How to prevent shoplifting: 10 ways to protect your retail business

Every week there’s a new story - someone has tried to shoplift something in brazen or bizarre fashion.

Whether it’s the well-known trick of trying to secrete something away in a bag or under clothes, or something more devious, like the people who set up a fake company hiring ‘mystery shoppers’ and ordering them to steal, there are those out there who will try to pull a fast one on you.

With that in mind, these are our top 10 tips for preventing theft, and what to do if you do fall victim to it.

10 tips to prevent shoplifting

1. Know how to spot a shoplifter

One of the first things to prepare yourself and your employees for is how shoplifters are likely to behave. That way you’ll be able to spot them more easily and hopefully be able to stop them.

If someone is planning to shoplift from you, they may well display the following behaviours:

  • Attempting to avoid being noticed
  • Looking nervous, sweating or becoming flushed
  • Picking up and putting back the same items repeatedly
  • Paying more attention to what’s around them than the product in their hand or on the shelves in front of them
  • Wearing large coats, even in hot weather, or carrying large bags

Of course, this behaviour doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is planning to steal from you, but they’re signs worth looking out for.

2. Implement shoplifting policies and procedures

Sometimes, even if they suspect someone of shoplifting, your employees may not know what to do about it.

Make sure you have a comprehensive shoplifting policy in place and that your employees are trained in how to implement it should they spot a shoplifter.

Read on for techniques you can include in your shoplifting policy.

3. Use customer service to your advantage

Shoplifters will often get spooked if they know they’ve been spotted, so you can leverage good customer service in order to prevent theft.

If you suspect someone might be planning to shoplift, one approach is to go up to them and ask if they need any help or would like directing to a particular product. Alternatively, you could tidy the shelves near by, making them aware of your presence, or stand guard by the exit.

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4. Optimise your layout

If you can change the layout of your shop, these techniques will make it harder for shoplifters to get away with your products:

  • Put your cash register by the door so customers have to pass you when leaving - and make sure never to leave it unlocked
  • Keep blind spots to a minimum, either by moving displays around or installing brighter lighting and convex mirrors
  • If your displays are lower down, you’ll be able to see customers over the top of them

These techniques aren’t 100 per cent foolproof, but they will help deter shoplifters and make it easier for you to spot them.

5. Identify at-risk items and take precautions

If there are items you know are more likely to be stolen, either because you’ve experienced it in the past or because they’re more expensive, take particular care to make them a harder target for shoplifters.

You could place these items in locked display cases, if that’s a viable option. Alternatively you could make sure their displays are near the till, or somewhere where a member of staff will always be able to keep an eye on them.

6. Complete regular stock takes

It’s hard to know if you’ve been stolen from if you don’t know what you had in the first place.

Keeping up-to-date with your stock takes and inventories will help you identify any theft, or even spot patterns if it happens regularly, and you can then make the necessary changes.

7. Put up warning signs

Shoplifters can be easily spooked, so letting them know they’re being watched and what the consequences of their theft will be can act as an effective deterrent.

Putting up signs informing customers that you have CCTV or other security measures either inside or outside of your shop is a good way of warding off any potential shoplifters.

8. Introduce additional security measures

You may decide it’s not enough to just try to discourage shoplifters and that you’d actually like some additional security in place.

This can be in the form of CCTV cameras, tags and alarms, or you could even hire security guards if you feel your business is at serious risk of theft.

9. Work in partnership with the local community

Some areas will have local retail crime initiatives, allowing you to share information about known shoplifters.

You can also link up your CCTV with others in the network and keep the police in the loop, making it easier to identify and catch any perpetrators.

10. Stay vigilant

Above all, make sure you stay on the ball with your shoplifting prevention. If you don’t notice something has happened, then there’ll be very little you can do about it.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of theft

It’s important to let both the police and your insurer know if you’ve had items stolen from your shop.

Shop insurance from Simply Business can cover you for theft, so if you don’t have a policy yet in place, then it may be time to start thinking about one.

These are tips only. Please take appropriate measures to keep your shop safe and check your insurance documents to make sure you understand what’s covered under your policy.

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