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Creative Leisure News
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Phone: 785-760-5071
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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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Foil Those "Five-Fingered Discounts"!

How to guard against shoplifting.

by Roger St. Germain, Open Page Wholesalers (October 20, 2008)

The excitement of planning for and launching a new business generates a positive experience. To introduce a negative thought into this environment is counterintuitive but very necessary. You can be doing everything right in your business, but still go bankrupt if you do not prevent theft! Not a pleasant thought and one most scrapbook storekeepers find hard to accept.

"My customers wouldn't steal from me!!!" Yes they will.

A storeowner confirmed this by describing her experience. One of her main sources of business is a senior's home near her store. To her utter amazement, she determined some of these seniors were pocketing her merchandise.

The perception must be created that the customers can be seen at all times. This is accomplished by ensuring sightlines from the checkout counter, where you typically have staff much of the time, and are such that all expensive merchandise is visible.

Cardstock, totes, large items or any merchandise that could not be easily pocketed can be at the back of the store or behind displays, but embellishments, tools and all higher priced merchandise should be near or behind the checkout area.

The owner of a large store in Ontario, Canada, noticed a customer wearing a floor-length coat and pushing a stroller. The owner thought she saw items in the shopper's hands but then did not see the items back on the shelf as she moved along. After some time, the shopper announced she needed to take her baby out to the car to change its diaper. The storeowner called the police. The shopper had over $1,000 of stolen merchandise in her car. She would have returned to the store to continue stealing had the storeowner not intervened. In relating the incident to other area storeowners, it became known that this shopper had been in several scrapbook stores in the greater Toronto area. It is safe to assume she had relieved these stores of considerable merchandise as well.

Staff should walk the store constantly as part of their customer service function. Soft-soled shoes, which allow them to walk silently, will put a thief off as well. Concave mirrors strategically positioned to permit a sightline to otherwise invisible areas will deter thieves.

Inexpensive surveillance systems are available that will include several cameras and software for those images to be displayed on your computer monitor. Positioning the monitor so customers can see a surveillance system is in place will let thieves know they are being watched.

A scrapbook store took the idea of positioning mirrors to heart, but rather than using concave mirrors, positioned 3- by- 8-foot mirrors on the walls so they looked to be part of the dcor. In fact, they were located to provide sightlines required.

On a visit to another store, I commented to the owner that her store layout was ill conceived.

She was shocked at my suggestion that her customers could and would steal from her. Two days later she caught a customer stealing. In fact, they had been stealing all along. The owner's awareness had simply been raised so that she now is watchful.

Remember to budget for shrinkage. Your diligence in theft prevention will minimize that expense but you can't eliminate it completely. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

(Note: Roger St. Germain is the founder of Open Page Wholesalers in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Reprinted by permission of the Professional Scrapbook Retailers Organization (PSRO) a PMA Member Association. For more "PSRO Business Briefs" visit www.psro.org. A 12-month trial membership is $50.)



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