You can act now
with these tips to protect your store from shoplifters.
In 2021, retail theft accounted for nearly $100 billion in loss in the United States alone. In some cases, retailers have been forced to close their stores altogether because insurance claims are frequently denied. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s survey of retail business, 56% of retailers were victims of shoplifting in June, and 50% said the problem has gotten worse. As a result, they are forced to raise the price of their products. Thieves use sophisticated, organized criminal tactics that take advantage of loopholes in the law. There are several circumstances that can make it difficult to recover from shoplifting, so retailers need to be prepared and have a thorough strategy in place to minimize the losses from theft.
1. No blind spots! Enhance your anti-theft surveillance cameras.
One of the most basic and practical ways to deter thieves is to boost shop security through surveillance cameras. Security cameras can be a great help in identifying culprits, and you should regularly monitor your anti-theft cameras to track customers who are acting suspiciously. It’s also helpful to place mirrors in all sections of the store to increase employee visibility. If you have a larger store, you might want to consider hiring a security guard. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice when installing surveillance cameras, as having too many cameras can have the opposite effect, namely, making customers feel your store is unsafe. It’s also a good idea to have a bell on the entrance so that employees are aware whenever a new customer enters and leaves. It’s a good idea to have a pleasant-sound bell rather than an alarm so as not to unintentionally alert shoppers.
2. Raise awareness through employee training.
Ongoing meetings and training with employees on the retail floor to discuss how to identify shoplifters and how to address them may produce a highly effective solution. For example, employees can share experiences with each other about people who walk into a store and act suspiciously without buying anything, which can create a systematic approach to spot suspicious activities. It’s not uncommon for employees to steal items, so it’s important to communicate your store’s strict rules against criminal behavior. A 2020 study found that each dishonest employee cost retailers an average of $1,551.66, with more than 50% of retailers reporting an average loss of more than $1,000 per incident. Along with training your staff, it’s also important to make sure that they don’t steal from your store.
3. Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws on shoplifting penalties.
Criminal punishment on shoplifting varies by state. For example, six states – Oregon, Minnesota, New Mexico, Indiana, Alabama, and Virginia – have passed proposals to increase penalties for retail theft offenders. In Virginia, a new law that went into effect on July 1 made shoplifting a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison while a New Mexico law allows prosecutors to seek up to nine years in prison for stealing over $20,000 worth of items based on the combined cash value. These laws are often designed to protect large retailers, not small ones, so it’s good to be aware of the laws that vary from state to state. It’s also important to know what your insurance policy is for losses incurred from thieves.
4. The 10-foot rule prevents shoplifters.
Research has shown that being friendly to customers can go a long way toward preventing theft. Whether it’s the way your store staff approaches customers or the way they treat them, a friendly demeanor sends a message to customers that “I care about you,” which ultimately goes a long way toward preventing shoplifting. To put this into practice, let’s apply the 10 feet rule. It requires that you greet anyone who comes within 10 feet of you, which ensures that virtually everyone in the store is greeted and subliminally reminds everyone in the store that they’re on your store’s radar. This is how the 10-foot rule works to reduce shoplifting by simply greeting every customer who enters your store.
5. Improve lighting to ensure clean displays and no dark spots in the store.
Lighting is a great way to make guests feel welcome and increase security at the same time. As a positive complement to security cameras, make sure there are no dark spots throughout your store by adding modern LED lighting to display cases and installing light fixtures to illuminate darker aisles and corners. When there’s suddenly empty space on a shelf, you’ll quickly notice that something is missing, but if your store is disorganized and messy, it’s harder to spot these red flags promptly. It’s always a good idea to keep all stock items neatly lined up at the front of the shelf space.
6. Know the tricks of the shoplifters.
Familiarizing yourself with the different tricks used by thieves will help you prepare accordingly.
*Taking and walking out
This is the most traditional and quickest way to steal something. As they typically target valuable items with drive-away cars awaiting, you can reduce the risk of this type of theft by keeping expensive items as far away from the exit as possible.
One study found that 29% of shoplifters use bags to hide stolen items. Once the shoplifter learns where target items are located, he or she can place them in the bag or pocket without being seen by a store employee. If you see someone coming into your store with a bulky bag, you should watch their behavior.
*Booster bags to disrupt security tags
These bags, called booster bags, contain magnets or other materials that interfere with the communication between security tags and antennas, so if a stolen item is inside one of these bags, it won’t set off the alarm at the exit. These bags look ordinary on the outside, but they typically have aluminum foil lining inside.
This method involves removing the price tags and barcodes from expensive products and replacing them with those from cheaper items. If you’re familiar with the prices of products in your store, you’ll be able to quickly recognize when someone pulls this trick.
*Organized crime – group shoplifting
This is a common tactic of shoplifters that’s gotten a lot of publicity lately. They plan of stealing and work as an organized team with each person doing their part and often avoiding responsibility if caught.
When a retail employee gives an item to an acquaintance or friend for free, it’s called “sweet hearting” because it’s often done to the employee’s significant other. At the checkout, it’s not easy to keep track of this theft as employees skillfully cover the barcode or move quickly to avoid scanning the product.
7. Prominently display anti-shoplifting signs.
Studies have shown that more than 50% of shoplifters will go to another store or not steal anything if there is a sign at the place they are trying to steal from. 85% of customers notice security signs hanging in stores, and 23% of customers say they feel watched when these signs are present. Once you’ve installed security cameras in the right places, make sure your signage lets customers know that you’re monitoring suspicious behavior and that you take theft seriously. If you can’t afford security cameras, you can also consider installing dummy cameras that look like a high-end surveillance system. You can actively deter shoplifters with signs that warn of the consequences of stealing from your store. However, keep in mind that too many signs can be off-putting to your customers.
8. Use an internal “looter secret code”.
For retailers, having a discreet code among employees that can alert them to unusual situations without alarming customers is an effective way to propagate suspicious activities among employees. You can use certain names or objects as a secret sign, and when you suspect someone of being a shoplifter, you can use the assigned name to give out a signal, such as “Mr. [name], I need someone in the cosmetics department”. An employee or business owner who hears the assigned name can discreetly learn that a possible shoplifter is in the particular area and quickly act.