Retail theft robs US retailers of well over $15 billion per year: approximately $35 million a day. While a service business may only have to worry about shrinkage of office supplies, those who sell a variety of products on the floor have their work cut out for them trying to control the loss of easy-to-steal items like clothing, food, books, jewelry, and small hand-held electronics.
There’s a lot more to it than placing a few visible cameras, posting theft-deterrent signs and teaching your employees to spot suspicious behavior — then hope they’ll take action when they do see a situation!
You have to have as many bases covered as you can to prevent unpaid-for merchandise from hemorrhaging out the doors:
1. Lock Them Up:
No, not the customers you’ve caught stealing from you! — be sure to follow all applicable laws in your area about how/if you can restrain thieves. Limit access to items by using locking glass displays on the floor and behind the counter. Just don’t make the foolish mistake of not having enough employees on the floor to make sure people can actually examine items before their purchase. Make sure your employees are responsive and attentive or you might just well close the doors for all the sales you’ll get in a day.
2. Maximize Visibility on Your Sales Floor:
Try to eliminate as many blind spots as you can. These are the areas with no obvious camera coverage, out of the way of you, your management and your employees — even of good samaritans who’ll jump into action and call a thief out if they see something happening. Cameras are much cheaper than they used to be but unless you have someone manning a monitor all day, cameras are good for catching thieves after the fact and may not prevent all theft. Install mirrors at blind spots and make sure your employees have an easy view of them in the most frequent places they’ll be most of the day.
3. Have a Shoplifting Policy on Display:
Post it at several locations throughout your store, and follow that policy to the letter. No exceptions, even if it’s your family! If “Shoplifters will be reported to police, charged and prosecuted”, is your policy you must stand by it. The posted policy will scare away timid thieves. Knowing that you don’t mess around with theft will get the word out to greedy risk takers that you’ll make sure they see their day in court, and encourage them to find an easier target.
4. Checkout at the Door:
When people have to walk straight past attentive employees, they’ll be less inclined to steal from you. Keep attractive easy-to-steal items near the register so they aren’t away from the prying eyes of your employees too.
5. Be Attentive to Shoplifting Warning Signs:
Some shoplifters out there are really slick, knowing just how to look innocent and not draw suspicion to themselves. This isn’t true of most, even seasoned shoplifters, who practically have “shoplifter” written on their forehead. Watch and teach your employees to watch for people who spend more time staring at your employees and other customers than they do the merchandise, who appear to wander aimlessly, who seem to prefer harder to monitor blind spots in the store, and who leave and come back often without ever buying anything.
6. “Check all Bags and Backpacks Before Shopping Please”:
Before you let yourself start to think this to be a deterrent from shopping at your establishment entirely, consider how uncomfortable it is to demand checking the bag of a suspected thief, only to have them comply and find out they didn’t steal anything. Or to miss a big heist of clothing or loose jewelry right under your nose! Walmart does it, so should you.
7. Inspect All Boxes, Baskets, Purses, etc. — at Checkout:
Any product you sell like shoeboxes, games, purses, backpacks, or any other product that can conceal something will be used by thieves to sneak merchandise past your staff and straight out the door, never to be seen again. Make sure your employees open any box that isn’t taped shut and to inspect anything that zips or buttons shut before taking payment.
Hey, these 7 theft prevention tips won’t prevent shoplifting altogether, but they can help a heck of a lot:
Not having a clear theft prevention plan is a sure path to financial ruin!
This is another great article about how to prevent theft in your retail store, from the folks at SmallBizTrends.com: http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/04/ways-to-prevent-shoplifting.html
Main image by Fort George G. Meade