Shoplifting: What it’s all about and ways to stop it

Shoplifting Definition

The act of going into a business or establishment and taking their property without giving them anything in return is called shoplifting. A shoplifter may buy some items and hide some others away when they’re leaving the store.

Or sometimes a shoplifter will hide an item and leave the store as a customer that did not see anything they want it, or in some cases, they might just walk or run out of the store with the item.

By William Smithson CWP
I have spending many years working in different facets of security throughout Southern California. Through my own personal knowledge in the research that I have done, I have gathered quite a bit of information on the topic of shoplifting. From working myself and supervising others working in some of the biggest department store outlets in the country. Here are some important things I have founded that can help out any community business to better protect themselves.

Shoplifting may be a common term that sometimes refers to the offence of stealing underneath the worth of $5,000. It suggests that taking one thing out of a store while not paying for it—a criminal act of taking goods from a business while pretending to be a consumer.

Shoplifting is a serious problem in retail stores. It causes great loss to the retail stores by shrinking their business operations. Shoplifting is the single largest cause of shrinkage for retail business in the US.

The stores are losing billions annually due to shoplifting. The repeat offenders are the more worrying for the stores as they cause the most damage to them.

Shoplifting badly affects the profitability of retail stores. Store owners are doing their best to protect themselves from shoplifters.

Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that shoplifters do not have a predominant profile. They can be anyone between us, so it is difficult to identify them by just looking at them.

You can take preventive measures like installing security and surveillance devices to stay protected.

The store can make use of security mirrors and an open layout to enhance visibility and eliminate any blind spots. Anti-theft tags and security guards can also be used to provide added protection from shoplifters.

It is known that shoplifters target stores with inadequate surveillance systems and security measures. Hence, installing adequate safety measures will act as an effective deterrent for the shoplifters. Anti-theft training is also becoming necessary these days.

Such training helps to protect the stores from shoplifters by providing suitable training to the staff in dealing with and managing such situations more effectively. Anti-theft training also ensures that the staff are safe while dealing with shoplifting incidents.

There are many cases of shoplifting turning violent and armed robberies as well. These situations put the staff at great risk, and it is the responsibility of the employer to protect their staff from such dangers by employing a combination of operational and procedural controls.

The loss to Business from Shoplifting

Shoplifting is one of the most significant losses to any retail store. US Businesses are losing more than $60 billion annually due to shoplifting.

According to the study conducted by the National Retail Federation in 2017, there are three major reasons for the retail loss, known as shrinkage. Shoplifting is the largest reason for shrinkage at 37%.

The average dollar cost per shoplifting incident was reported to be $798.48 in 2017. Controlling shoplifting will go a long way in reducing the retail shrinkage and contribute towards improving the profitability of operations.

The retail stores need to take a more proactive approach in reducing shoplifting incidents.

Identifying Potential Shoplifters

Identifying shoplifters can be difficult. According to the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention, there is no single and predominant shoplifter profile. Both men and women steal equally as often, and more than 75% of all shoplifters are adults.

Another study conducted by the University of Florida has revealed that there are no stereotypes that can be used for identifying shoplifters. Hence, you cannot rely on any preconceived notions and stereotypes for identifying shoplifters in your store.

You need to be more alert and proactive in spotting them. Shoplifters are common people in everyday life who mostly earn respectable wages.

It is the repeat and habitual offenders who cost the business the most. Such shoplifters are adept at their work and target stores that lack a proper surveillance system and adequate security.

 In a study involving more than 20,000 adults, including juvenile and non-juvenile shoplifters, it was revealed that 27% of the shoplifters were habitual offenders.

These habitual offenders are responsible for about 90% of the non-professional losses and 85% of shoplifting losses. You need to have adequate surveillance and security at your retail store to deter and prevent shoplifters from stealing. You should also have a clear policy of how you want to deal with shoplifters. Stricter punishments will prevent them from shoplifting.

Keeping Your Premises Secure from Shoplifters

You can reduce the shoplifting incidents by taking adequate and appropriate preventive measures in your retail store. Some of the critical measures for preventing shoplifting are discussed below:

Organize Your Store with Signs and Mirrors

Majority of the shoplifting incidents are not preplanned and based on acts of impulse. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), 73% of the total shoplifting cases are not intended.

You can organize your retail store properly to cut down on shoplifting. You can have an open floor layout and ensure proper lighting so that most of the store is visible. Keep your exit near the front of the store rather than at the back.

It would be best if you put security mirrors in the store. These mirrors help you to see the store clearly and eliminate any blind spots. It would help if you also put messages on what the store intends to do to shoplifters who get caught.

 These signs act as deterrents to shoplifters but are also needed for legal reasons. If you intend to prosecute a shoplifter, then you should have it posted in the store first.

Recruit Good Staff and Train Them

Recruitment of proper employees and training them goes a long way on reducing the incidences of shoplifting. Do proper background checks of applicants before recruiting them. You can also review their social media profiles to get a better understanding of the applicants. This will help you to employ only the best people at your retail store.

You should provide adequate anti-theft training to your staff and make them understand the importance of prevention of shoplifting and loss to the business. You should motivate your staff to be alert and reduce the cases of shoplifting.

Motivated and well-trained staff can contribute significantly to reducing shoplifting in the retail store.

Install Surveillance Equipment

Installing proper surveillance equipment is the most important deterrent for shoplifters. You can install high-quality and resolution CCTV cameras that will cover the entire interior and exterior of your retail store.

The store can display the message that the store is under CCTV surveillance that will act as an excellent deterrent for shoplifters as they run the risk of getting caught immediately.

The cameras should not be discreet; instead, they should be placed for everyone to see them. The display also should be located where everyone can see themselves.

You can also opt for a video analytics software which is a high-end surveillance system that digitally monitors the customers and employees in real-time and alerts you of any indifferent behaviour. It also allows you to view any transaction and video footage associated with any item on the receipt.

Use Anti-Theft Tags

There are three common types of anti-theft tags that you can use in your store- Acousto-Magnetic tags, RFID tags, and Spider Wrap. The acoustic-magnetic tags are narrow white tags that are deactivated by passing them under demagnetizer.

Retail RFID tags are stickers on pin-tag radio-frequency identification devices attached to the products in the store. If any customer walks out of the store, with the RFID tag still attached to the product, it will set off an alarm near the exit door.

This will notify the store security about a potential case of shoplifting. The cost of RFID tags varies based on their level of sophistication and range. Spider wraps are wrapped around the products, and these tags have an alarm built into them.

Cutting these spider wrap tags will set off an alarm. These anti-theft tags can reduce the instances of shoplifting in any retail store.

Hire Security Guards

Hiring security guards is a good strategy to deter shoplifters. These security guards can be armed or unarmed depending on the requirement of the store. They are trained to monitor any instances of shoplifting.

Though uninformed guards are great deterrents for shoplifters, they can also make the regular customers uncomfortable. Another effective alternative is to hire security guards in plain clothing.

This will not make the regular customers uncomfortable, and the guards can look out for any shoplifters in plain clothing which even the shoplifters will not know of.

Hiring security guards from a professional and reputed agency is a worthwhile investment for protecting your retail store from unscrupulous shoplifters.

Have Clear and Strict Policies on Shoplifters

Letting go of the shoplifters on being caught is not a good strategy. On being let go, the shoplifters will become more confident about stealing again. It would help if you had a clear and strict policy on dealing with shoplifters.

When the shoplifters know that they will be dealt with sternly on getting caught, they will be less likely to indulge in such activities.

You can formulate a policy that the shoplifters will be reported to the local police department for taking further action.

This will act as a strong deterrent to the shoplifters for shoplifting in your store.

Anti-Theft Training- Overview and Benefits

Anti-theft training is becoming popular. Such training equips the staff to manage any instances of shoplifting in a more effective and better manner.

The training intends to equip the staff on identifying the potential shoplifters and how they can engage more meaningfully with their customers to prevent the cases of shoplifting.

The anti-theft training helps to reduce the losses and shrinkage caused to the business by shoplifting.

This contributes positively to improving the bottom line for the business. With increasing incidents of shoplifting and the number of repeat offenders growing, Anti-theft training should become mandatory for the staff.

Reduced Shrinkage

One of the direct contributions of anti-theft training to business is reduced shrinkage due to shoplifting. Shoplifting is a major nuisance in retail business and is the single largest shrinkage causing factor in the US.

With proper anti-theft training, the retail store can become better and more adept at curbing the cases of shoplifting.

It can make use of effective and modern surveillance systems that can deter the shoplifters. Anti-theft training also provides other effective means of reducing and curbing shoplifting in retail stores.

Use of security mirrors, messages on action to be taken on shoplifters, use of anti-theft tags etc. are some of the measures suggested by anti-theft training to cut down on shoplifting.

Better Trained Staff

The staff at retail stores become better trained and more effective in reducing instances of shoplifting.

The staff understand the problem and magnitude of shoplifting and the damage they cause to the business operations. Once they are trained, they become more effective in stopping shoplifting.

They become better at identifying potential shoplifters, and this gives them a head start in preventing shoplifting at their stores. The staff are provided inputs on how to manage the situation in case of shoplifting incidents.

They are trained on checking the various security and surveillance measures installed in the retail stores to ensure that shoplifters are kept in check.

Safety of Staff

Shoplifters need to be confronted tactfully. Once the store staff has established that shoplifting has taken place, then they need to act is a standard protocol as per their internal policies.

Anti-theft training helps them to tackle such situations and prepares them to manage the shoplifters effectively.

Any confrontation or act of aggression from the store staff can provoke the shoplifter, and this can cause harm to the store staff. Undergoing anti-theft training helps them to manage the situation better and be safe.

Do a Thorough Risk Assessment

It would help if you did a thorough risk assessment for any potentially violent and harmful situations that may arise in the future for the staff. Situations like shoplifting, robbery, and assault, abusive and difficult customers etc. need to be accounted for.

These situations can be dangerous for the staff and can put them in grave risk. A comprehensive assessment of such risks helps the employers to understand the different situations and risks that may confront their employees in the future.

They can develop better risk mitigation strategies and responses to protect their staff from such dangers.

Appropriate Steps for Risk Mitigation

Once the risks have been identified, you need to develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies to address the same. You can undertake a combination of physical and procedural controls to mitigate such risks.

The store should be carefully designed with an open layout for a better view of the entire store by the staff.

Appropriate and better surveillance equipment can be installed throughout the store to keep an eye on any evil people. Suitable messages should be displayed throughout the store on what the store intends to do with anyone caught shoplifting or entering into any violent acts.

The staff should also be trained properly in dealing with such situations. There should be clear and well-documented procedures on how they need to deal with such risks and situations.

Involve Staff for Inputs

Your employees know a lot about the business, so it is important to involve them and take their inputs on potential risks for violence. CWP

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