Retail inventory shrinkage, resulting primarily from employee theft and shoplifting, costs retailers nearly $70 billion annually. With brick-and-mortar retailers today confronting increased competition and low future growth expectations, reducing inventory shrinkage is becoming even more critical to becoming profitable. This paper analyzes a unique dataset that combines both primary survey and objective archival data from a Fortune 500 retailer to test a theoretical model associating retail inventory shrinkage, the capacity of a retail store to sense weak security breach signals, centralization of decision making, and formalization of security breach management. The analysis builds on insights from high reliability organization theory and the literature on organizational structure. Results reveal that as a retail store increases its capacity to sense weak security breach signals, it observes decreases in store-level inventory shrinkage, with this negative association amplified (dampened) when the retail store has formalized procedures and protocols for managing security breaches (has centralized decision making within the retail store). Moreover, while the establishment of formalized procedures and protocols for managing security breaches bolsters the capacity of a retail store to sense weak security breach signals, centralizing decision making has the opposite effect. Our findings contribute to the retail operations literature by introducing a new store-level organizational capability to guard against theft-based retail inventory shrinkage and by offering novel insights into how and why organizational structure at the level of a retail store deters or facilitates the capacity to sense weak security breach signals. From a practical perspective, these findings advise retailers to develop the capability to become aware of and to mitigate security breaches. Further, to support this capacity, retailers are urged to decentralize decision making to retail store personnel and to invest in formalizing procedures and protocols for managing security breaches in order to deter retail thefts that shrink retail store inventory.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Business, Management and Accounting(all)
- Strategy and Management
- Information Systems and Management
- Management of Technology and Innovation