According to The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), more than $13 billion worth of goods are stolen from retailers each year. That’s more than $35 million worth of merchandise stolen from retailers every day. With numbers that high it’s no wonder businesses are seeking ideas for reducing the risk of shoplifting and other commercial burglaries.
Here are six tips to prevent customer theft
- Make eye contact. It’s not only good customer service to greet shoppers as soon as they walk in the door, but it also shows a would-be shoplifter you run a store with an alert and engaged staff. Make sure employees know to check on browsing customers regularly, as most shoplifting occurs as a crime of opportunity.
- Look for tell-tale signs. Tell employees to look for shoppers with large coats or loose clothing. Other tools of the trade include closed umbrellas where smaller items can easily be slipped in, baby strollers, and shopping bags from other stores. Institute a store policy to leave shopping bags and backpacks in a safe designated area of the store, such as behind the register. Also, be aware of large groups entering a store at the same time. Shoplifting “flash mobs” enter a store together, quickly grab what they can, and run back out of the store before retailers know what hit them.
- Limit access to certain areas. An open, easy-to-shop store with wide aisles pleases customers, but you should clearly mark which areas are off-limits. Lock dressing room doors when unattended and post signs for employee-only spaces. Management offices and stock rooms should also be locked, and the passcodes changed when employees quit. Also, lock display cases containing expensive items.
- Lights, Cameras, Action! There are numerous easy-to-install security cameras on the market today to keep an eye on shoppers when you can’t. Post signage revealing your property is under 24/7 surveillance to discourage shoplifting and break-ins. Make sure all areas of the store (inside and out) are well-lit. Motion detection lights are helpful after closing time to discourage criminals looking for dark places to break in.
- Keep it clean. It’s hard to notice when items go missing when shelves and counters are cluttered and disorganized. Consider only setting out a certain number of any one item and keeping the rest in the stock room, so you can keep better track of your inventory. Outside areas should be clean and tidy. Keeping trees and bushes away from access points makes it hard for burglars to break in without being seen.
- Go high-tech. Anti-theft solutions run the gamut from security film that makes it harder to break windows to facial recognition systems that alert store owners when a known shoplifter has entered the store. In the middle are tagging systems tied to register activity so you’ll be alerted when an item is leaving the store that hasn’t been paid for. Talk to other business owners to see what technology has worked for their stores and read up on the latest in loss prevention technology.
Because shoplifting laws vary from state to state, be sure you know the specific procedures you must follow and what rights you have as a store owner. For example, in some jurisdictions, you can’t approach a suspected shoplifter until the person has left the store. To be safe, never approach a suspect alone and always have the local police number handy to call.
Learn more about different types of business risks in Progressive’s e-guide, “Prepare and Protect: The small business owner’s guide to identifying and managing risks.”