Security is a major issue with retail stores, as they are often a target for thieves. Even an unsophisticated or inexperienced thief may find stores to be easy picking. Retail stores operate on an honor system, with the customer choosing his purchases and paying on his way out. But not all store losses--called "shrinkage" in the industry--come from customers. Store employees themselves may be dishonest, and many store losses come from within.

Larceny From Outside

Retail stores throw many resources into loss prevention. Smaller stores may rely on alert employees and a layout that gives the workers good visibility; larger retailers may opt for floor walkers, cameras, scanners and other surveillance tactics. But "shrinkage" is a big problem--$36 billion annually in the U.S., according to the Information Technology Laboratory. Most stores will prosecute anyone caught shoplifting, and employees are often trained in the right way to approach a suspect without putting themselves or the store at risk.

Larceny From Inside

A great deal of store larceny is committed by employees, and losses are much greater--$1,762 per employee theft, according to a University of Florida study in 2003. This compares with an average shoplift incident of $265. A smart retailer will screen out potential problems when he hires new workers, and employees may need to adhere to security standards, like leaving handbags or backpacks in their cars or in a locker. Cash shortages in the register usually require disciplinary action, and inventory shortages are also a serious matter.

Armed Robbery

Smaller stores may also deal with armed robbery. Liquor and convenience stores, with a lot of cash on hand and less sophisticated security systems, are a prime robbery target. Most stores train their employees to hand the cash over at gunpoint without trying anything heroic. Some convenience stores shut their doors and transact business through a service window during late hours, particularly if an employee is running the store alone,

Protecting Your Customers

With more emphasis on electronic cashless transactions, customers can become a victim. Anyone leaving an automatic teller machine can be a robbery target, and a sophisticated thief can alter bank card readers to intercept credit card numbers and encoded data via a "skimmer." Also, a dishonest store employee may try to short-change a customer and pocket the difference.