Cracking Down on Organized Theft

Strategies to Safeguard Walmart, Target, and TJX Profits

May 24, 2023

Retail theft is a major problem, costing the industry billions of dollars each year. In 2021, retail shrink accounted for $94.5 billion in losses, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. According to executives at Walmart and TJX, a recent increase in organized retail crime (ORC) is taking a bite out of profits. ORC groups are sophisticated rings of criminals who steal retail merchandise on a large scale with the intent to resell.

“Beyond macroeconomic challenges, we continue to contend with significant headwinds caused by inventory shrink, building on a worsening trend that emerged last year. While shrink can be driven by multiple factors, theft and organized retail crime are increasingly urgent issues, impacting the team, and our guests and other retailers.”

Brian Cornell, Target CEO 

ORC groups pose a real threat to frontline retail workers. “Gangs have been reported to use Mace chemical spray and Taser stun guns, and eight in 10 retailers noted an increase in violence by customers against workers last year,” states the National Retail Federation (NRF) report.

It’s no wonder retail IT teams are funneling more dollars towards theft-prevention technologies this year, including RFID, computer vision at point of sale and license plate recognition.

Another technology that can help? A store communications and operations solution. Here’s why:

Ensure theft-preventing technologies are implemented right the first time.

Sending a third-party vendor out to your stores to install cameras at the POS, or license plate recognition at the front of store, is a process usually fraught with scheduling difficulties, miscommunication, and ultimately – error. Maybe shipments are delayed, or hardware arrives and key pieces are missing. After investing millions of dollars in brand new technology, don’t leave the most crucial piece – implementation – up to chance.

A store communications solution with a two-way feedback mechanism can help catch these types of problems as soon as they happen. Or, consider leveraging a communication platform’s task management or store auditing capabilities to collect this type of information up front, as it will be easy to spot large-scale trends quickly and take action accordingly.

Help frontline teams feel prepared and supported.

Retailers already know that the key to deterring shoplifters is simply better employee training. Frontline associates who know how to spot the signs of a potential shoplifter, know how to politely intervene, and (perhaps most importantly) know when to back away are going to be your best defense against shrink.

Better training starts with a holistic learning strategy built for the day-to-day realities of retail. By reinforcing the effectiveness of employee onboarding through ongoing microlearning modules – served up in a way that’s easily consumed right from the sales floor – companies can improve productivity and retention. A store communications platform is a terrific way to accomplish this.

It’s also important to ensure your frontline teams understand exactly what’s expected of them during a (potentially dangerous) incident. We’re not talking about training teams to tackle shoplifters. In fact, we’re talking about the opposite: telling stores exactly how to keep themselves – and their customers – safe in the event of a smash-and-grab ORC event.

In this scenario, it’s essential that stores receive clear communication about expectations. A store communications platform gives you readership and task tracking capabilities, so you can ensure employees have fully read and understood important in-store policies designed to keep them, and their customers, safe.

Zipline’s operational excellence platform can help you reduce theft in your stores. With Zipline, you can:

  • Streamline the implementation of theft-preventing technologies.
  • Provide frontline teams with the training they need to deter shoplifters.
  • Ensure that stores are prepared for (and know how to respond to) ORC events.

To learn more about how Zipline can help you reduce theft in your stores, contact us today.

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