Cameras, mirrors and friendly staff are your best defenseThe National Association for Shoplifting Prevention says that as many as 550,000 incidents of shoplifting occur each day, totaling $10 billion of goods stolen each year. Big companies are able to afford full-time loss prevention departments to tackle the problem, but we're going to give you tips and tools to do it yourself.
To understand shoplifting, you first need to understand who you're up against. There are three types of thieves:
- The hide-it thief. While no one is watching, he slides that T-shirt into the bulky jacket, or stuffs that item into a bag he brought into the store. To steal clothing, he may hide it on his body (sometimes wearing the clothes) while in a fitting room.
- The grab and go. You'll probably find two techniques here. One is the thief who grabs an item and dashes for the exit into a busy street or waiting car. The other one is more deceptive. When working retail years ago, we had a thief roll a bicycle right out of the store, while all the employees thought it had been paid for. It hadn't!
- The organized thief. Retail theft rings will use distraction techniques, often entering with multiple associates. Sometimes they swap items (such as in jewelry stores) and have even used foil-lined bags to sneak items beyond door sensors.
Scared yet? Don't be. Let's get started covering the ways you can prevent most shoplifting at your business.
Break out the personal skills
educating your employees about shoplifting.
Put the eyes in the skyIf a criminal act can be seen, then you have evidence, which is why shoplifters avoid places where their acts can be spotted. The best tools for this are video surveillance (a.k.a. CCTV) and convex mirrors. Mirrors work best in smaller stores with lower-height shelves on the aisles so employees can see around the shop floor. Cameras work better when you need to put an "eye" in a place that's difficult to watch. Dummy cameras can even be effective as long as some of the cameras are real.
Bag it, tag it.Retailers have found that if you tag the items, they're less likely to be stolen. Systems used typically include ink tags, which explode a dye packet if they're tampered with (and they're darn near impossible to remove in the store without an ink experience). Electronic article surveillance systems (EAS) set off an alarm if an item is removed from the store without the tag being deactivated by your cashiers.
- Make sure your staff also keeps the store tidy (cleanliness and organization makes it easier for you to spot missing items and criminal acts) and check people into the fitting rooms, when appropriate. But your sales employees aren't cops, so don't have them trying to catch shoplifters who are moving with goods. They're best used as prevention, not interception.
- If you deal in apparel, limit the number of items that go into fitting rooms and make sure the same number come out.
- Keep your aisles low if possible. It's hard to conceal a crime if Bob, who is shopping for candy cars on the next aisle, can see the criminal's every move.
- Keep the expensive items away from the grab-and-go area near the front of the store.
- Elevate the cashier's counter near the front of the store, giving them a commanding view and placing them between a shoplifter and an exit.
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