15 Ways Business Can Prevent Shoplifting

The Damage Shoplifting Can Do To A Business

Shoplifting is a serious threat to any business. It is estimated that one in ten shoppers steal with some regularity. The amount of damage retail theft can do is undoubtedly noticeable. While many stores lose out to large thefts all the time, a series of small thefts can also add up quickly. For this reason, you should learn how to prevent shoplifting to minimize its impact on your business.

Anything From Any Store Can Be Shoplifted

No type of store is immune to being targeted by a shoplifter. This is because each store sells stuff that's of value to someone. You might think certain items are immune to shoplifting, but they are not. Large, expensive pieces of clothing are a common target, as they can get stolen by someone sneaky enough to outsmart the employees. However, it's not always the large, flashy items that are targets for opportunistic shoplifters. Something you should know if you hope to prevent shoplifting is that small items that only cost a few dollars are the most common targets. A chocolate bar or similarly sized object can be slipped into a jacket pocket without anyone else noticing, while something like a piano can't. Also, getting reimbursed for several smaller incidents makes store insurance claims more difficult.

15 Ways You Can Prevent Shoplifting

Any shop owner can take steps to prevent shoplifting by adding security measures. Here are plenty of ways to reduce the chances of your business becoming a victim of theft, and to help better catch thieves after they've stolen, and maybe even get back the items that were taken from you.

1. Keep An Eye On And Engage With Customers

One thing to remember is that you, as a store owner, are not in this alone. You already have several people you're paying to help you take care of your business. While it would be unreasonable for you to expect your employees to confront a customer who may be dangerous directly, there are ways you can train employees to prevent shoplifting by keeping an eye on potential thieves and taking subtle, non-confrontational actions to prevent shoplifting.

You can teach your staff what suspicious activity looks like to get ahead. Some common signs of someone who plans to shoplift include wearing large oversized clothing or carrying large bags, looking closely at items without buying anything, having 'lumps' in the clothing or bags, constantly looking at the employees and other customers, sweating, fidgeting and other nervous behaviour, trying to remain hidden or hide their face, avoidance of camera and mirrors, and quick, sudden exits. Shoplifters also often work in groups, with one or two members distracting employees by acting up, asking questions about inventory, or requesting items stored in other rooms. While none of these automatically means someone is a shoplifter, your staff must be aware of customers displaying suspicious behaviour like this. For this reason, theft prevention staff training is highly recommended. All staff, from customer service to sales representatives, should know a company's shoplifting policy, including how to deter thieves and handle theft they notice.

If a staff member notices a customer who they see as suspicious, they can approach the customer and make an innocuous comment like 'Can I help you?'. This often prevents shoplifting by letting would-be-shoplifters know they're being watched without confronting them and putting your employees in danger. It might prevent shoplifting by deterring thieves, and it avoids accusing innocent customers.

2. Have Staff Near The Entrances And Exits

While having your ordinary employees familiar with shoplifter techniques can provide a solid frontline to prevent shoplifting, having a security guard or two, other security personnel, or another staff specifically trained for it can be your cavalry. Such trained staff's presence might be enough to scare off some thieves before they even make it to your inventory. There's also a solid chance they can also prevent shoplifting by catching someone who's been able to worm their way through your less specialized staff.

3. Use 'Codes' To Alert Staff of Shoplifters

Many stores have an intercom that allows their employees to communicate quickly across long distances. While this is a great way to get messages from one employee to another, it does alert everyone in the store. This might be perfectly fine for most normal messages, like having John Smith come to Isle Three to help someone, but publicly announcing that there has been an incident can let a thief know that they've been caught. Having your own 'codewords' for potential theft and who to engage will allow your employees to prevent shoplifting by communicating about who to look out for while still giving them the advantage of keeping the shoplifter in the dark.

4. Have Clear Refund Policies And Receipt Tracking

Not all shoplifting involves taking something from the store. Sometimes, a customer will walk up to the cashier with an item in hand, stating that they are 'returning' it when it was grabbed off the shelf. Often, a customer who was given a refund while also being able to keep the item will try to get a second refund later on just because they can. Known as return fraud, this often requires different ways of prevention. Having a policy of tracking receipts, a database of transactions and a clear refund policy can help prevent shoplifting of this type.

5. Limit Changing Room Items For Clothing Stores

One of the most common ways for shoplifters to get away with something is to abuse changing rooms. Doing things like limiting the number of items a customer can take in with them and having changing rooms inspected each time someone uses them can prevent shoplifting. Also, having an employee who patrols the fitting room area might be a way to catch someone in the act or prevent theft in the first place.

6. Know Your Most Vulnerable Items

You can prevent shoplifting by staying a step ahead by knowing which items are common targets. The most valuable items to steal vary based on your store type. The most common items stolen from a grocery store include meat, seafood, alcohol, cheese, chocolate and other sweets since these often hit the sweet spot of being easy to hide and having a somewhat high price tag. More specialized stores usually deal with similarly concealable and expensive items like jewelry and other accessories, clothing, small toys and small electronics. Pharmaceutical items that are common targets include smell-controlling things like perfume and cologne, general grooming items like razors, and purchases some people would consider embarrassing, such as non-prescription drugs, pregnancy tests, and birth control. A common trend is for small, concealable items with moderate to high costs that can be resold.

7. Store Away High-Risk Items

Knowing which items are at risk of theft will only prevent shoplifting if you do something different with them. Although there are things you can do, like putting them near some of the other deterrents, store items away safely, have staff patrol areas with these items, and you can limit what is visible to simply a display model.

8. Place Anti-Theft Devices On Your Inventory

Plenty of larger, high-value items can have anti-theft devices such as security tags placed on them. This can prevent shoplifting by acting as a deterrent to shoplifters but also usually causes an alarm to go off when the item with the device passes out of the store, causing the thief's cover to be blown on the spot. These devices are prevalent at many retail establishments, such as clothing stores.

9. Use Cameras To Monitor Your Store

Security camera systems are one of the most common and visible ways to prevent shoplifting. Potential shoplifters will often not steal if they think they're being watched, so the presence of security cameras can often deter a thief. Furthermore, the thief might try to 'dodge' cameras, likely alerting your staff that this person might be a threat. This strange behaviour should be visible to onlookers, including your store staff, who can act accordingly.

10. Use Mirrors To Increase Visibility

This one needs to be done more precisely, but it can be very effective. General, flat, square, or rectangular mirrors likely won't prevent shoplifting. The mirrors that work best to prevent shoplifting are circular, convex mirrors placed near corners of the ceiling. This allows employees of your store to spot shoplifters who are hiding around a corner. The fact that, once again, these are so visible is yet another reason why a potential shoplifter may hesitate or decide not to risk it in the first place. 

11. Put Up Signs Warning Potential Thieves

Similar to businesses trying to prevent the theft of tools, materials and equipment, putting signs in your store might not prevent shoplifting per se; it can act as a warning to thieves. Much shoplifting is done out of convenience or because people think they can get away with it. Placing signs warning shoplifters of potential fines and other prosecution might prevent shoplifting by scaring thieves just enough that they no longer see it as worth the risk.

12. Work Together With Your Neighbouring Businesses 

Even the most cutthroat business owner knows that dealing with neighbours doesn't need to be a zero-sum game. This is especially true when your neighbouring stores sell entirely different items than you and, as a result, aren't your competitors. Keeping in touch with your neighbours and discussing suspicious activities by customers, or what type of behaviour specific to this area, is worth a second look. It can be helpful when trying to prevent shoplifting. Just make sure you're also letting your neighbours know some information to keep your relationship with them fruitful and mutually beneficial.

Responding To Shoplifting

As much as these tips will almost certainly reduce your vulnerability, there's no way to prevent shoplifting entirely. Odds are that, eventually, someone will get away with some of your merchandise. If that happens, however, it's not a lost cause. If you follow the right procedures, you can get your stolen item or merchandise back or at least bring the thief to justice.

13. Stay Calm

No matter what has happened, getting angry and losing control of your temper won't help you but will hurt you. While it is understandable to be upset, and you may need to get the emotions off your chest with a rant or take a minute to process the unpleasantness, making a scene and giving into your negative feelings will only set you back and won't help you retrieve your stolen goods.

14. Alert Authorities

The best people to deal with this are your local law enforcement. Because the thief is, by definition, a criminal, the cops will take theft claims seriously. It's best to give over any evidence you can to help catch the thief. Any security footage you have would be the ideal thing as you will likely be able to catch their face or at least get a general description. If this is impossible, the next best thing is to depend on witnesses. Hopefully, your employees or some legitimate customers could catch enough of a glimpse of the shoplifter to give the cops a solid lead. 

15. Address Opportunities Moving Forward

One way to spin this into a positive is by figuring out what went wrong and addressing it. Maybe one of your cameras couldn't catch everything since it was turned a few degrees from an optimal position. A single mirror would have made the thief more visible. Perhaps some niche situation arose, and your employee training program needed to cover how your employees should address that specific scenario. Either way, managing what went wrong is the first step to becoming even better at preventing shoplifting.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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