How Retailers are Keeping the Grinch from Stealing This Holiday Season

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Sadly, it’s not just the Grinch ruining the holidays for many retailers. It’s thievery.

Last year, about $112B was lost to various types of retail crime, including shoplifting, flash mobs, and organized crime.

Technologies, including AI-based video at point-of-sale,  sensory heat maps, cash automation technology, and autonomous security robots, are helping retailers prevent, spot, and report theft. But automation is not moving fast enough to outrun criminals.

So, what’s the solution?

Humans? That’s what Best Buy is banking on, according to this report from CNN.¬†

Lowes reported that having more people on the floor reduced theft by one percent. That may not seem like a lot, but it adds up!

Although having more customer service support staff in stores can’t possibly eliminate all forms of crime, knowing that eyes are watching may dissuade consumers with sticky fingers from emptying shelves.

In preparation for the holiday season, the National Retail Federation declared October 26th as Fight Retail Crime Day. During that time, 50 leaders from 30 retail brands met to learn and lobby.

Savvy retailers are incorporating comprehensive training programs into their onboarding to ensure that their employees know how to identify and deal with different types of crimes and scams without risking their own safety.

But retailers are already combatting staffing challenges, so expecting retail workers to “police” can also create and contribute to stress.

Among the most common forms of retail crime are:

  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery and attempted robbery
  • Payment fraud
  • Return fraud (attempting to return stolen or used goods)
  • Vandalism
  • Organized retail theft (crimes taking place throughout the supply chain rather than in a retail store itself)

Violence and aggression are also on the upswing at brick-and-mortar businesses.

Retailers must remain savvy on new surveillance systems, train their teams to spot and report crimes, and design their stores to minimize theft.

Many retailers have resorted to locking up products that are often stolen. Although that solution may seem old-fashioned, it appears to be effective.

The good news is that many companies are now working on tech-based solutions and early warning systems to mitigate loss.

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Kroger, Macy’s, and CVS are among the many companies that are partnering with technology innovators to build new systems to identify and dissuade (if not catch) criminals.

As with many problems, the right mixture of humans and robots may ultimately be the answer. But for the 2023 holiday season, retailers need to be aware and prepared — and keep their eyes on new technology-based solutions.

And we can all breathe a sigh of relief that retailers don’t need to deal with robot shoplifters (yet).

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Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.