INTERNAL AUDIT IN THE RETAIL INDUSTRY:
A PRO-ACTIVE APPROACH TO REDUCE
Stephen Bullen Stores Administration And Audit Manager
Lowes-Manhattan Menswear Pty. Ltd.
Whilst forming an internal audit/loss prevention discussion group in New
South Wales, the first question asked of directors of retail organisations was
"Do you have an internal audit function? One of the first answers received
was "Yes¾we think so"!
A view held by some is that internal auditors are just "spare" people or
"clerical odd job men". We must demonstrate this to be wrong.
The traditional role of internal auditors is generally seen as that of
identifying errors that have already occurred and reviewing procedures that
are already in place. This "after the fact" auditing does have its place.
However, "future" issues must also be addressed. By adopting a pro-active
approach and directly addressing the causes of weakness that expose our
organisations to loss by fraud and theft, internal audit in retail can really
make an impact. In the June 1991 issue of Internal Auditor, C. M.
Thompson Jnr observed:
In many organisations internal auditors have the education, training and experience to
detect, investigate and document fraud [and theft]. In addition internal auditors are
objective and independent of the areas they review. Internal auditors frequently are in the
best position to quietly gather the facts with the least disruption. (Thompson, C. M. Jnr
'Fraud the challenge facing Internal Audit, Internal Auditor June, 1991, p73).
Retail internal auditors must have an expanded role into loss prevention.
This is particularly important in a chain store environment where the
number of stores may be large, the size small and the locations widespread.
This makes the use of traditional store detective methods somewhatÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 2
ineffective. It is in these situations particularly that the educational and
preventative aspects of loss prevention must be brought very much to the
fore. As the internal audit manager of a retail chain you could very well be
looked upon as the "expert" in loss prevention.
The development of the internal audit department (IAD) in Lowes has been
a major success, particularly with regard to lowering the shrinkage level
which has shown a reduction of some 60 per cent since 1988. The IAD
works in many areas of the organisation. However, this discussion is
devoted to matters relating to the retail outlet.
Lowes-Manhattan Menswear employs just over 1000 staff and operates 110
menswear retail outlets throughout New South Wales, Queensland and the
AC.T catering to the "middle" market. Our Head Office is in Sydney. The
• Are of 2000 square feet
• Are staffed daily by three (full time equivalents)
• Carry $200,000 stock at cost
We also operate three larger "departmentalised", stores of some 8000 square
feet in area. The business is of a discount nature and the stores are always
full to capacity with merchandise.
Cash register system
Each store has two to three personal computer based cash register systems
with ancillary equipment including bar-code scanners, printers and a
modem. Each store runs their system as a separate entity from Head Office.
The store's registers consolidate via a communication cable daily and are
subsequently "dialled" each night by one of eight Head Office computers.
Selected information is passed to and fro between Head Office and the
stores, e.g. new prices and bar-codes to the stores and sales information and
stock balances etc. to Head Office. Information also communicated by the
stores daily which is scrutinised by the IAD includes:
• Cash discrepancies
• Refund details
• Void details
• Stock adjustmentsÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 3
Some 40 per cent of stores are currently provided with electronic article
surveillance equipment (EAS). We utilise "Knogo" brand radio frequency
equipment consisting of slim line pedestal type transceivers placed to cover
all exits. Approximately 20 per cent of the merchandise is "tagged" in each
store. Surveys indicated that external theft of this particular merchandise
was responsible for some 80 per cent of the value of all merchandise stolen.
The perceived vulnerability of merchandise is regularly reviewed by the
IAD and "tagging" adapted accordingly.
All stores will be EAS equipped by December 1994. Locking devices,
cables, security cameras and mirrors are also used selectively.
Staffing the retail internal audit department
Our IAD currently consists of a manager and three auditors. Our auditors
are not transient nor are they drawn from line management positions "just
for the experience".
The auditors must be methodical, diligent and have an "eye for detail".
However, given that our work is largely of a practical and operational
nature, formal accounting qualifications are not a pre-requisite. Drawing
from our own senior store management brings a manager's perspective to
the department and importantly the auditor will have a great degree of
credibility amongst his fellow employees.
As we strive to work "with" our people, the balanced character of the
auditor is of great importance. Whilst wishing to foster a healthy
relationship between auditor and Auditee to ensure a good two-way
communication flow, the auditor must also have the capacity to keep that
"one step away" to maintain his objectivity. It is noteworthy that the
majority of actionable internal dishonesty matters have been brought to the
attention of the department by staff.
The auditor cannot be daunted by the concept of illegal activity, in fact he
must want to expose it. However, "internal auditors must develop a mind set
that keeps them alert to the fact of fraud (or theft) without submitting to
paranoia" (Anne Graham 'Putting a face on fraud', Internal Auditor,
December, 1991, p4).
Our auditors are not regarded as "bean counters" but as members of the
Management "team' who genuinely contribute to the well-being of theÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 4
organisation. Catching people who have made errors is not our goal nor is it
viewed as a measure of our performance.
The Audit/Loss Prevention Committee
An important early development was the establishment of our audit and loss
prevention committee. A fellow retail internal audit manager recently
described how his audit committee was ineffective because with some 270
retail outlets firstly there was too much to discuss and secondly the
committee members were not all familiar with specific locations or store
Thankfully our committee members are fully acquainted with our stores and
operations. The committee comprises of the following:
• The Managing Director
• The Finance Director
• The Operations Manager (Associate Director)
• The Personnel Manager
• The Stores Administration/Audit Manager
• The Senior Internal Auditor
We find this committee to be a vital part of our loss prevention initiative. It
is, some might say, a "luxury" to have this key high management together at
these meetings, it certainly ensures that timely and authoritative decision are
made. We also have the facility to report directly to the Managing Director.
In some instances internal audit and/or loss prevention departments may
report to too low a level "boss" therefore restricting their effectiveness. No
matter how well intentioned the department may be, it must be supported by
high level back-up.
Scope of IAD regarding fraud and theft
In Lowes Menswear the IAD fully investigates theft and fraud including:
• Determining the facts
• Identifying the offender(s)
• Determining the extent of the loss
• Documenting the case
• Attendance at interviews
• Reporting to management
• Reporting to police
• Attendance at CourtÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 5
For specific tasks an "outside" security consultancy is utilised where
Communicating our findings
Each year at each store we conduct the following:
• Four "Full" 60 point audits¾inclusive of most aspects of branch
operations and health and safety matters
• Two "Short", 20 point audits¾security and cash related issues
• Two "Cash only" audits
This equates to some sixty audits each month, covering some 2300 specific
points. Given this amount of information it is extremely important to
communicate in a meaningful manner. We utilise what we term as a
Each month schedules are produced showing audit results as they have been
"scored" out of 100. Each section of the audit is given a particular "weight"
Cash handling and banking procedures = 20%
Refund and exchange procedures = 20%
Electronic article surveillance equipment management = 20%
Many variations of the schedule may be produced, for example
• Performance of an individual store compared to Company average
• Performance of a particular region compared to Company average
• Progression or regression of a particular store
• Progression or regression of a particular region
We find that this method conveys our findings to higher management and
other interested parties in a far more "palatable" manner than to have them
wade through copious amounts of paperwork or have lengthy discussions
regarding individual performances. This method clearly identifies areas of
concern. For example, a branch may have a problem with uneven cash
exchanges or another new store has failed to grasp EAS management.
Relevant action can then be taken: re-training or re-auditing etc. Future
performance is reviewed utilising the benchmark schedules. Audit findings
are fully discussed with the Auditee and their comments and opinions noted.
The schedules are circulated to regional managers for discussion with storeÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 6
managers and we find that the competitive instinct encourages managers to
have their stores perform well.Ó Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 7
The "Compliance" aspect
"After the fact" auditing does have its place. The compliance audit program
is an integral part of loss prevention in our organisation.
Lowes-Manhattan falls into the chain operation category, therefore it is
difficult to utilise "orthodox" loss prevention methods. This being so, the
full audit of our store operations proves to be our "base for betterment".
Over the past five years our "full" store audit has had additions and
deletions and has been bent and re-shaped, in fact it has expanded overall
from twenty to sixty points. All elements of the "cutting edge" of our loss
prevention initiatives are included for review. Some might consider that our
audit program is at saturation point. However, we consider that it is one of
our major "tools". Certainly the following is achieved:
• The effectiveness of our general procedures is reviewed
• The effectiveness of all our loss prevention initiatives is reviewed
• The auditors are constantly looking for or being advised of areas of
• The auditors develop a "culture" for two way communication
• The auditors are very regularly out there "in the real world"
• The auditors spend time assisting, particularly new store
The audit is regularly adapted to change and is certainly not geared for just
Audits by request
Not all of our work is initiated by the Audit Manager or the Audit
Committee. We respond to many requests from executives and store
management to act in a "consultancy" type of role to investigate or to help
with problems. We pride ourselves on being able to give definitive answers
to questions relating to store operation policy and procedure. Approximately
10 per cent of our work is requested and we feel that this is a reinforcement
of the fact that we are fully part of the "team".
Taking the mystery out of auditing
To outline the role that internal audit plays in our organisation and to
discuss how our findings are reported at regular intervals, the department
holds short meetings with groups of new managers, senior staff,Ó Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 8
management trainees and cadets. Never wishing to miss an opportunity, loss
prevention policies and procedures are also discussed at an early stage with
new employees. When dealing with new and particularly with junior staff
we find that speaking in numbers that they can easily understand to be very
important. We touch on Company and State statistics relating to shrinkage
but we bring figures down to a more understandable level e.g. "dollars lost
per store" or "garments stolen each week". These meetings also further
develop the concept of internal audit being part of the management team.
Getting under the bonnet
Don't just get under the bonnet, be a part of the engine! A common
complaint that is heard from loss prevention executives is that "those
people" who write policy that impact on loss prevention e.g. refund policy
etc. are less than competent.
To which the response would be "get involved and do something about it"
(very easy to say I know!). The retail audit or loss prevention department
must "get its hands dirty" in this regard. Activities into which our
department has major input or reviews include:
• Production of procedures manuals
• Programming of point of sale systems
• Staffing matters
• Loss prevention education
• Provision of security devices
• Store design and layout
• Damage and mark-down control
• Managers' Meetings
• Regional Managers' Meetings
Procedures and programming
The input of internal audit into the writing of policies and procedures or
programming point of sales systems etc. may upset the audit "purist" who
might claim that our independence or objectivity is impaired. In answer we
would say that in our organisation there are many critics and if something
was felt to be amiss in any way the Managing Director's telephone would
Who audits the auditors?
1) The audit committeeÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 9
2) A peer review of our IAD both internally and by external
3) A thousand plus employees!
Policies, procedures and programming that are "tight" with regard to loss
prevention is the base upon which to build.
Staff screening is a more routine loss prevention exercise. However, in a
situation where these controls are missing, it is the IAD who must "pick up
the slack" and ensure that they are introduced.
Staff promotion and movement may prove to be a more difficult area for
internal audit to impact upon, it's a great area for 'stepping on toes'.
However, having convinced management that your comprehensive audit
program is the most full and impartial review of store management
performance that is earthly possible, you are well on the way!
This is an area where the "benchmark" audit schedules in our organisation
have proved very useful. The "full" store audits, having been scored
consistently and strictly within guidelines do prove to be a useful
component in store management assessment.
Loss prevention education
In our organisation it is the IAD that organises or conducts the loss
prevention seminars. These are held for all store managers, senior staff and
It should be stressed that we are not training our staff to be de facto store
detectives. They are educated comprehensively regarding the law and arrest
etc. However, prevention is the theme to the seminars.
The seminars are tailored for our organisation and for the specific level of
staff in attendance "Refresher" courses are conducted at approximately
eighteen month intervals.
If the three elements for good sales are location, location and location then
our catchcry for good shrinkage results is awareness, awareness and
Store design and layoutÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 10
The IAD is involved with the review of layouts of both existing and new
sites regarding their sensitivity to shrinkage.Ó Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 11
Areas that are examined include:
• Fitting room design and placement
• Cash and wrap placement
• Exit locations
• Vision of aisles
• Placement of vulnerable merchandise
• Provision of security devices
Damage and markdown control
Although loss through damage or markdown is not necessarily crime
related, it is important to have close control over these factors as they may
'cloud the issue' thereby making identification of crime related loss difficult.
Our IAD keeps all records relating to damage and markdown for year-end
analysis of "known" and "unknown" loss etc.
An IAD authorisation is required prior to any "writing off" of merchandise.
Random inspections by the IAD are conducted of merchandise so written
Attendance at management meetings
By attending management meetings the IAD keeps abreast of all current
issues in the organisation, also regular attendance at regional and store
management meetings is a way of getting off the sidelines and lifting the
The proof of the pudding
So much for the theory. Table 1 provides Lowes-Manhattan shrinkage
results for the years 1988-1993.
Lowes-Manhattan Menswear Shrinkage Results
Year % Of Sales % Change
1988/89 1.82 -16.12
1989/90 1.06 -41.76
1990/91 1.01 -4.72
1991/92 0.97 -3.96Ó Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 12
1992/93 0.84 -13.41
The overall reduction achieved since 1988 is 61.3 per cent. With further
initiatives we are hopeful that this encouraging trend continues.
May 1988 Expansion of Internal Audit role
March 1989 Commencement of Loss prevention education
July 1992 Introduction of EAS.
Internal or external theft
There have been many estimates as to the internal theft, external theft or
"paperwork" breakdown of loss. It is very difficult to assess. However, we
would place external theft as the largest element followed by internal theft
with "paperwork error" being the lowest element.
Professional or opportunist
Every retailer would know the difficulties involved in combating the
"professional" thief or gang. Whilst making every effort that we can, we
find that being a "chain" operation we must address the bulk of our efforts
towards preventing "opportunist" fraud or theft be this committed externally
or by employees.
Not all fraud or theft may benefit the employee at the time, it may in some
organisations be possible for managers to "improve" their figures in order to
gain "bonuses" or even promotion. In these cases obviously the internal
controls need close scrutiny.
The employee fraudster or thief perhaps "hides" behind the perceived trust
of his employer which may have been built up over a number of years. It is
important to have a clear statement of policy that offenders will be dealt
with consistently regardless of their position or "length of service. Our two
main weapons against internal theft and fraud are:
• The development of a good "morale" and "culture" in the
• An extremely tight framework to prevent opportunity.
Known and unknown lossÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642 24018 3 13
Like most retailers, the "known" or accountable part of annual shrinkage in
our organisation is low (approximately 6 per cent). As our systems are
developed we are confident that a more accurate figure can be achieved.
Two recent developments have greatly assisted us in knowing the "what" in
what stock is missing, these being:
1) Cyclical stock-counting by store management with hand held
computers and the subsequent comparison and adjustment to our records at
2) Electronic data interchange (EDI). 70 per cent of our merchandise
is automatically replaced by our suppliers or warehouse via EDI. The
replacement is based upon units sold not on a re-order point, therefore "out
of stock" situations quickly indicate that the disappearance of the
merchandise has occurred in some way other than the proper one¾by
As some 90 per cent of our stock is bar-coded to size and colour the "what"
which has gone is not too hard to identify. However, the "how" we are still
Perceived reasons for shrinkage improvement
The following are some reasons why we believe shrinkage in our
organisation has reduced markedly:
• Improved employee education in loss prevention
• Greater awareness by staff and management
• Good Company morale
• Improved security devices
• Improved audit activity
• Improved damage/mark-down control
• Improved stock-taking procedures and equipment
• Improved POS equipment and programming
• Electronic data interchange
• Improved internal controls
• Improved staff screening
Not all retail organisations may be inclined towards this level of internal
audit involvement in their loss prevention activity nor perhaps is it
necessary in its entirety. However, in a department store situation the voidÓ Stephen Bullen, ISBN 0 642
24018 3 14
between "those people" that write the procedures and the loss prevention
department can be filled with an effective internal audit department.
In a "chain" situation, particularly of smaller outlets, the retail internal audit
department, in the absence of a specialist department should be the 'experts'
in loss prevention.
Internal audit in our industry must go beyond "ticking and flicking". By
involvement of internal auditors in areas of the business that may have been
seen as off limits and by a pro-active and co-operative approach, the
benefits to your organisation can be great.
It's time for retail internal auditors to take a proactive and non-traditional
approach to help reduce shrinkage.
Internal audit "involvement with objectivit
y" is in fact possible and will pay.
The Introduction to Internal Audit is a four-day programme, delivered over two modules. The course explores the
role of the Internal Auditor, the audit process and the relationship of the internal auditor with management, the
audit committee and external audit. The course is very participative with a high emphasis on the theoretical and
practical aspects of auditing. The content of the course has been designed specifically for internal auditors who are
new to the function in their organisation. The course is a necessary building block before participation in the
Institute’s more advanced Certificate in Audit Skills
1. INTRODUCTION AND IMPORTANCE OF INTERNAL AUDIT
Internal Audit is a tool of control to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the
working of an organization primarily with accounting, financial and operational
matters. The job of internal audit is to ensure that the work of the company is going
on smoothly, efficiently and economically and that all the laws, rules and regulations
governing the operations of the organization are adhered to, besides ensuring that an
effective internal control system exists to prevent errors, frauds and
Auditing in its modern concept is a systematic, intelligent, scientific, critical and
thorough examination of books of accounts of the organization by an independent
person or body of persons with the help of vouchers, documents, information and
explanations received from the authorities, for the purpose of ascertaining whether
the transactions entered in the books of accounts are genuine and have been entered
with proper authority. Its job is also to find out whether they are arithmetically
accurate and that the accounts and the financial statements are prepared in
accordance with law and rules and regulations of the organization in particular the
accounting standards and standard auditing practices mandated by the Institute of
Chartered Accountants of India. It is also the job of audit to report its findings to the
management. Of late internal audit in the computerised environment has become
more relevant so as to make the audit personnel very effective in detecting
irregularities. It is for this reason that auditing is regarded as the analytical and
critical aspect of accounting. It is examination of not only accounting records but also
Internal Audit plays a pivotal role in ensuring that efficient controls are operating in
all the activities, be it is liabilities or assets of an Organization. Internal Audit plays a
constructive role by rendering service to the management with objective appraisal of
systems, procedures, practices, compliance with policies. After enactment of
Companies (Auditor’s Report) Order, 2003, by the Government of India in terms of
sub-section (4A) of section 227 of the Companies Act, 1956, which says that it is
mandatory for all Companies to appoint internal auditor,if CARO 2003 is
applicable.Clause 4(vii) of CARO 2003 is applicable to listed Companies and/or other
companies having a paid up capital and reserves exceeding Rs.50 Lakhs as at the
commencement of the financial year concerned or having an average annual turnover
exceeding Rs.5 Crores for a period of three consecutive financial years immediately
preceding the financial concerned, whether the company has an INTERNAL AUDIT
SYSTEM commensurate with its size and nature of its business. The Statutory
Auditors are required to report under Section 227 of the Companies Act, 1956, as to
whether the company has an internal audit system commensurate with the size and
nature of its business. Internal Audit has been defined as an independent appraisal activity within an
organization for the review of accounting, financial and other operations as a basis for
service to management. It is a managerial control which functions by measuring and
evaluating the effectiveness of other controls. The overall objective of internal audit is
to assist all members of management in the effective discharge of their functioning, by
furnishing them with objective analysis, appraisals, recommendations and pertinent
comments concerning the activities reviewed. The internal audit, in essence should be
concerned with any phase of business activity wherein it can be of service to
The concept of audit has undergone a sea change and the earlier objectives, viz., “fault
finding” is no more relevant or management not interested in pursuing this. Internal
Audit is a diverse and specialized function in various fields of auditing. It is a tool
used to detect good, bad and the ugly. Internal Audit concept is an attempt to achieve
an ideal combination of financial audit, operational auditing and reviews the plans for
future. The Internal Audit, to be effective should provide three types of services PPC,
viz., Preventive, Protective and Curative.
In the preventive role, it forewarns the management of an adverse situation
It protects the management by the bringing to its notice the deficiencies in
advance, before the external auditors point out; and
As a curative function, it suggests remedial measures, thereby acting as a
catalyst for change and action
Big Bazaar , the flagship retail chain of the Future Group, is on the verge of achieving a unique milestone
in the History of World Retail � by being the first hypermarket format in the globe to rollout fastest 101
stores in a short span of seven years.
Currently, Big Bazaar has 98 stores in the country, including the recently opened store in Mysore on
2008. Further to this, Big Bazaar will be opening three more stores in a single day � i.e.
September 2008, which will take the eventual count to 101 stores in the country. These three stores
opening shortly in Pune (Kalyani Nagar), Cuttack (Darga Bazaar) and Delhi (Rajouri Garden).
Big Bazaar�s journey began in October 2001, when the young, first generation entrepreneur Kishore
Biyani opened the country�s first hypermarket retail outlet in Kolkatta (then Calcutta). In the same
month, two more stores were added � one each in Hyderabad and Mumbai, thus starting on a
successful sojourn which began the chapter of organized retailing in India.
Speaking on this momentous occasion and remembering the days of conceptualising the hypermarket
idea Mr. Kishore Biyani said, �We initially decided to name the format as �Bazaar� because we had
designed the store keeping the Indian mandi style in mind. Since the size of the hypermarket was big
than an average mandis, the thought came to name it as �Big Bazaar�. However, we had freezed on
the punch line �Isse Se Sasta Aur Achha Kahi Nahi� much before we met the creative agency to
design the final logo of Big Bazaar.�
Though, Big Bazaar was started purely as a fashion format including apparel, cosmetics, accessory and
general merchandise, the first Food Bazaar format was added as Shop-In-Shop within Big Bazaar in the
year 2002. Today, Big Bazaar, with its wide range of products and service offering, reflects the
aspirations of millions of Indians.
The journey of Big Bazaar can be divided into two phases � one pre and the other post January 26
2005, when the company rewrote the retail chapter in India, with the introduction of a never-before sales
campaign �Sasbe Sasta Din�. In just one day, almost the whole of India descended at various Big
Bazaar stores in the country to shop at their favourite shopping destination.
Further, what followed was the time and again rewriting of the Indian Retail experience, wherein
understanding of the Indian consumers reflected in the products and services offered, creating innovative
deals, expanding in the tier II and tier III towns, tying up with branded merchandise to offer exclusive
products and services to its customers.
Big Bazaar is present today in 59 cities and occupying over 5 million sq.ft. retail space and driving over
110 million footfalls into its stores. The format is expecting the number of footfall in the stores to increase
by over 140 million by this financial year. Over the years, Mr. Biyani for his vision and leadership, and Big
Bazaar for its unique proposition to its customers�, have received every prestigious consumer awards
both nationally and internationally
Says Rajan Malhotra, President, Strategy & Convergence, Big Bazaar, �What is important in our journey
is not the number of stores, but the customers� faith in us. It�s the India and the Indians, which have
helped us, reach this feat in such a short time span and today our country is creating a history in the
World organized Retail.
Rajan Malhotra, who is also the first employee of Big Bazaar, joining the organization in early 2001 adds,
�Since beginning, we have kept Big Bazaar as a soft brand, which reflects the India and the Indianess.
We believed in growing with the society, participating and celebrating all regional and local community
festivals, giving customers preferences above everything else.�
Every Big Bazaar is a small family by its own and the head of the family � Karta � is the store manager.
Kishore Biyani, the CEO of the Future Group, has a vast understanding of the consumer�s insight, has
inculcated the habit of �observing, understanding customers� behaviour�, in every employee of the
Future Group is confident of the Indian Retail Story. The Group has not slowed down its expansion plans
despite the fiscal woes in the economy present today. Future Group plans to have 300 stores and is
expecting revenues of Rs 13,000 crore by year 2011.