8 ways you can prevent employee theft and shoplifting in your retail business

One complaint employers in Kenya have is of employee theft. At times they have to babysit their businesses at the expense of other duties.

Have you experienced this in your business? Do you think we Kenyans are awful people? You should know that Transparency International classes Kenya only above countries experiencing strife, such as South Sudan and Iraq, in its corruption index classification.

But this is not the only reason why employee theft and shoplifting is rampant. According to a 2016 report, Kenyan retailers lose sh.5 billion on shoplifting.

Other reasons given for these losses are the lax attitude by law enforcement over petty theft and the reactive nature of Kenyan retailers towards employee theft and shoplifting.

You already know the different ways you lose the stock you planned to sell. If it’s not the network of shoplifters coming to your supermarket, it’s your own employees colluding with suppliers to steal from you. Did you know that in Kenya, managers are most likely to commit insider-theft and will this will last 2 years before detection? How can you stop this?

1. Change to a proactive mindset

Look at this:

Photo: Joseph Kanyi/Nairobi News

It’s a funny and creative way to deter shoplifters but it’s also costly for your business. You have to occupy aisle space and increase labor costs. Anyway, it’s a show of preventing theft in the first place rather than waiting to deal with crooks you catch.

2. Better recruitment

When it comes to key positions in inventory, you must improve your business’ screening process for job applicants. A proven way to better hiring is by shifting from CV-dependent assessment to personality assessment. There are several personality profiling tools, free and not free, that you can use to achieve this. A popular one is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The tools are not scientific therefore you should use a number of them to get more reliable results.

3. Improve inventory management

How do you keep track of inventory? If you’re not constantly improving this process it becomes easier for crooked employees to steal from you. It’s time to adopt best practices like utilization of simple technology and independent stock-taking to ensure inventory is monitored closely.

4. Compartmentalization

Have you ever wondered how TV productions can keep their content secret despite the number of people involved in production? It’s not just the non-disclosures signed. Another way, you should learn from, is by limiting staff to their particular roles. In your retail business this will help you avoid the dreaded single point of failure. For example, you could adopt double-signatory rules or separate functions just to make collusion for theft harder.


5. Whistle blowing policy

Whistle blower is a lame name for snitches, don’t you think? But we respect what they do. You should set up mechanisms in your business to not only protect these snitches, err, whistle blowers from retribution but also the information they give. You can even reward them. But be careful of not descending into slander.

6. Collect information

Only when you know which ways you lose your products and which products are typically stolen can you set up the right mechanisms to stop theft entirely. You can use this kind of information to decide optimal places to set up CCTV, to alter the floor plan or to place goods in positions that require attendant assistance.

7. Electronic tagging

If you have enough investment or enough working capital then go for electronic tagging. This is how pastoralists identify their cows now. It can really help against product loss during logistics. One way this is done is by affixing Radio-Frequency Identification Devices (RFID). There are companies in Kenya that offer this kind of expertise.

8. Use trusted tactics

Stopping theft in retail is not just about cool new-age experiments. You can use reliable means like placing warning signs in your store, greeting customers and preventing distraction of attendants by having optimal numbers of staff when there is high traffic in your shop.  You can also have undercover employees be your eyes and ears.