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Retail & Sales careers

Retail: Loss Prevention & Security

How and why do retail stores implement safety policies and procedures?

The stories of Winona Ryder, Antony Worrall Thompson and John Terry’s mum trying to get five-finger discounts might be the stuff that tabloids dream about. However, shoplifting and other forms of retail theft can cost companies hundreds, thousands and even millions of pounds a year. Consequently, careers in loss prevention and security are absolutely essential.

No retail outlet wants to lose money. Every loss they suffer means a loss in profit, which in turn may affect the price cuts that keep their loyal, law-abiding shoppers happy. Acts of shoplifting can also put staff and customers in danger. Incidentally, safety is a huge priority in the retail sector, as shoppers will not return to a shop where they feel unsafe.

In order to combat this, a range of security staff are required. These may include security guards who work on the shop floor, high-level investigators and managerial staff who work to crack down on larger scale theft operations, and play an integral role in the planning and implementation of security policies and procedures.

Advances in technology are also integral to improving loss prevention and security. For instance, improvements in security cameras and store monitoring techniques can really help to prevent theft and improve chances for prosecution.

What is loss prevention?

Retail establishments don’t just lose profit from shoplifting. They can also lose out through employee theft, administrative errors (such as incorrect pricing) and vendor fraud (where external suppliers attempt to swindle retail outlets).

A great deal of strategic thought and planning goes into loss prevention. Professionals in this area may be called upon to provide valuable guidance when stores are being designed, so as to reduce opportunities for theft. For instance, the location of the checkouts could be arranged so that a shoplifter’s exit can be restricted.

What does a retail security guard do?

A career as a security guard in the retail sector puts you on the frontline of loss prevention. These big lads and ladies essentially make sure that everything is secure and that staff and customers are kept safe.

At times the role can be quite quiet and repetitive, but then you might suddenly be required to jump into action, whether by directly preventing acts of theft or dealing with emergency situations. You might be patrolling the store, watching the doors, using CCTV to keep an eye on proceedings, or offering care and advice to employees and customers.

What does a loss prevention investigator do?

Another career path is that of a loss prevention investigator. People who specialise in this area are responsible for investigating all kinds of retail crime, including: employee theft, card fraud, and intentional margin loss (i.e. employees purposefully marking items incorrectly for the benefit of themselves or others).

These guys often come from a police background and use their investigative experience in a very specific environment. They help to devise security policy, distribute local security and intelligence reports across the business and implement new investigative methods and techniques, such as facial recognition systems and advances in CCTV. 

What does a loss prevention manager do?

The formulation of loss prevention procedures and security policies is important to every single retail company. Additionally, the training and management of security staff in accordance with these policies is equally essential.

This is where loss prevention managers come in to play. This lot oversee all loss prevention and security issues and initiatives. Their responsibilities tend to include conducting research, staying up to date with laws, liaising with the police on a frequent basis, creating security policies and developing and leading training schemes.

Often, these people operate at a regional or district level, or sometimes they may only be required to manage the security and loss prevention activity in one large store.

So, if you want the immediacy of thwarting shop-lifters in the act and catching them red-handed, or if you’re always two steps ahead and you’d rather be involved in the longer-term strategic side of loss prevention, there may well be a career in retail loss prevention and security for you!