Increased stress and increased prices. It’s a volatile combination that has led, in part, to an increased incidence of shoplifting around the globe. In the United States alone, reports of shoplifting rose by more than 26% in 2022, according to Loss Prevention Magazine and recent data from the US National Retail Federation.
Thought this evidence suggests many of these incidents are being performed by first-time shoplifters or those with no prior criminal background, shoplifters of all types present an elevated risk beyond asset loss. Depending on how retailers choose to strategize against this threat, that risk can be realized in the form of workplace violence—or WPV.
A Better Approach to Prevention
Like WPV and active shooter training, loss prevention is a critical component of any successful retail strategy. But what about when these two key efforts dovetail?
With retail theft on the rise, incidents of workplace violence resulting from shoplifting have risen as well. Take for example a 2022 event in Vancouver, Canada. After confronting a customer who had swiped a few boxes of cereal, a grocery manager was assaulted by the shoplifter. What’s worse, it was the third incident store employees had experienced that morning alone!
In a similar incident, a shoplifter attempted to steal $21 worth of ice cream. An hourly employee followed them out of the store and the employee was assaulted and threatened with a gun after confronting the perpetrator.
While shoplifting on its own certainly isn’t benign, it also doesn’t typically involve violence directed at employees. However, because shoplifters of all sorts are engaged in illegal activity, they can be prone to hostility if confronted and challenged. So, how can workers like these in Vancouver and elsewhere both prevent asset loss and mitigate the potential for WPV? With an evolved approach to combatting shoplifting.
Proper Training and Tactics
Retail businesses everywhere accept an expected level of asset loss: around two percent annually. However, reducing that loss doesn’t have to come at the expense of employee safety. Efforts to prevent theft are admirable, and the prospect of “being the hero” is attractive, but rescuing a box of cereal or something like it isn’t worth injury or loss of life.
As part of an updated approach to shoplifting, retailers should consistently remind frontline workers that their job does not require them to be crime stoppers. Instead, if an employee suspects a customer of shoplifting—say, if they witness a customer lingering in an aisle or wearing unusually bulky clothing—they can:
- Acknowledge customers as they arrive or ask them if they need assistance, as even a casual service interaction can dissuade potential shoplifters fearing recognition;
- Gather and memorize a detailed description of the offender in question; and
- Report incidents to store security or local authorities.
In a retail environment, these tactics should be taught to develop an employee’s situational awareness, increasing detection, aiding deterrence, and reducing the risk for violence. There’s no need for workers to put themselves at risk by escalating a shoplifting situation that could turn violent. As we’ve seen, there are too many examples of this type of action ending badly—and it’s just not worth it.
With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, situational awareness, active shooter training, conflict avoidance and verbal de-escalation, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.