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Top tips for preventing shoplifting

3-minute read

Josh Hall

Josh Hall

19 January 2011

According to a new report, shoplifters now steal goods worth £400,000 from British retailers every single day. The cost of shoplifting is going up, and retailers need to consider ways to protect themselves.

Shoplifting losses are never welcome, but with many retailers concerned about the potential for reduced consumer spending this year, protecting yourself against theft has rarely been so important.

Preventing shoplifting is something of a Sisyphean task. But, while you may never be able to eliminate the risk altogether, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself from thieves.

1. Install visible security

Many shoplifters are simply opportunists. If your shop looks like easy pickings, your chances of falling victim to thieves are increased. On the other hand, if your premises are visibly secure, many potential shoplifters simply will not bother coming in.

Make sure that your security systems are within plain sight, but not obtrusive. You may also consider displaying polite but firm notices explaining that shoplifters will be prosecuted.

2. Minimise access

Customers should not have unnecessary access to products, particularly if those products are of high value. Consider placing big-ticket items in cases or behind counters. Alternatively, if you want potential customers to be able to touch and try them, make sure that they are properly secured.

You should also make sure that toilets and similar areas do not have outside access. This will help to prevent shoplifters picking up an item, taking it to the toilet, and leaving through a window.

3. Consider anti-theft technology

Many retailers use a range of anti-theft technology to help minimise the shoplifting risk. This technology comes in many forms, and your choice will depend on the nature of the products you sell.

You might choose, for example, to electronically tag your products. This can be a very effective deterrent. You should also consider installing CCTV systems, both to help you catch shoplifters and to help persuade them not to bother in the first place.

4. Train staff

Your staff are amongst your most important and effective defences against shoplifters. But in order to remain effective and, more importantly, safe, they need to be properly trained.

You should make sure that all customer-facing staff know how to identify potential shoplifters. Often, simply approaching a suspected shoplifter and asking something like, “Can I help?” is enough to stop a theft. But generally speaking, staff members should never be told to challenge shoplifters. Instead, they should call a manager or the police and avoid putting themselves in harm’s way.

5. Keep an accurate inventory

It is extraordinary how many retailers fall victim to shoplifters without even realising it. You cannot protect yourself from shoplifters unless you know exactly what is happening – and this means that you have to keep an accurate inventory.

Make sure that every sale is marked off against your stock list. Any unexplained discrepancies should be considered to be possible shoplifting incidents. This will also help you to determine whether or not your preventative efforts are successful; if the number of discrepancies goes down, you are doing something right.

6. Consider civil recovery

Civil recovery schemes provide retailers with an opportunity to recover the cost of stolen items through civil (as opposed to criminal) proceedings. They are a potentially valuable way of cutting your shoplifting losses.

It is important to remember, though, that civil recovery schemes have been broadly criticised – primarily because a worryingly large number of unscrupulous retailers have been misusing them. You should always take independent legal advice when considering civil recovery.

Shoplifting is an unpleasant fact of life for retailers. But with a bit of forethought you can help to reduce your potential losses from theft.

Image courtesy The Moog on Flickr.

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