Supermarket Employee Theft Deterrence

by Andrew Hoeft | Jul 13, 2017 12:00:00 AM

57% of major retailers reported an increase in company shrink in 2016, according to a recently-released Jack L. Hayes International, Inc. survey.

The survey, which featured data from 26 major retailers, highlighted theft as a major cause of shrink among retailers. Results of the survey showed 26 major retailers lost $3.4 billion due to theft last year, 92% of which went unrecovered.

Perhaps most notably, retailers reported 3.7% of their employees — 1 out of every 27 — were apprehended for theft from their employer last year. Retailers apprehended nearly 10% more employee shoplifters in 2016 when compared to results from the same survey last year.

If your business has been impacted by any of these issues, there are measures you can take to help safeguard your investment against loss.

What supermarkets can learn from this study

Study results from FMI and The Retail Control Group identified shoplifting as the root cause of around 36% of all grocery store shrink, which is similar to the figure among retailers.

The fact that retailers are reporting increased shrink, apprehending more and more employee shoplifters, and losing so much money to theft should present some difficult-to-ignore red flags for asset protection and loss prevention supermarket personnel:

Hiring the right people matters

One crucial step to take prior to hiring new personnel is to take the time to conduct thorough background checks. While this is not a revelation to many companies, it is, regrettably, an often-skipped measure.

Conducting thorough background checks during the hiring process can weed out potential employee shoplifters before they have the chance to take advantage of their employment by shoplifting. Your hiring process should also include written integrity surveys as a second method for vetting potential employees.

Education can create a theft deterrent culture

A thorough employee education program can reduce the likelihood of both employee and non-employee theft, creating a shrink prevention culture.

By regularly and thoroughly training new hires on the impact of employee theft on both the store and on those apprehended for employee theft, it’s possible to create an environment that strongly discourages employee theft.

It’s equally important to train employees on how to spot theft among shoppers. All employees should receive some level of training, but providing special training for groups that interact with customers the most is a great way to take this best practice a step further.

Inventory management software can help identify and deter employee theft

The use of inventory management software can help grocery stores spot inconsistencies that appear when employees steal.

Utilization of such software can help to ensure against human error (intentional or unintentional) when tracking inventory levels, which in turn makes it more difficult for employees to hide theft. When staff is trained on such software and its mandatory use is part of company procedure, this inventory management tool serves additional value as an employee theft deterrent.

Keep a close eye on sources of shrink

Always having visibility into your sources of known and unknown loss is paramount in solving most any loss prevention problem. Theft deterrence is no exception.

Access to shrink-tracking data can help asset protection professionals determine:

  • how big of a problem theft is
  • how effective theft-deterrent training programs are
  • which stores to focus theft-deterrence efforts on.


With more than half of the 26 major retailers participating in a recent survey reporting increased shrink and theft in 2016, taking strategic measures now to protect against theft from both employees and consumers is vital for grocers and other retailers.

Thanks in part to point-of-sale and inventory management software and increased focus on employee theft deterrence, retailers reported an increase of 10% in employees apprehended for theft in 2016.

Grocery store asset protection and loss prevention professionals can learn from this data by closely examining hiring practices and employee education programs. Implementing the use of an effective inventory management software in combination with careful review of shrink analytics data can provide further valuable insight into the impact and source of theft in retail environments.

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