Preventing Employee Theft in Your Retail Store

We never want to imagine that our employees could steal from us, however, it does happen and probably more frequently than you would expect. A reported 75% of employees have stolen from their employers at least once. With an astonishing percentage like this, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent employee theft in your retail space. It can be daunting to think about where to start, but we at Supreme are here to help. Below we’ve provided a few tips that will help you prevent, deter, and catch employee theft in your retail space. Take a look and let us know what you think!


Establish a Culture of Trust

A proactive way to prevent employee theft is to build a culture where honesty is valued by all employees at every level. This might sound like a huge undertaking, but there are actually some very simple ways in which you can support a culture based on trust.

The first step is to award honesty and penalize dishonesty whenever possible. If you catch an employee being untruthful make sure you emphasize the severity of their actions and give a suitable punishment. Conversely, if an employee is honest with you about a mistake they have made or something they have done wrong, publicly praise them for their integrity.

Once you have established how important honesty is to you, try extending a certain amount of trust to deserving employees. Give them responsibilities that show trustworthiness is rewarded at your organization.

Finally, take stock in the goals and personal lives of your employees. Build relationships and don’t be afraid to share things about yourself. This will show your employees that you aren’t just a boss, you are a person just like any other, and you genuinely care about their futures.


Understand the Circumstances that Cause Theft

The motivations for employee theft vary, but there are a few circumstances that can influence an employee’s decision to steal. As an employer, it’s important to recognize these circumstances as you get to know your employees, so you can address them.

  1. Revenge: If an employee feels they have been ridiculed, shamed, or embarrassed in front of their coworkers, they may steal from the business as a form of revenge. Recently fired or “dismissed” employees may act similarly.
  2. Compensation: If an employee does not feel like they are being appropriately compensated for their time, they may steal as a way to make up for what they think they deserve.
  3. Traumatic Life Experiences: A death in the family, a marital/relationship status change, or any other event that triggers a deeply emotional reaction may lead an employee to steal as a way of channeling their emotions.
  4. Financial Crises: Regardless of the cause, financial crises can lead the most trustworthy of employees to steal. Need/desperation are incredibly powerful motivators.
  5. Outside Influences: It is somewhat rare, but an employee might steal due to pressure from peers or even other coworkers.

Being aware of these circumstances and motivations can help you identify and address problems before they occur. A simple conversation with a troubled employee could be enough to prevent theft.


Offer a Wage at or Above Market Value

As mentioned above, some employee theft can happen when an employee feels that they have not been appropriately compensated. In these cases, workers are able to justify their actions by telling themselves they have earned the money or merchandise they are taking. To prevent this line of thinking, evaluate your pay structure and make sure that you are paying your employees a wage that is at or above market value. Not only will employees feel that they are being justly compensated, but they will see stealing as a greater risk. Why risk losing a fantastic job over a few extra bucks?


Have an Anonymous Whistleblowing Policy

If you follow tip number one, it is likely that one of your employees will know if another one steals. Due to peer pressure and possible friendships, however, it may be incredibly hard for these witnesses to come forward. No one wants to be a “snitch” and no one wants to cause themselves trouble by ratting out someone else. Because of this stigma, it is important to make employees feel comfortable and safe about coming forward. You’ll want to ensure your employees that they will not be punished and that their identities will not be disclosed. In fact, for the best results, you may want to go as far as setting up an anonymous system for whistleblowing. This will empower employees to do the right thing without putting themselves at risk.


Make the Consequences Clear

To you, the severity of stealing from an employer is clear, but your employees (especially the less experienced ones) may not fully realize the consequences their actions can have. After all, what is $10 here and there? To eliminate any lack of clarity, you should be as straightforward as possible about the consequences of employee theft. In your Employee Handbook or their employment agreement, let them know that employee theft will not be tolerated. Tell them that while you hope it’s never necessary, you will prosecute employees for theft, and the consequences could be a fine or even jail time. Knowing the full extent of the consequences, as well as your determination to prosecute if theft arises, employees should be less willing to steal.


Consistently Take Stock of Your Inventory

Regularly taking stock of your inventory will allow you to identify when products go missing. It won’t help you determine the specific culprit, but at least you will be able to identify the problem. If you believe you are dealing with employee theft, you can keep a closer eye on your employees, or you can make a simple announcement that inventory has gone missing. Making it clear that you know someone is stealing is usually enough to deter further theft while you try to identify the culprit.


Use a POS System

Using a POS system is a fantastic way to prevent employees from stealing a few dollars here and there. You can program the software in your point of sale system to ensure that your cash register drawers only open during a sales transaction. These transactions will be tracked, so at the end of the day, your drawer total should align with your sales total. This function will make it incredibly difficult for employees to steal money during or after transactions without being noticed.


Install a Surveillance System

Surveillance systems are ideal for reviewing activity when an incident takes place in or around your store, which makes them the perfect tool for deterring employee theft. With cameras recording what happens on your sales floor and in your back rooms, staff members will know that if they steal there is a high likelihood that they will be caught. If your system utilizes digital recording, you may also be able to monitor your store remotely. In addition to theft, surveillance systems can capture things like:

  • Slip and falls and other incidients
  • Employee ecit and entry times
  • Environmental events

All in all, surveillance systems are a great tool for deterring and catching theft. And because some systems can be integrated with intrusion detection and access control systems, it should be easy for you to improve the overall effectiveness of your security.


Get Professional Security Help

We hope that these tips will help you prevent, deter, and put an end to employee theft in your retail space. However, if you are looking for a little extra security help or find that you’re struggling to eliminate employee theft, you can always reach out to us for a more personal conversation. While we do our best to provide great advice on the web, our content is created for general use. You have a unique business with specific needs, so for the best advice possible, consider reaching out to us. We would love to talk about your retail space and strategize how you can best reduce employee theft. Just click here to reach out to us!