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article / May 23, 2023

Loss prevention training: how retailers can secure their products

Learn how to evaluate loss prevention training programs and choose the right one for your business

Last year, retail shrink cost companies nearly $100 billion. Between shoplifting, organized retail crime and employee theft, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that the average shrink rate currently hovers around 1.4%, with no sign of decreasing. A comprehensive loss prevention training program can equip your employees with the tools they need to recognize and combat this phenomenon, whether it comes from human error or malicious actors. 

It’s critical that any loss prevention program you implement effectively teaches retail employees how to spot and deter shoplifters, how to deal with fraudulent payment methods and how to document shrink over time. Your employees should also know what to do if a theft takes a violent turn. The right training can reduce retail shrink considerably, saving your business time, money and possibly even lives – here’s how to find a program that meets your needs.

What is loss prevention training?

As its name suggests, loss prevention training refers to a program that teaches retail employees how to safeguard a store's inventory. Ideally, these programs should address shrink from sources both internal (inventory data errors, employee theft) and external (shoplifting, organized retail crime, fraudulent returns). A loss prevention training program could take the form of a video presentation, an online course, an in-person workshop or even a formal certification. While large organizations can create specialized in-house training programs, smaller ones may opt for outside contractors instead.

According to a 2022 NRF survey on security and crime, almost every employee stands to learn something from such a program. The NRF asked respondents whether loss prevention teams needed additional training in seven distinct loss prevention skills, and the answer was a resounding "yes." At the low end, about one-third of retailers said that their employees needed to hone their emotional intelligence; at the high end, almost 90% of retailers thought their employees could use better analytical skills.

Our own data shows that 58% of retail security staff are concerned about organized crime and believe fighting it should be a top priority. However, only 18% report that their organizations are making a targeted effort to do so. But if that's the case, then what is the biggest deterrent to loss prevention strategies? Expense is one potential issue; effectiveness is another. To learn more about how in-store organized crime threatens retailer worker safety, read the full report.

Key features of effective loss prevention training programs

Subject matter expertise

The best loss prevention programs are facilitated by those with on-the-job practical experience. Look for training taught by current or former law enforcement professionals, military officers or high-ranking security personnel. Ideally, you’ll want instructors with years – if not decades – of professional proficiency in handling matters like organized crime, de-escalation and weapon training. Before choosing a loss prevention training program, be sure you’ve checked out its teachers’ credentials.

Easily accessible courses

Depending on where your business is located, in-person training may not be a reasonable option. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of online resources out there, but some are more accessible than others. The ideal loss prevention program has courses that are easily accessible from your employees’ devices of choice, whether that’s a computer, tablet or smartphone. This way, they can work on their training in whatever environment is most comfortable for them, increasing the chances that they’ll retain the information. This is also important if your company has numerous locations, as everyone will still be able to access the same resources no matter where they are.

Technology mastery

It takes more than a keen eye and a knack for organization to stop retail shrink. Effective retail security encompasses both policies and technology, and loss prevention training should properly equip employees with everything they need to know about the latter. For example, if you’re employing security guards with body-worn cameras and non-lethal weapons like TASER energy weapons, you’ll want to ensure they’ve completed training on those de-escalation solutions before putting them into use.

Varied modules to support different learning styles

Not everyone absorbs information in the same way. Some employees might prefer pre-recorded video lessons, while others may benefit from live-streamed classes. Virtual reality, in-person instruction, interactive simulations – with the right platform, your training options should be varied, offering something for employees at every level.

Comprehensive progress reports

To understand how your team is progressing with their loss prevention training, it’s important that any training program deliver detailed reports after each course. This serves two purposes: It lets employees track their own progress and allows managers to identify areas for improvement. These reports should be very specific, particularly when it comes to weapon and equipment training. For example, Axon provides after-action reports for Axon Academy VR courses that break down a trainee’s performance on a number of learning objectives. This provides a much clearer picture of the absorption of training materials than a simple “pass/fail” mechanic.

Let Axon guide your loss prevention training efforts

From 2020 to 2022, retail shrink losses grew by approximately $5 billion each year – and unless your business is an outlier, it probably contributed to that number. A good loss prevention training program can empower your employees to take better care of inventory, stop shoplifting before it happens and perhaps even save lives. If you're ready to put a dent in retail shrink, then contact Axon today and learn how the company could help make your business more organized, more secure and, ultimately, more profitable.