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Tips for Preventing and Handling Shoplifters

Tips for Preventing and Handling Shoplifters

When it comes to improving the safety and security of your store, it’s easy to counter the obvious threats like fires or break-ins, but there are other, less obvious threats that still demand your attention. 

Shoplifting is a common threat for many businesses, especially for smaller retailers. With a finite budget, it can be more of a challenge to counter the threat of retail theft and protect your inventory. Hiring a security guard is one option, but there are some other tricks you can put up your sleeve to give you more options to handle the problem. Take a look at these shoplifting prevention tips to help answer the question of how to handle shoplifters

Update your store layout so you can monitor everything

  1. Implement shoplifting policies

    One of the most effective steps on how to stop shoplifting is having a policy in place. Ideally, it shouldn’t happen, but it’s better to have a policy and not need it than to need it and not have it. A well-developed policy ensures you and your staff have the tools to deal with any incidents of shoplifting when they occur. Take into account concerns like how to approach a suspect, who to contact after an incident, what to do with shoplifters after you’ve found them, and what documentation and information you’ll need to provide the police. 

    Like first-aid training, it’s vital your employees have the right know-how to ensure they’re always prepared for the worst. Proper training is key to keeping employees sharp so they know what to do in case of an incident. Do annual reviews and training to ensure your staff have a clear idea of how to respond when confronting a suspected shoplifter. 

    Organize everything so you can keep track of your inventory 

  2. Keep your store organized

    Cleanliness and orderliness in a commercial establishment are a great boon for your business, especially once you realize how it helps you spot shoplifters. In an organized store, it’s much easier to keep an eye on your items. Empty spaces can be a dead giveaway that something’s been stolen, so position your items where you and your staff can keep them in sight at all times. 

    Unorganized stores present more opportunities for shoplifters to steal things; it’s often taken as a sign that employees aren’t paying too much attention. A good rule of thumb is to set up your merchandise so it faces employees and creates a solid wall of products. In case someone sweeps the shelf, it’s much easier to tell and catch them right away.

  3. Optimize your layout for greater visibility

    Most shoplifting is spontaneous. With the right layout, you can take steps to help your store catch shoplifters more easily. It’s also a great way to help keep an eye on merchandise and monitor who comes in or out. Set up the checkout so customers must pass that way when exiting, for example. This layout allows you to ensure that anyone leaving the store pays for what they take. 

    For additional safety, make sure you have someone attending the cash register at all times, and keep it locked while you’re at it. You can also move displays around to improve your field of vision and eliminate any blind spots shoplifters may use to stay unnoticed. Install brighter lighting and concave mirrors as well to keep an eye on areas not in direct line-of-sight. Finally, keep your displays and fixtures low so you can see what’s happening inside the store at all times.Use customer service to attend to everyone in the store


  4. Leverage your customer service

    Great customer service has other benefits aside from enhancing the customer experience. If you’ve ever wondered if store employees can help stop shoplifting, the answer is yes. Take advantage of your customer service to deter shoplifters from preying on your merchandise. A proactive approach helps give customers more attention, making it harder for shoplifters to feel invisible enough to try swiping anything. 

    Start by having employees greet each customer as they enter the store. It’s more than a way to be polite, it’s also a way to let them know you’re aware of their presence. Another thing that helps is having a policy on bags. Create a policy so customers leave large bags behind the counter to avoid shoplifters hiding things in bags when you can’t see them. While you’re at it, create a discreet code you and your staff can use to alert each other in case of suspicious activity. Having policies in place is a great way to maintain control over a difficult situation; take steps to create a policy now, or update yours to ensure maximum readiness.

  5. Identify common shoplifting methods

    There isn’t a specific profile for shoplifters (after all, thieves can come in all shapes and sizes), but there are some common behaviours that can make them easier to spot. Many shoplifters, especially those new to the process, often show warning signs before they make a move. They often wear baggy clothes, carry large bags, spend plenty of time in the same aisle, or keep checking to see if they’re being watched. These signs aren’t always indicative of a potential shoplifter, but it’s worth keeping an eye out when you notice anything suspicious. 

    As another loss prevention tip, keep an eye out for other warning signs like price label switching to ensure your store doesn’t suffer unnecessary losses. Sometimes, bolder shoplifters may try to snatch and grab, so set up your layout to make it harder for them to flee. 

    Pay extra attention when the store gets busy 

  6. Watch out at peak shoplifting times

    Pay attention to the times to give yourself advance warning. Many shoplifters tend to strike at times when you’re most busy. On average, shoplifting typically occurs later in the week, between Wednesday and Saturday. 

    Shoplifters also tend to strike more often during seasons where there’s a high demand for goods (e.g. during the holiday season). Be especially vigilant during those times to ensure you aren’t caught napping. Shoplifters may also be more likely to strike when it seems your business may be more vulnerable, like when employees are on break. Stagger your lunch hours and break times to ensure that there’s always someone watching the store to deter would-be thieves.Back up your cameras by setting up signs


  7. Signs matter

    Visual cues can be a high-impact answer to the question of how to stop stealing. Prominent signs are an indicator that you take security seriously, and that you have taken steps to prevent it. These anti-theft signs also work constantly, even when shoppers move out of sight. 

    Keep in mind that your signs should scare potential thieves, not your own shoppers. Make your signs reflective of who you are and what you’re selling. Use language that corresponds to your brand and appeals to your target audience as well. Some good spots to place your signs include near the front door (to get the attention of anyone entering), or higher up (near where you put your security cameras).

Security is any business’s concern, and we at the Centre for Security Training & Management are here to offer professional help. We provide quality training for security guards so they are well-prepared to keep your business safe and secure. Contact us now at (416) 750-4747 or at info@centreforsecurity.com when you need security guards you can trust to look after your interests.