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Preventing Retail Theft and Shoplifting – 7 Tips to Reduce Loss Through Theft
From high street supermarket brands to the smaller convenience store, there is one issue that links them all – theft. Whether you are a clothing retailer or a purveyor of fine foods, you will at some point in the past, and in the future too, have to deal with theft.
Are shoplifting and theft more of an issue today?
Supermarket theft is on the rise in the UK and that has led to changes in supermarket security. At one time, it was only high-value items such as alcohol that were targeted.
However, it’s far more common to see other tagged items such as joints of meat. Likewise, uncertainty over Brexit could lead to panic buying, with supermarkets bearing the brunt.
Compounding the issues of panic-buying and theft is the growing concern over diminishing police numbers as well as the deterrent to ‘low value’ shoplifting being no deterrent at all.
The 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act defined law value shoplifting as a summary offence. Police forces decided they wouldn’t investigate shop thefts with a value of less than £200.
Someone caught stealing goods with a value of less than £200 can still be arrested but can plead guilty by post, only appearing before magistrates if they deny the offence.
Can shoplifting and theft be prevented?
Taking steps to protect your stock is clearly important but how can you step up your prevention to theft?
#1 Hire security personnel
An increase in the visible presence of security staff sends a clear message. From a security guard on the door, to patrol the aisles of your store, there is no denying the impact a clear visible security presence has on would-be thieves.
HINT – consider plains-cloths security personnel too. Ideal for mingling unnoticed on the shop floor, they can monitor key areas or items of stock.
#2 Install or upgrade CCTV
If you don’t have CCTV, you really need to consider adding a system to your shop. But if you haven’t updated your system in some time, now is the time to do it. Providing valuable evidence, you need footage that is in colour and has a high-quality picture, essential for pursuing convictions. Relatively inexpensive, modern CCTV systems can also connect to a smartphone, tablet etc. making monitoring all areas of a store much easier.
HINT – don’t forget to notify people with prominent signs that on entering your store, they are being recorded.
#3 Monitor self-service tills consistently
Great for when shoppers are in a hurry or only buying a few items, self-service tills have a downside in that self-service till theft has risen dramatically in recent years. Swapping the label from a low-value item and placing it on a higher-value item is just one trick that some of your customers could be using to get away with goods in a seemingly legitimate way.
#4 Keep your store tidy
At a glance, can you tell if something if your store has moved or if there is a bigger gap in the shelf than you would expect? Keeping your store tidy is essential and facing your products on the shelf is also known to put potential thieves off. Why? Facing goods and bringing them to the edge of the shelf allows shop workers to determine if something has been taken.
#5 Engage with customers
By engaging with customers, offering them help etc., it shows all shoppers (including those intent on leaving with goods without paying) that you are vigilant and active in your store.
#6 Put up warning signs
From CCTV being in operation to ‘thieves will be prosecuted’, sending clear messages that theft will not be tolerated is also important for sending a clear message to thieves.
#7 Understand customer behaviour
Someone intent on stealing from your store will act differently to other shoppers intent on buying the items on their list and then carrying on to their next task. There is no one profile that fits the shoplifter persona. But take note of people’s behaviour – wearing a coat on a warm day, carrying many shopping bags, being in a crowd, being on their own, looking around, being fidgety, being slow in completing their shopping… there are so many giveaways that when you know what to look for, become glaringly obvious.
Theft costs you dearly. Of course, it is not just customers who steal from you – sadly, it could be the people who work for you. In 2017, there were over 10,000 cases of workplace theft by employees reported in England and Wales.
Not all theft happens during break-ins but ensuring the physical security of your premises is important too. From a lock-up procedure to patrol securing your premises at night, being vigilant and engaging during trading hours is off-putting to would-be thieves.
The more effort a thief or shoplifter has to make to get away with their spoils, the less likely they are to target your store.