The growing problem of retail fraud

Retail Bulletin has reported today that shoplifting and retail fraud will cost UK retailers £1 billion over Christmas.

The Shoplifting for Christmas 2012 report by the Centre for Retail Research broke down the costs into losses of £522 million from shoplifting, £431 million through employee theft, and £47 million due to vendor and distribution losses.

However with the right solutions it is possible to bring this number down. Clear Returns’ CEO Vicky Brock commented,

“Losses from fraudulent behaviour are something that the Clear Returns solution can definitely tackle. By analysing historical data we can pinpoint the customer’s who are consistent fraudsters, allowing the retailer to give the customer a call to check if there is a problem, and subtly let them know we’re onto them!”

This problem is not just limited to the UK. The study also looked into costs overseas and found that shoplifting and fraud would cost €5.8 billion in Europe and $8.9 billion in the USA over Christmas.

Clear Returns have discovered that fraud is also apparent online. Our system is able to spot those shoppers who consistently re-buy the same items, and we can highlight wear-and-return issues. Therefore as the online channel grows for retailers, so will these issues. By tackling this now we aim to save retailers millions in lost profits.

Clear Returns visit Women 2.0 and IBM Smartcamp

Another week, another round of international events for the Clear Returns team. While half headed to the Women 2.0 competition in New York, the other half were off to Berlin for the European finals of IBM Smartcamp.

Although we didn’t come away with a prize it was still great to be a part of these prestigious events. We were honoured enough being the only international finalist selected out of 300 applicants at Women 2.0 and 1 of only 6 finalists in the whole of Europe at IBM Smartcamp.

It was great to hear from so many inspirational female entrepreneurs at Women 2.0, such as Sandy Lerner the co-founder of Cisco Systems and founder of Urban Decay as well as Geraldine Laybourne the founder of Oxygen Media. These talks included some great one-liners such as “If you can’t toot your own horn, toot another woman’s horn”. The mentoring sessions in Berlin also proved extremely valuable, with some mentors even tweeting their support for us to win!

Many, many attendees of these events complimented our presentations, and gave us great feedback on our idea. Also the guests were more than willing to help us out with our ask for contacts and introductions. We even had meetings set up for the next day within minutes of our presentation in New York!

Overall, another phenomenal week for Clear Returns!

I-Com Big Data Venture Challenge Winners!

Clear Returns has had a truly phenomenal week at various different events across the country!

First up was the I-Com Big Data Venture Challenge held in Rome on October 16th. Competing alongside 8 finalists our CEO Vicky Brock delivered a superb pitch and was crowned the winner.

Next we were in Liverpool representing high-growth technology companies at The Pitch Live. 80 start-ups from across the UK pitched at the event held at the Merseyside Maritime Museum on the 18th and 19th of October. Clear Returns were selected as one of the top 20, who must now compete in a public vote to earn their place at the grand final on the 16th of November in London.

That night we also attended Hatchery Hits the Street, this awards ceremony is hosted by our business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark and with the support of the Royal Bank of Scotland they provide £25,000 in prizes for entrepreneurs. CEO Vicky Brock pitched at this event in front of almost 400 guests, including Entrepreneurial Spark backers Sir Tom Hunter and Sir Willie Haughey. At the end of the night when we thought we’d missed out on a prize the big winner was announced – Clear Returns! We won the best high impact award – and a £3,500 cheque!

Finally on the 25th of October we were selected to appear at IBM’s Smartcamp in Dublin. Competing against 4 other strong contenders Clear Returns were honoured to be selected as the winners and will now attend the European finals in Berlin on November 14th.

How to top a week like that? Well New York is still to come…

Customer Return Behaviour – The Serial Returner

A recent survey conducted by Clear Returns has investigated customer return behaviour and the growing trend of consumers continually returning garments they have already worn.

67% of survey respondents have returned items that they ordered online, with almost 40% returning several items.

Much more concerning is the statistic that nearly a quarter of respondents have returned items that they had already worn, basically committing fraud. 52% of respondents also said their friends had committed similar offences. The most common reason given was that customers would buy an item for an occasion, wear it once and then get a refund:

“My friend has WAG aspirations and regularly returns dresses to coast etc she has worn to an occasion. She has commented that more shops are putting labels on the outside now so she can’t hide them or pin them in. I think returning online gives her more anonymity but she has returned in store (rotates the stores she goes to).”

“Wore the clothes, damaged them, returned them claiming they were damaged on arrival”

“No point of keeping it if it was only going to be worn once.”

This behaviour is known as “de-shopping” and it is becoming increasingly common as is returns fraud. A recent publication by Tamira King and John Balmer on this issue provides some further insight.

Worryingly retailers may be encouraging customers to buy more than necessary by providing offers such as free postage or discounts. The survey results found that 22% of customers returned items they had bought on special offers such as these. This suggests that these perks from retailers are potentially detrimental as this may encourage more impulse buys that may cost them far more than they gain in sales.

Posted by Ellie

Ready to hit Women 2.0 in NYC

New York here we come…

We’ll be joining some of the most inspirational women and men in technology when we head to NYC to take part in the final of the Women 2.0 NYC Pitch competition.

As the only non-US tech company in the final, we’re not under-estimating the size of the challenge in shining out amongst some of the smartest startups on the planet – but we’ll be giving it our best shot!