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How to Prevent Shoplifting in Your Retail Store

According to a National Retail Federation survey, American retailers lose over 18 billion to shoplifters every year. While most retailers expect some losses due to theft, we’ve put together a strong list of strategies to help deter, prevent, and in some cases, convict shoplifters. Take a look below to see how you can improve your security and defend against shoplifting.

1. Employ Great Customer Service

Of course, providing great customer service is important when it comes to making your customers feel welcome, but it can also be a fantastic method for preventing shoplifting. The goal of a shoplifter is to go unnoticed. They want to feel like they aren’t being watched; they need to feel like they won’t get caught. When your employees acknowledge them with a smile and a hello, they will feel less confident in their illegal actions. By establishing fantastic customer service standards you can make your genuine customers feel appreciated and taken care of while deterring potential shoplifters. Below are a few protocols you can implement in your retail space to get the job done.

  • At least one employee on the sales floor must engage customers with a greeting and smile immediately following their entry to the store.
  • At least one employee on the sales floor must ask customers how they can be helped.
  • When customers are in the store for an elongated period of time, employees should check in with them every 5-10 minutes.

2. Eliminate “Blind Spots” On Your Sales Floor

It is hard to prevent shoplifting in a retail space that has many blind spots (areas that are isolated from employees view). More than likely your employees will not see the crime in action and there is no guarantee that the crime will be visible from a security camera. So, if you want to prevent shoplifting, take a look at your sales floor and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the placement of my shelving units block my employee’s line of site?
  • Do I have any displays, signs or promotional items creating “blind spots” that inadvertently encourage theft?
  • Is the general layout of my sales floor open? Or does it feel cluttered?

Your goal should be to establish a retail space that allows your employees to keep track of shoppers easily from the register. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you do not have areas where your customers are surrounded by shelves, walls, or displays on more than two sides. If you do these things, potential shoplifters should feel less comfortable stealing from your store and will most likely move on to easier targets.

3. Train Your Employees to be Proactive with Suspicious Individuals

Even if one of your employees sees an individual shoplifting, it can be hard for them to take action. They may not want to intervene because if they are mistaken, the store could lose a loyal customer. They also might fear a verbally abusive or potentially physical confrontation. If catching a shoplifter in the act is hard, and stopping them after they have committed the crime is nearly impossible, we only have one option — “catch” them before they shoplift. How? All it takes is informed training.

When you train your employees, let them know about the possibility of shoplifters and instruct them on exactly how to deal with any suspicious individuals who enter the store. Below are a few suggestions for preparing your staff:

  • Train your employees in identifying shoplifters and potentially dangerous individuals (e.g., nervousness, avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, sweating, playing with their hands, oversized clothing or the carrying of a large bag, or a lack of interaction with employees).
  • Train your employees to deal with aggressive, violent, or otherwise threatening individuals. Roleplaying can be an incredibly beneficial method to use here.
  • Document all procedures in a standardized Handbook that your employees can continually reference.
  • Update the Handbook when one of your employees faces a new or unfamiliar incident.

4. Have Protocols for Monitoring the Cash Register

It should be no surprise that your cash register might be a target for opportunistic thieves who enter your retail space. By establishing simple protocols in regards to monitoring and securing your cash register, you can reduce the threat of it becoming a target. Below are a few standard guidelines you can enact in your store.

  • One employee must be working the register at all times. During this time, the assigned employee cannot be more than 15 feet from the register. In the event of a break, the employee must get another employee to manage the register and this change must be recorded.
  • When handling cash payments, employees should not place the customer’s money in the cash register until the transaction is complete. If there are any disagreements in payment, the employee can easily reference the amount of cash that was given.
  • In the event that multiple employees will be tending to a single register during one shift, assign employees separate drawers. If there are any discrepancies when counting the day’s revenue from cash, you will be able to pinpoint the employee responsible.

5. Make the Consequences Clear

Shoplifters often don’t consider the consequences of their actions. They don’t mind taking the risk involved with stealing because they don’t think their punishment will be very severe. To reduce shoplifting in your retail space, make it clear that you don’t intend to go easy on culprits. Place a couple of signs in and outside of your store stating that you intend to prosecute any shoplifters. Something as simple as this can be enough to send a would-be thief on to a different target.

6. Keep Your Products Organized

When organizing products, many retailers consider how they can visually engage passersby, but often overlook how this organization can impact shoplifting. When deciding how to display your products make sure that you establish specific standards for how things should be shelved and positioned. It should be relatively easy for an employee to scan your store and see that a product is missing. If it isn’t, consider making a change.

7. Strategically Position Your Checkout

So many retailers have fallen into the habit of placing their registers at the center of their stores. While this is an effective way of ensuring your employees have a visual on most shoppers, it can also make shoplifting a quick and easy process. All shoplifters have to do is walk a few feet into the store, grab an item or two and make a quick escape before an employee sees/engages with them.

To avoid giving shoplifters this easy option, think about your current store layout. If the front of your store is clear of products and provides an easy sight line from the middle of your store, your cash register may be fine close to the middle or back of your retail space. In contrast, if the front of your store is packed with merchandise, you may want to consider moving your register closer to the exit/entrance. Shoplifters will be less likely to steal if they have to walk past an employee.

8. Properly Staff Based on Customer Traffic

You are most likely already staffing your store based on general through traffic, but in addition to considering how many staff members you need to provide your customers with excellent service, think about how many you would need to defend against shoplifting. When it comes to servicing your customers, one employee for every five customers might be the right ratio, but for preventing shoplifting, you may want two employees for every five. Your employees can’t have eyes everywhere, so make sure you are setting them up for success.

9. Manage Dressing Rooms and Restrooms

No matter how open your store layout is, there are a couple of places where shoplifters can steal without being seen by employees: the bathroom and the dressing room. The good news is, you can carefully manage and monitor these areas of your store without inconveniencing your paying customers. When it comes to bathrooms, a keypad entry system is a great option. Place a sign outside of your restroom letting individuals know that they will need to ask a staff member for a code. Be sure to change the code frequently though so return customers can’t get in without requesting it. As for dressing rooms, it is better to have an employee manage this area. When a customer wants to try something on, have the designated employee give them a number that correlates to the number of clothing items they are trying on. This way, your employee will know if a customer comes out of the dressing room with fewer items than when they went in.

10. Install a Surveillance System

Nothing deters a shoplifter like the presence of a few visible cameras. They might believe they can get away with stealing in the moment, but the fear of having visual proof of their crime is usually enough to make them think twice. If a shoplifter does happen to take the risk of stealing from you, a surveillance system will enable you to review footage and potentially identify the culprit. This can be helpful if you wish to prosecute, but the real benefit is seeing how individuals are taking advantage of your store. If you know which sections of your store individuals are shoplifting from and how they are going about it, you can take measures to prevent them.

Interested in a security system?

While these tips should help you deter shoplifters, the best way to improve the security of your retail space is to partner with a professional security company and create a custom security system that aligns with your needs. Here at Supreme, we will work with you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your business and help you determine what services you can benefit from. Just click here to get in touch with us.