New research suggesting employee theft costs Australian retailers almost $3 billion per year, shows the traditional approach of protecting assets from external shoplifters only gets half the job done.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Richard Evans said internal theft contributing to over half of the $5.8 billion (or two per cent of turnover) expected to be written off as retail shrinkage this year could be minimised with regular employee fraud awareness training.
“The general rule of thumb for retailers is employee theft contributes to around 55 per cent of shrinkage. That’s a significant blow to a retailer’s bottom line but one that can be minimised by ensuring staff are satisfied in their jobs, respectful of their employers and well trained to detect and report security breaches.

Evans said that one of the biggest problems associated with employee theft is the reactive approach taken by retailers. Many incidences go unreported because usually the punishment is simply instant dismissal, which unfortunately doesn’t solve the problem – it simply shifts it to the next retailer who hires the staff member.

“Retailers need to get on the front foot to implement strategies that not only prevent, detect and deter employee theft but also create a sense of security and job satisfaction for shop floor staff,” he said. 

ARA Security spokesperson Mike Ramsay agreed retailers can do much more than install alarms and employ security guards to reduce employee theft.

“While traditional approaches to combating theft are essential, retailers must create a team culture with zero tolerance for dishonesty. The most pro-active approach to employee theft is conducting regular employee fraud awareness training with retail teams.

“Loyal staff members are potential whistle-blowers of employee theft and regular training helps to keep new team members aware of the signs to help detect security breaches and informs them of any anonymous reporting channels. This training is extremely important in developing awareness and creating a team sense of seriousness around the issue of employee theft in a retail environment,” said Ramsay.