This article was previously published September 7, 2017 and updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Shoplifting is an issue all retail businesses must face. It’s especially detrimental to small businesses that are unable to incur significant losses. Although shoplifting decreased significantly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had made a resurgence since stores started reopening.

Fortunately for retail business owners, not all is lost. With an effective crime prevention strategy, stores can better safeguard their assets and minimize inventory loss. Below we outline different ways you can strengthen your business’s crime prevention strategies to help prevent shoplifting in your stores.

Train Your Employees to Spot Shoplifting

Your employees are key to preventing shoplifting in your stores, which is why training is so important. Training should be part of every new employee’s onboarding experience. Your seasoned employees should have proper training as well.

There is no universal profile of a shoplifter. However, about 25% of all shoplifters are under 18, so it’s not just adults employees you have to keep an eye on. Shoplifting can also happen at any time. But studies indicate that shoplifting is more likely to occur after school hours, in the late morning, or during busy retail days (i.e. Wednesday through Saturday).

Although shoplifters can target anything in stores, there are some common items that are more targeted than others. Ultimately, it all depends on the type of retail store you operate and the products you sale. But these are most targeted items for shoplifters:

  • Clothes
  • Alcohol
  • Razors
  • Baby Formula
  • Electronics (chargers and headphones)
  • Over-the-Counter Drugs
  • Lighters
  • Food (meat, cheese, bread, milk)

Employees should understand all emergency procedures, so they know what to do if they suspect shoplifting. Staff members should not accuse a customer of shoplifting or physically confront a shoplifter. Instead, instruct them to give the customer a chance to pay or to contact security to handle the situation properly. To further mitigate the risk of shoplifting, encourage employees to take the following actions:

  • Appoint a point of contact to reach out to should an issue arise. This is generally security personnel.
  • Greet customers at the door, so they know you’re in the store.
  • Keep a log of any suspicious behavior, such as loitering, to share with coworkers.
  • Look out for common indicators of shoplifters, such as customers who avoid eye contact, aimlessly wander around the store, or watch employees.
  • Offer assistance to lingering customers.
  • Stay vigilant at all times.

It’s also important to note that not all shoplifting threats come externally. Sometimes employees are the ones stealing items. If an employee suspects someone internally is shoplifting, they should report it directly to the manager. It’s best to confront the issue right away and let the employee explain themselves. Afterward, it’s up to the manager and owner to decide the right course of action.

Keep Eyes on Your Business 24/7 with a Smart Security System

A security system is a business’s first line and last line of defense. By installing smart security devices, managers can keep tabs on their businesses at all times. Storeowners can also address security vulnerabilities by safeguarding all corners of the store. Additionally, you should train employees on how to properly operate security devices and access footage.

Here is some security equipment that help keep an eye on all in-store activity and monitor any areas where employees might overlook:

  • Video surveillance cameras discourage shoplifters because they know they are being watched and you have video evidence if a theft occurs.
  • Access control bars criminals from accessing inventory or supply rooms.
  • Electronic article surveillance audibly alerts staff when someone attempts to steal items.
  • Smart lights illuminate entrances or covered areas where shoplifters may otherwise escape unidentified.
  • Mobile monitoring immediately notifies when a potential robbery is in progress.

Some inventory loss is an inevitability. But with a trained workforce and a security system on your side, your store stands a much better chance against would-be thieves. If you would like to learn more about how you can keep your business, employees, and customers protected, feel free to contact a Vector Security representative today.