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AAFES campaign reminds personnel: Think before you shrink


DALLAS —Retailers typically keep to themselves when it comes to sharing information about shrink percentages and shoplifting activity in their stores.

Not so with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, where the approach is a little different. The $9 billion organization wants people to know exactly how much is stolen annually from its exchanges. Last year, the value of merchandise recovered in shoplifting incidents increased 10% to $985,851 from $898,851, while the number of apprehended shoplifters increased 1.23% to 7,635, compared to 7,542. “We are doing a better job of catching folks,” said Rick Koloski, associate director of loss prevention with AAFES.

As for releasing the actual figures, it’s part of a larger campaign to educate active duty military personnel and retirees qualified to shop at AAFES installations about the consequences of shoplifting. “We want to let people know up front when they steal from the exchange, they are essentially stealing from themselves,” Koloski said.

That’s due to the unique nature of AAFES, where the organization has a dual mission to provide quality goods and services at competitively low prices and to generate earnings to support morale, welfare and recreation programs for military families and retirees. AAFES has contributed more than $2.4 billion to military quality-of-life programs in the past 10 years and takes it personal when people steal.

“Shoplifting at the exchange results in a reduced return on investment to our primary shareholders—the military community,” said Gerald Danish, AAFES’ vp of loss prevention. “Because AAFES is a command with a mission to return earnings to [morale, welfare and recreation] activities, shoplifting at the BX or PX is essentially the same as taking money directly from the pockets of the military families exchanges serve.”

While the incidence of shoplifting would appear to have increased last year, and value of recovered merchandise grew, AAFES’ overall shrink numbers declined last year. Shrink, as a percentage of the organization’s nearly $7.7 billion in retail sales, dipped to 0.52% from 0.63% in 2006, according to Koloski.

So, while shrink overall has declined, those who choose to shoplift are being caught with greater frequency, due to investments in technology, educational efforts around the disciplinary, career ramifications of shoplifting and enforcement of civil recovery laws, which enable AAFES to collect a $200 administrative fee per incident. Additional investments in technology continue to occur as AAFES is testing intelligent video analysis solutions that are expected to further reduce losses. Capable of alerting personnel to crucial incidents as they happen, the new systems will allow store personnel to intervene before merchandise even leaves the store.

“One of our major objectives is to deter shoplifting before it ever happens by educating shoppers of all ages on the exchange’s ability to monitor and record activity throughout the store,” Danish said. “It’s our hope that individuals who might be considering theft will see the security measures, think twice and make the right decision for their families and careers.”

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