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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Optical Retailers A Soft Target for Thieves
Optical retailers -- opticians, optometrists and opthalmologists -- are suffering three times their share of shrinkage compared to other retailers. Yet, according to an article in the latest Loss Prevention magazine, they do very little to prevent losses from shoplifting and burglaries, mostly because they do no know how.

According to the article (appears only in the print edition, not online) written by Liz Martinez, who has also authored The Retail Manager's Guide to Crime & Loss Prevention, shrinkage is a problem not just for large chains, but also for small and independent outlets:
Independent opticals and small local or regional chains are owned by optometrists or opticians, who lack basic retail security knowledge. They, like their corporate counterparts, fail to put security measures into place, not out of a lack of concern, but because of ignorance. On the whole, optical personnel are not in tune with the business realities of today. When it comes to security, they don't even know where to begin asking the right questions, and they are paying the price for it.

Although shrinkage statistics are not readily available, the problem is being recognized by the industry. In the U.K. an industry trade group, the Federation of Opthalmic and Dispensing Opticians, acknowledges the growing trend in its crime prevention handbook:
As the deterrent measures taken by some retailers such as the banks and the financial sector take effect, criminals are forced to focus their attention on "softer" targets such as chemists and opticians.

Opticians are considered to be softer targets because we have failed to keep up with the deterrent measures taken by others. At the same time, the nature and value of opticians' goods has significantly changed over the last decade - as has consumer perceptions of eyewear.

Designer frames and sunspectacles are now stocked in greater volumes than before, to satisfy increased public demand for branded "fashion" goods.

Opticians are now high profile targets.
Even more concerning is the growing connection between organized crime, terrorism and retail loss, as this portion of the Loss Prevention article points out:
A burgeoning trend that hasn't yet come to light in the form of a formal report, but is being recognized at the ground level is that organized retail crime plays a huge part in the funding of terrorist activities. Shoplifting and burglary crews target optical goods, among others, and feed the rings of fences that funnel the profits into terrorist organizations.

According to CIS Robert W. Nolen, a lead trainer in a course developed with Bureau of Justice Assistance grant money called "Understanding, Combating and Surviving Terrorism," one of the niches exploited by many criminals from terrorist "countries of interest" is the resale of stolen consumer goods.
Optical retailers typically bridge the gap between retail and the medical profession, and no doubt find it challenging to deal with both sets of demands. Sounds to me like a good opportunity for security services firms, security consultants, and retail loss prevention specialists to offer their services.
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