Editorial July/August 2005

April 24, 2008
Written by Anja Sonnenberg
Shoplifting, which I’m sure you’re very well aware of, is theft of merchandise for sale in a retail establishment.  It’s one of the most common crimes that police and the courts in Canada deal with.
The Five-Finger Discount

Shoplifting, which I’m sure you’re very well aware of, is theft of merchandise for sale in a retail establishment.  It’s one of the most common crimes that police and the courts in Canada deal with.

Every year, the North American retail industry loses over $30 billion to shoplifting.  Inventory shrinkage, a combination of employee theft, shoplifting, vendor fraud and administrative error, represents financial losses averaging 28.5 per cent of profits to retailers, especially small and medium-sized businesses.  This exorbitant amount clearly shows that retailers are not sufficiently protecting themselves and their businesses.

Retailers have introduced many technologies to combat shoplifting including:  video cameras, undercover investigators, and EAS (electronic article surveillance) tags hidden in product packaging, which trigger alarms at the door.  These methods may be helpful in reducing theft in some retail stores, but in a typical garden centre layout, these can be difficult to enforce.

I’ve heard stories of nursery stock, especially Japanese Maples, being stolen during the middle of the night, or decorative rocks and perennials disappearing from display gardens in the parking lots.  These types of theft are difficult to monitor, but there are solutions. 
The first line of defense against shoplifting, suggested by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, is world-class customer service.  Shoplifters thrive on opportunity, so focus on taking those opportunities away. Here are a few tips, which they suggest:
* Look around your store and find the out-of-the-way corners.  Make a point of visiting these areas, and greet any guests you find with a smile and positive attitude.  Honest people will appreciate the attention, while thieves will feel uncomfortable.

* Keep an eye on who’s keeping an eye on you.  Shoppers look at merchandise.  Shoplifters look for witnesses.  Let customers know that you’ve seen them enter the store and that you’re never far away.

* If a shoplifter pockets an item and leaves the store, there is little you can do.  Never accuse someone of stealing, never chase, and never touch a suspect.  Your own safety and that of your employees is your primary responsibility.

Retail theft impacts everyone.  Ultimately, it’s the consumers who suffer by having to pay higher prices.  Shoplifting is something that all retail businesses should be aware of.  That being said, paranoia won’t help your business, so constantly watching and scrutinizing customers isn’t a solution.  As garden centre owners/operators, I encourage you to write to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with your own techniques in dealing with the five-finger discount.  I’ll then print them in the next issue of Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery magazine, to share your suggestions with other garden centers across Canada.   This is a very important issue facing our industry across Canada, and by sharing ideas with your peers, you can help protect each other.

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