This post was originally published on December 6, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Approximately $35 million worth of goods are stolen from retailers every day, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP). Moreover, only one in 48 shoplifters are caught, while only about half of them are actually prosecuted.
Common Sings of Shoplifting
While the following characteristics don’t guarantee someone is stealing, there are certain trends that suggest someone may be shoplifting. Consider these signs when trying to identify shoplifters:
1. Large groups: It’s common for shoplifters to work in groups. Be wary when a large group enters your store and causes a disturbance. Oftentimes, shoplifters will use this tactic to distract employees as a cover to steal merchandise. Ask for assistance, if needed, to keep an eye on the larger party.
2. Hovering or loitering: Sometimes shoplifters may hang out inside or outside the store for long periods of time. If you notice this suspicious activity in your store, consider asking if they need help finding what they’re looking for. If they continue to hover, it’s likely they may be waiting for the right time to shoplift.
3. Nervousness: If you see someone that looks abnormally nervous, it’s a good sign they may be up to something suspicious. Shifty eyes, pacing or picking up items they have no interest in can be considered suspicious activity.
4. Loose clothing and large bags: Consider the suspect’s clothing. If they are wearing large, bulky coats during warm weather, or clothing that looks unnecessarily large, they might be trying to conceal items underneath. Also, short or abnormal steps can indicate someone is trying to conceal items underneath or inside clothing.
5. Leaving fitting rooms with less items: Fitting rooms provide ideal cover for shoplifters because store owners cannot install cameras in those areas. If someone takes several items into a fitting room and leaves with less or none at all, then they might be stealing. Be aware of the number of items they enter and exit fitting rooms with.
Shoplifting Prevention Tips
- Train employees on how to spot suspicious behavior and the common signs mentioned above.
- Create a protocol to make sure employees know what to do once they’ve identified a shoplifter.
- Optimize your store to have a more open, clean and organized layout. Cluttered, unkempt stores are much easier targets than clean stores with open spaces.
- Invest in electronic article surveillance (EAS) for audible alerts when someone tries to walk out with tagged merchandise.
- Install a video surveillance system to help deter shoplifters who know they are being watched and to capture visual evidence to help police in their investigation.
Keep these tips in mind when trying to spot shoplifters and connect with a trusted security professional for a plan tailored to your business’ needs.