British retailers are bracing themselves for the toughest Christmas on record. Not only will they have to contend with an increase in festive crime amongst shoppers – with an expected £768m expected to go missing in the run up to Christmas – but they will have to be on their guard when it comes to staff.

It is a widely accepted view that 10% to 20% of staff will never steal and 10% to 20% will always steal, leaving up to 80% who may, at some point, try and steal from their employer. Whether they actually go through with it is determined by their morale, commitment to the job and the perceived risk. The risk depends on the loss-prevention systems in place, but staff may be more likely to steal if recession and fears of job losses are affecting their morale.

Furthermore, most major retailers are embarking on significant recruitment drives to boost their temporary staffing levels during this year’s busy Christmas period. For instance, Sainsbury's has announced that it plans to recruit 12,000 temporary workers to staff its stores during the festive months this year, resulting in the hiring of staff who have little or no commitment to their employer. 

Already, dishonest employees account for 30.7% of all theft across Europe. Scams through refunds, gift vouchers and discount abuse have become more ingenious over the years and more costly to retailers.

In today’s complex retail environment, losses are inevitable. Whether at supply chain level, on the shop floor, at point of sale or in the back office, hard-earned margins are being worn away every day.

Studies have found that in some cases internal loss can equal anything up to 25% of gross profit – a staggering figure in any context and even more so in the current climate. Of course, there is a certain proportion of this loss that is largely unavoidable, but in my opinion loss prevention as a strategic goal should still be pursued. Success in this year’s festive season and beyond will go to those who have the foresight to pay attention to the risks posed by temporary staff, as well as the less obvious areas of vulnerability.

Khuram Kirmani is CEO of IDM Software.