability. When viewed through this lens, loss prevention can be seen to encompass a wide variety of issues.
Today, Loss Prevention Specialists can be charged with ensuring data security, dealing with employee theft, ensuring proper safety protocols are being followed and managing legal compliance, such as OSHA requirements.
Most importantly, the Loss Prevention Specialist works with management to ensure that loss-inducing incidents don’t take place in the first place. But should a loss-inducing incident occur, the Loss Prevention Specialist will be the person responsible for assessing the damage done and helping to ensure that the incident is not repeated.
Loss Prevention Associate
The Loss Prevention Associate is an entry-level role in the loss prevention space. In this role, staff members will focus on providing a positive shopping experience for customers in order to deter shrink in the first place. Associates will help upkeep the store itself and generally ensure that the store is clean and orderly.
A Loss Prevention Associate can also be tasked with monitoring security cameras and other loss prevention equipment, as well as performing maintenance tasks on that equipment. In addition, a Loss Prevention Associate will learn all safety protocols and ensure they are being followed.
When integrated with sales clerks, a Loss Prevention Associate can help ensure that returned items are properly accounted for and that all returns are valid.
Loss Prevention Officer
A Loss Prevention Officer is closer to the traditional security guard than the Loss Prevention Specialist. A loss prevention officer does more than just catch shoplifters, although that is a part of the role. While performing much the same role as a Loss Prevention Specialist, a Loss Prevention Officer may be empowered to perform more security-focused activities, such as patrolling and maintaining an armed presence.
Candidates for this position will have some experience working in the security field and preferably at least a two-year degree in criminal justice or the equivalent. In addition to potentially being armed, the Loss Prevention Officer may also wear a body-worn camera to both prevent shrink and document acts of loss. A combination of a body-worn camera like the Axon Body 3 and a smart weapon such as the TASER 7 would be an ideal combination for a Loss Prevention Officer. Reach out to Axon today to learn more about integrating them into your retail operations.
Loss Prevention Investigator
The core function of the Loss Prevention Investigator is to prevent and detect theft. In that, it is perhaps the most focused loss prevention role on your staff. But that’s not to say the Investigator is a basic job.
The Loss Prevention Investigator is a capable individual who performs basic loss prevention activities as well as more detailed investigations into specific incidents. This role is much more demanding than that of a Loss Prevention Specialist or Officer and requires an analytical skillset. In the event of a loss-inducing incident, the Loss Prevention Investigator will investigate to learn the facts of who and what was involved in the shrink event and hopefully deter future events.
The Loss Prevention Investigator works semi-autonomously, and generally reports directly to management. This is because they may be tasked with investigating staff in addition to shoplifters.
Loss Prevention Manager
The Loss Prevention Manager oversees the overall function of loss prevention, managing the various loss prevention staff positions and ensuring everyone and everything is doing their job. The Loss Prevention manager will maintain logs, conduct training, manage the loss prevention budget, and perform other tasks, like ensuring fire safety protocols are followed and so forth.
Think of the Loss Prevention Manager as the conduit between upper management and the staff who are assigned to prevent shrink. The Loss Prevention Manager will ensure that all policies are being properly enacted, investigate theft and assign proper staff to fulfill loss prevention functions.
This position is a middle-management role, often requiring at least a two-year degree from an accredited college or university and several years of experience working in loss prevention. The ideal candidate for this role will be detail-oriented, affable and able to enforce standards while leading and training a small team of specialists or officers.
Tools and Equipment
No matter the size or composition of a store’s loss prevention team, they need to be armed with the correct tools to achieve their maximum effectiveness. Most loss prevention tools are designed to deter shrink, although, in some instances, the right tech can help catch a shoplifter in the act.
Video surveillance is perhaps the most immediately effective loss prevention tool. Not only does the mere presence of a video camera help deter shrink, but video recordings can be used by Loss Prevention Specialists or Loss Prevention Investigators to help identify shoplifters.
Many retail outlets use RFID tags on merchandise that, when paired with RFID readers placed near entrances and exits, sound an alarm if someone attempts to steal the item. These tags, much like video cameras, often serve as a crime deterrent.
Locks and locked cases are another way to prevent loss. While they present an effective barrier against shrink, they also present a barrier to legitimate shoppers and can limit sales of locked-away items.
The best combination of loss prevention professionals will vary depending on the specifics of your business; everything from square footage of the shop itself, to location to type of goods sold have an influence on shrink. Contact the experts at Axon to determine the best combination of loss prevention solutions for your retail enterprise.