The risk of theft and shoplifting is a challenge that many retail store owners contend with on a daily basis, regardless of their size.
Owning a store is a big investment of time and money, not to mention your hard work and passion! You want to keep your store protected so we’re providing a few theft prevention tips that can help you manage the risks and offer an extra layer of safety to you, your employees, and your customers.
Establish a theft prevention strategy
Whether your store has been a long-time fixture in the community or it’s the new kid on the block, a theft prevention strategy is a necessary first step. So, what does a theft prevention strategy look like for your store?
Any robust theft prevention strategy should include the following:
- Clearly documented policies and procedures that address:
- Your goal – e.g. to prosecute or get the merchandise back?
- Your tolerance policy for shoplifters: Will you prosecute those under 18? Is there a minimum dollar amount?
- How to confront a thief?
- What to do if the thief shows remorse or offers to pay?
- Who will call the police, and when?
- Detailed deterrence techniques, including excellent customer service and security systems (read more details below).
- A strong employee training program: training your staff for theft prevention is your best defense. Ensure you have regular training so your staff can work as a team to prevent the theft.
- An emergency contact list.
- An updated employee work schedule. This can act as supporting documentation should you need witness statement or if you suspect internal theft.
How to identify suspicious behaviour
Excellent customer service training alongside theft prevention training, is key. When you have dedicated and engaged staff, who are eager to help and support your customers, they also can keep an eye on what is happening in the store and are more likely to identify a shoplifter.
It’s important to remember that all customers regardless of financial circumstance, age, gender, and race, must be treated equally; profiling is strongly discouraged.
Watch for common practices that thieves’ use to identify potential theft, for example:
- Thieves rarely work alone. Keep an eye out for accomplices used to distract employees.
- Thieves may use a variety of tactics beyond hiding merchandise and leaving the store, including switching price tags (check for loose price tags), and making fraudulent returns. When staff are very familiar with inventory, this can help to spot any suspicious acts at the cash register.
- Thieves may use items like strollers, umbrellas, handbags or bulky coats to hide stolen goods. Create a procedure to address how to approach when a customer enters your store with these items in tow.
- Thieves may look around a lot to make sure no one is watching them. They may also avoid eye contact. A tactic involving aggressive customer service can help identify or deter a thief in these cases.
- In clothing stores, thieves may bring many clothes into the dressing room to conceal items under their clothing. Having staff who closely monitor dressing rooms and consistently check in with customers as they try on clothes, can help deter shoplifters.
Prevent theft with thoughtful store design
In addition to staff training and providing exceptional customer service, store design can help with theft prevention.
When we think of theft prevention, security cameras and security personnel immediately come to mind. There are a variety of technology that can assist with theft prevention and security, including installing cameras and or a security tag system. Do your research to learn what works best for your store and your budget.
Additional affordable ways to use store design to deter thieves are as follows:
- Keep shelves and aisles well organized. Design your store to ensure maximum visibility – use short displays or shelving to allow for increased visibility in aisles. Remove clutter and avoid overcrowding shelves.
- Install mirrors, especially convex mirrors that expose the hidden areas of your store. Stock these hidden areas with bulky items that are difficult to steal.
- Place your checkout counter so it’s located where customers must pass by to exit the store.
- Place valuable items in locked cases that require employee assistance to access the items.
- Place the dressing room in a high traffic area and use features like short doors where feet can be seen. Install signage inside the dressing room to warn against shoplifting.
- Ensure your store is well-lit, including during the winter when the days are shorter and it’s darker in the evenings.
You may consider installing fake security cameras as an affordable way to deter opportunistic shoplifters from taking action.
In the end, the best security is your employees – the more a customer feels they are being watched, the less likely they will attempt to steal. This is especially important for small business that lack the budget for security staff and equipment.
An added layer of protection: business insurance for your store
Theft is a risk for all business owners. Being proactive and putting the tips provided in place, can help your efforts to deter thieves. An added layer of protection is your business insurance coverage. Check in with your broker to ensure you have the proper coverage when it comes to theft and loss prevention.
Our business is protecting your business. Contact a local BrokerLink business insurance advisor today!
Theft Prevention FAQs
How should I handle a robbery in my retail store?
Being caught in a theft or robbery can be a terrifying experience. Thorough training on the store’s policies and procedures is vital to ensuring that employees remain calm in these situations. Don’t take action that could jeopardize your safety or the safety of your employees and customers. Be sure to take a good look at the thief and make note of any details that may be useful to the police. Call the police as soon as the thieves leave the premises and hold all witnesses until the police arrive. Jot down as much information as possible to ensure you don’t forget key details.
Is it illegal to frisk suspicious customers?
You could be charged with assault if you apprehend a customer physically, however, there are certain steps you can take, that should be incorporated into your theft prevention policy. We recommend you speak with your local police division as they offer programs and protocols to support shop owners. If you are in a shopping mall, discuss the protocols with mall security – they usually also work closely with the local police division.