According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than $25 million worth of merchandise is stolen from retailers each and every day. Shoplifting has become a large part of retail shrinkage. No matter how big or small your retail store may be or where it is located, all types of retailers are susceptible to the growing problem of shoplifting. This guide will help you identify shoplifters and shoplifting methods and also give you tips to create a less attractive environment for shoplifters and how to deal with them.

What to Look For

The best way to prevent shoplifting is to train your staff on how to spot a potential shoplifter. Employees need to watch for customers who:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Appear nervous
  • Wander the store without buying
  • Leave the store and returns repeatedly
  • Linger in a location that employees have a hard time monitoring
  • Constantly keep an eye on store employees and other customers.

Preventive Measures

In addition to training your employees to spot shoplifters, general shoplifting-prevention techniques include:

  • Staying alert at all times
  • Greeting all customers
  • Asking lingering customers if they need help
  • Knowing where shoplifting is most likely to occur in the location
  • Using a log to share suspicions about shoplifters among employees
  • Displaying signs that ‘Shoplifters will be prosecuted’

Stopping Shoplifters

When shoplifting is suspected, it’s crucial for your employees to know how to handle incidents

  • Never directly accuse anyone of stealing (call security instead)
  • Give the person a chance to pay for the item they forgot to pay for by asking,“Are you ready to pay for that?”
  • Never try to physically stop a shoplifter. Call security
  • Cooperate fully with security if/when the time comes

Another important angle to factor in is employee theft. Some specialty retailers say employee theft is a bigger threat to their bottom line than shoplifting. Experts agree that the best defense is a watchful eye. Try these strategies:

Stop by your store without warning

Make periodic (yet randomly timed) unannounced visits to each and every retail location.

Spot-check inventory/drawer

During unannounced visits, announce: “I’m just double-checking inventory numbers and doing a register check.” Pick a few products and check physical inventory against inventory sheets/POS inventory figures. If possible, run a cash drawer reconciliation. Announce: “I’ll be back again soon to run through this again.” This lets employees know management is keeping its eye on the ball.

Have an inventory-tracking system

Use a POS system that tracks inventory automatically or, at a minimum, use paper-based inventory-tracking sheets to send a signal to employees that inventory is indeed being monitored.

Check your CCTV videos

Randomly skim through the day or notice if there are any missing days or times in the recordings. Sometimes, just by installing closed circuit cameras it simply acts as a preventive measure for employees and shoplifters.

Train employees

Provide all employees with training on theft-prevention, both shoplifting and employee theft. Discuss the ways the company is prepared to detect either.

Encourage anonymous tips

Publish a phone number employees can call to leave an anonymous message if they suspect a co-worker of stealing product or cash.

Watch the no-sales

Many retail owners know that the leading indicator of theft is a single piece of data: the “no sale” number. For e.g. if a typical day’s no-sale tally is four, but every time a particular employee works the tally is 10, there may be a problem.

Of course, there’s no way to completely protect yourself against shoplifting and employee theft, but if you make customers and employees aware that you’re keeping a close eye on your business, experts say that’s the first and most-critical step in shrinking your losses.