3 Common Forms of Retail Theft

In our July 17 blog post, we talked about handling the aftermath of theft. Theft is something that all retail businesses have to consider and, unfortunately, will likely have to deal with at some point in time. It’s good to be able to handle and manage theft if and when it occurs, but of course the best way to deal with theft is to avoid it altogether. Good security planning means that you can prevent an issue before it occurs or escalates. In order to prevent theft within your business, you first have to identify what exactly you’re trying to prevent. Here are some of the most common forms of retail theft: 

Employee Theft 

Although you can work hard to seek out trustworthy employees, employee theft does happen somewhat regularly and not all employers are aware or mindful of it. Employee theft occurs when an employee steals or conceals merchandise, cash, supplies or equipment while working. The obvious form of employee theft occurs when an employee physically takes something from their workplace without paying for it, however it can also occur by misusing or abusing staff discounts, privileges or access. Often employee theft can cause even more damage than shoplifting, as the individual knows the ins and outs of the business and all its systems. To stop employee theft, consider increasing your security and tightening up employee access to internal systems, ensuring that all activity is monitored. Make sure that all employees are aware that there is a no tolerance policy when it comes to employee theft, and that they are being monitored through security systems. 

Return Theft

Return theft is a form of theft that is often overlooked, as it can be difficult to spot or track. Return fraud can occur in a few different forms. It can occur when someone returns stolen merchandise, returns used or exchanged merchandise, returns merchandise that was purchased with counterfeit money, or uses fabricated receipts to return merchandise. These instances of theft are tricky to identify, however they can be tracked more effectively through a well thought out return and exchange policy that accounts for theft. In order to combat return theft, consider always requiring receipts for returns, requiring an ID or customer profile to track returns so that you can flag customers making frequent returns, and train employees to specifically spot and identify the various forms of return fraud that are specific to your business.


While employee theft is significant, shoplifting is still the largest source of retail loss and shrinkage. Shoplifting can be as simple as someone walking out of a store with merchandise that has not been paid for, but it can also be something that is done with precision and planning. Some shoplifting operations involve more than one person, and sometimes a shoplifter even spends time monitoring a location to note various patterns, weak points and opportunities for theft.  To stop shoplifting, consider the organization of your store, making sure that there are no hidden, dark or unmonitored corners and that visibility is not obstructed. Monitor your store through surveillance, and communicate that shoppers are being monitored. Clear signage can be instrumental in stopping shoplifting before it occurs. 

Consider your business and what types of theft you may be exposed to. Once you’ve identified the risks, make a plan that accounts for all forms of potential theft and implement preventative strategies. If you find that your business needs assistance in conducting a security analysis or implementing these new strategies, reach out and let us know how we can help!

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