Shoplifting and Loss Prevention Guide

From what we are told by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, businesses lose over $25 million dollars each year due to shoplifting. If you think that your store is immune, just consider that number and see how wrong you really are. No matter how big or small your business is you are still at risk. This is because shoplifters do not discriminate; big or small they could care less. The only thing that they care about is being able to commit the crime without getting caught. Since they are so easy to please, you may want to take notes from this article which will tell you what to look for in a shoplifter, how to implement loss prevention plans and what to do if you catch a shoplifter in your business.

The first thing you should understand is what to look for in a shoplifter. There are different categories of shoplifters and commonly used methods. This information is not put out here to make you paranoid or to make you start unjustly profiling your customers. It is just a basis on which to go by for the protection of your assets. And actually, there is no one profile to fit a shoplifter into. They come in all races and ages. What sets them apart from others is not simply appearance, but behavior.

Shoplifter Behavior

  • Going into a dressing room with 5 items and only coming out with 1.
  • Taking short steps that appear to be unnatural movements.
  • Wearing clothing that does not fit the weather. I.E. Wearing a large coat when the temperature is 80 degrees outside.
  • The appearance of being nervous and picking up and examining items without any real interest.
  • Coming into the store frequently (maybe only several times per week or maybe several times in one day) and never making a purchase.
  • Spending a lot of time watching your employees and very little time looking at the merchandise.

Shoplifter Methods

  • Working in groups in order to distract your employees while one person steals.
  • Waiting around for shift changes so that there are more distractions.
  • Putting merchandise into a purse or handbag and paying only for that item.
  • Tucking stolen goods into their jackets, pants, purses, or, as disgusting as it is, their child’s stroller or carrier.
  • Returning merchandise that was not purchased in your store.
  • Switching labels. I.E. Putting a .99 cents label for a candy bar on a $100 dollar item instead. (Yes, this is still considered shoplifting!)

The next thing you must know is how to prevent shoplifting. This should already be in your business plan and store policy handbook, but if it is not pay close attention to this next section.

Prevention and Apprehension

  • Be aware of the shoplifting laws in your state.
  • Stay calm if you must approach someone that you view as suspicious. If you have seen them steal, have an employee call the police or trigger a silent alarm if you have one. Keeping calm and not showing that you are sure they are stealing gives the cops a chance to arrive on the scene in time to make an arrest.
  • Place your more expensive merchandise close to the cash register and/or have it behind locked glass. Depending on what you sell, it is usually pretty clear what items are most coveted by shoplifters.
  • Never place costly items near exit or entrance doors as this makes them easy targets. In fact, do not but any products close to these doors!
  • Have signs placed in various areas of your business stating that all shoplifters will be prosecuted and stand fully behind that stamen to show that you truly have zero tolerance for thieves.
  • If it is a viable option, have alarms at the exit doors so a shoplifter can be stopped before they exit the store. Keep in mind that once they are outside, they can claim that they forgot to pay and this is something that usually works to get them out of trouble; at least with the law.

Remember that even the least expensive item in your store still costs you money. This is why it is some important to take a hardnosed stance against shoplifters. After all, you do not want your store labeled as an easy target by the rest of your area. This would obviously be bad for business!