Violent and threatening behavior like armed robbery or threatening at gunpoint are some acts that make the news very regularly. If you are a shop owner, these acts would be classified as the most dangerous with a major impact on business activities. Undoubtedly, these acts of violent behavior need to be addressed, but another such spectre that haunts retailers worldwide is that of shoplifting. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) claims that shoplifting accounts for $35 million of the goods stolen from shoplifters every day.
The numbers are staggering and shed light on the immense extent to which goods are stolen all across the world. Other surveys have also concluded that almost a third of all inventory shrinkage in retail stores was due to shoplifting. Owing to the clandestine and subtle methods that are often employed in shoplifting, it is not viewed as a threatening behavior but can still lead to immense losses.
That is why it is imperative for efficient retail businesses to employ methods that aid in preventing shoplifting. While some say that shoplifting might never be entirely stopped, but measures to mitigate it might go a long way in preventing the pervasion of the culture to future generations. This guide will take you through a detailed breakdown of the measures that can be adopted at any shop to prevent shoplifting.
Use Your Staff Well
Your staff that is present on the shopping floor represents those that can get closest to catching someone red-handed or those with suspicious behavior. Your staff isn’t isn’t there to just fold clothes and occasionally help people find the right size. They need to be equipped to make shoppers understand that they are not alone and that they are being watched. It is important to use the staff wisely when it comes to keeping an eye on shoppers.
Here is what your staff needs to do:
- They should be vigilant when it comes to the areas that they are managing.
- They should be aware of the various ways or places that are used for shoplifting such as coats, purses, strollers and umbrellas.
- They should be able to judge suspicious behavior at a basic level.
- They should make sure every shopper is in their eyesight at all times.
- They should keep checking fitting rooms for torn tags, empty hangers and other such signs.
- You should also make sure that the staff are not spending too much time indulging in conversation with one another because this might give shoplifters a welcome opportunity to be left alone.
You might not be able to control the space you get for your store, but you can control the layout of the entire store in different ways such that visibility is high and there aren’t too many isolated corners with important merchandise. The store should be planned such that it has minimal blind spots. Mirrors can help get rid of certain blind spots within the store that are commonly used to shoplift products.
Blind spots can be detected based on assessing the places where the staff would spend the most amount of time like the cash tills or the major sections of the store. They should be centrally located without any walls or obstructions that would impair the vision of the staff. The cash registers can also be located near the entrance so that suspicious shoplifters can be stopped or flagged.
When it comes to stock management, the main and expensive stock must be placed in the most surveilled area with most eyes on it at all time. Surveillance in that area can be increased by creating staff routes to distant aisles that always go through the main stock area. This allows for high movement and greater activity in these areas with the most desirable of products. Stockpiles should be such that they are not too high to block the vision of the staff. Even and uniform lighting could also help increase visibility.
Valuable stock should be restocked only based on necessity. Not only this, there are other measures that can also be taken. Alternating hangers in apparel stores or having plastic restrictors that allow just a single product to be picked at a time might be an investment worth making, based on your assessment of the most common ways of shoplifting in the business. Apparel stores might invest in something like that whereas stores with valuables in glass displays might find it better investing in a fixed laminated glass that has a higher resistance to breakage.
Peak Shoplifting Times
If someone was looking to steal from a shop, they would want to do it when nobody’s looking at them with great scrutiny. This would automatically suggest that shoplifters target those times of the week that are busy so that there are enough people in the store to take attention away from them. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing also suggests that shoplifting incidents are known to increase between Wednesday and Saturday.
Aside from the weekly average, it would also be obvious that festive seasons and weekends would have greater incidents of shoplifting. Christmas, Easter, and summer are those phases where shoplifters strike a lot more frequently than others. So make sure your store is on high alert during these weekends.
Know about Popular Methods of Shoplifting
If you are looking to make your store immune from shoplifters, you need to be aware of the myriad of ways in which shoplifters operate. You might be surprised by the innovative ways in which these shoplifters operate, but a thorough idea of their ways might help you spot them faster and potentially save your business from heavy losses.
- Some shoplifters enter the store in groups and then spread out such that the staff is unable to keep an eye on everyone. Whoever is the least watched amongst all will then make a move.
- Other shoplifters enter in groups of two. One of them indulges a staff member in conversation while the other makes the move and begins to leave the store.
- Beware of the shoplifters who indulge in price swapping. There might be instances where cheaper price tags are switched onto expensive items which are then processed through self-checkout counters. This way they end up paying marginal sums for something that is way more expensive. A quick walk past self-checkout might spook them and make them panic – signs that you should be prepared to read.
- Some shoplifters also pick items from the store and try a fake return claiming to have lost the receipt. Make sure the staff is prepared to deal with such cases as well.
- The items that shoplifters hide products in can vary. Some people use bags and purses, others use strollers and prams. Some people even buy products like bags and then fill them up with stolen goods. Don’t underestimate a shopper who walks in without any additional items, they might even hide it in their attire.
Train Staff in Spotting Suspicious Behavior
A lot of damage can be avoided if the staff is trained in spotting behavior that is suspicious in nature. It doesn’t help that there is no profile that cuts across all shoplifters. A simple approach or question might spook them and make them think against shoplifting, while others might panic and get caught. Whatever the case, it is always better to have the staff prepared in case such an incident arises.
- The most common factor to consider is where items can be concealed. But this might not give them away as there might be items that they can conceal in their clothing.
- If the shopper walks away from you when you walk toward them, they could be hiding something from you.
- Acting like they are looking around and picking items to consider a purchase is another sign.
- If shoppers seem like they are paying more attention to the staff and employees as against the commodities in front of them, they might be plotting the best time to make their move. Make sure you are on the lookout for these signs as well.
- Fitting rooms in apparel stores should be monitored with great scrutiny because people often use them to conceal their items. So keeping a count of the number of items taken in and out might be a good way to monitor that.
Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) Tags
Many goods now have those tags that buzz the moment they cross a predetermined area. Investing in these electronic tags can help minimize the threat of articles being shoplifted. These tags are of highest utility when attached to apparels and other accessories or small-sized products. It is very difficult to tamper with these tags without someone in the staff noticing. If you have already employed an Electronic Article Surveillance system and it has not reaped any rewards, placing two tags on certain commodities that are often shoplifted might be a great way to catch shoplifters who tamper with tags.
You can also place the tags in hidden places would also help catch shoplifters. If you are unable to afford these tags for all products in your current budget, you can look at purchasing recycled tags or begin with tags only for valuable products. A few weeks or months with them might help you assess whether or not they are an investment worth making in your store. But it is always worth investing in these tags if you never have.
Fitting CCTV Cameras
Most shops that you visit these days have security cameras, at least at the cash registers and the entrances. Investing in CCTV surveillance along with ample signs makes shoppers understand that their actions might have consequences. It is said that installing surveillance cameras helps reduce the rate of robberies by 50%. Not only this, these cameras might also help if you want to see what is going on in your store while you are not physically present at your shop. Shoplifters, if spotted and confirmed in surveillance footage, could be prosecuted if there is enough evidence against them. Newer systems can also be installed with voice recorders so that conversations deemed threatening can be recorded for the provision of further evidence. This might be a massive preventative measure when it comes to someone who is contemplating shoplifting. If it is too expensive to invest in a surveillance system at the moment, you might even consider using dummy cameras that do not actually record footage but deter shoplifters from attempting something illegal. It might just work!
Alternative Security Measures
Based on the business you are involved in, there might or might not be a reason to invest in additional security measures. Measures such as purcheks can be used on shopping carts which can be locked and rendered immobile if someone is spotted shoplifting. Fog generated machines can be used in large spaces with highly valuable commodities, where an instant fog is generated to reduce visibility and generate confusion in those who are shoplifting. It might also help in those cases where there are armed robberies being attempted.
In stores that have highly valuable commodities, this kind of an investment might prove to be the difference between a robbery and a successful apprehension. Employing covert CCTV cameras could also be another such investment which can be installed in places that are prone to shoplifting. Instead of having a camera visible to anyone attempting a shoplift, such a camera might help catch someone who was not expecting it at all!
Put up Shoplifting Signs
Another important measure that can help abate the problem of shoplifting is that of communicating with shoppers. By making them aware that you know shoplifting occurs in the store, you might be halfway into scaring some of the potential shoplifters. Coupled with other security measures, knowledge about the potential consequences of these actions might go a long way in stopping shoplifters.
Even right before the crime is committed, if a shoplifter realizes the potential consequences, he might go and attempt such behavior at some other store. Not only signs of shoplifting, even indications of being under surveillance and the penalties of robberies and shoplifting would scare some shoplifters off. So while putting up shoplifting signs might not do much by themselves, they might be the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to security measures that are installed at the store.
If you are an apparel store, fitting rooms can serve as the ideal location for a lot of shoplifters. It gives them access to areas that are not under surveillance or any sort of monitoring. They can be in there alone and take all the time they want to set up their move or hide something cleverly. That is why there should be protocols that help the staff deal with the problem of shoplifting through fitting rooms. There are several measures that can be taken to prevent fitting room theft.
Firstly, shop owners should certainly invest in tokens that are given out to people that take items into fitting rooms. By allowing only a specific number of items per person at any point in time, staff can keep better track of all the shoppers that are using fitting rooms. They should also have at least one staff member who is only looking after the fitting rooms.
Another thing to look out for in the fitting rooms is empty hangers and torn labels or price tags. Those are the things that indicate a potential theft that might have taken place over there. Finally, by keeping unused fitting rooms locked, you can keep better track of all those rooms that are being used and who is in them. Once the fitting room is being handled with efficiency, the potential places that people will find safe for shoplifting reduce drastically.
Bag-Check Policy as a Preventive Measure
A bag check policy can be deployed at those stores that seem to be highly prone to shoplifting or have a history of shoplifting to support this measure. Customers should not be allowed to enter with bags or backpacks that can be used for hiding items. While customers might not be the most pleased when their bags are checked, helping them feel like they are involved in the bigger picture might help.
The staff must be trained to converse and make innocent customers understand the need for such measures and how it helps the large-scale safety of all the shoppers. What’s more important is that a bag-check policy would help make a lot of shoplifters uncomfortable and eliminate a major hiding place for many shoplifters. Not only this, lockers can be placed to secure baggage of those customers who go to use the fitting rooms. This would also help reduce the number of places that shoplifters can use to hide their stolen goods.
Cash Registers, PVMs and Smart Cameras
Additional measures can be taken to make shoppers feel like they are being watched. This would deter them from attempting another shoplift. Placing cash registers at entrances can help the staff keep a close eye on all those who enter and exit the premises of the store. This way the entrance would also be highly secure with a lot of eyes on it.
Another thing that always scares shoplifters is that of installing public view monitors (PVMs) that show shoplifters that they are being watched. These can be installed at the main entrances so that everyone that walks in is aware of the cameras as well as the feed that is being relayed through them. Along with this, people also use “smart” cameras in shops that have highly valuable products.
These cameras can do a lot more than just record footage. You can set alarms with a setting to detect specific suspicious behavior and make them follow people around a store as well. While these might not be of use to many business owners, a few businesses such as those that deal in jewelry and other such highly valuable commodities can make use of such technology.
Employ a Point of Sale (POS) System
A point of sale system is highly useful to understand and check the flow of commodities compared to revenue. Some stores are not aware of the amount of merchandise that is on display at any single point in time. By creating an efficient inventory management system that keeps cross-checking sales against revenue generated, you can develop a better understanding of the amount of shoplifting that is going on in the store. By keeping a close track on every transaction detail at the point of sale during a specific employee’s shift, this system can also help eliminate the risk of internal theft – a complaint that is common with many business owners.
The POS system can be used to identify loopholes in the entire chain of cost, margin, on-hand quantity and the amount of quantity to be reordered based on the value and frequency of sale. All these pointers can be used to understand the backend of the business while putting a numerical value on the things that are happening at the store every single day. Try making this investment to run a tight ship and make the employees know that theft is a serious business that they need to monitor as well.
Secure At-Risk Merchandise
Merchandise that is of a high value and at a high risk to be stolen must be kept secure and in locations that have a lot of eyes of both, staff as well as cameras. Products when in very high value can also have additional security measures around them that allow for a greater amount of safety. Jewelry and expensive electronics are examples of such commodities.
Not only should they be placed in central locations, the number of such products should also be kept at a bare minimum and should be restocked only when necessary to prevent the chances of them being stolen. Theft prevention can be performed by taking such measures and thinking like a thief. By placing covert cameras as well as signs that indicate that they are being watched, thieves might be highly uncertain and uncomfortable to shoplift. That is how multiple approaches to security can help prevent shoplifting.
Involve the Police
Shoplifting is addictive. If it works for you once, your imagination compels you to think of the many things that can be stolen if you are smart. This makes it all the more critical to involve the police when it comes to shoplifters. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) claims that more than a third of juveniles and over half of the adults caught for shoplifting found it very difficult to stop even after being caught. This kind of addiction is of the highest order and requires professional intervention.
So when you think that a shoplift worth only a few dollars might not amount to anything drastic, taking stern measures will help the shoplifter come out of this addictive habit. If you let them go scott-free, they will go and try the same tricks somewhere else or come back to your store with a bigger theft in mind at a later date. Local law enforcement has several guidelines and tips along with options to reach out to them when shoplifters are caught. Spend some time finding these pathways and make use of them when the need arises.
Be Prepared with a Plan
While all the preventive measures are of great help, the staff needs to be prepared when a shoplifter is spotted in the store. The most common approach that the staff use is to go up to a suspect and ask them if they can be of any help. This would be followed by a ring to the local security in case there is a violent turn of events. Staff can also pair up while notifying the manager so that everything is in control before the apprehension.
In order to make the staff comfortable with the entire situation, they should be trained to handle these situations through role-playing and other such activities. This would give them the confidence to deal with shoplifters when the situation arises. If someone leaves the store without paying, one employee can follow the individual while another calls 911 with a proper description and details of the person. Being prepared allows you to have all your options clear in your head and act on them when the time comes.
These guidelines should cover everything that you must do if you are looking to prevent shoplifting and the loss of items through shoplifting in your store. Most of these guidelines apply to all businesses and can be used universally to stop shoplifters from targeting your store. The risk of shoplifting will never cease to exist, nor will the act itself. But if you can deter shoplifters from your store and make them believe that your store is impervious to shoplifters, the incidence of these acts will certainly reduce over time.
Well-trained staff backed with adequate security measures along with a strong support system through inventory management and local law enforcement should cover everything that can be done to prevent these shoplifters from targeting your store. It is always better to be safe than sorry!