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3 Ways to Prevent Shoplifting

You know shoplifting is a problem, but here are some sobering facts from the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention and Jack L. Hayes International:

  • More than $35 million worth of merchandise is shoplifted every day, totaling $13 billion a year.
  • Shoplifters often make a purchase at the same time they shoplift.
  • Adults do the majority of shoplifting, and men and women are equally likely to do it.
  • Dishonest retail employees steal almost 5.5 times the amount of merchandise taken by shoplifters.
  • The average value of a retail shoplifting case is around $50.

Lower the incidence of shoplifting in your establishment with these security and loss prevention tips:

Provide Great Customer Service

“A possible shoplifter would reconsider committing a crime if the shop has alert staff,” says Sylvia Pacher, managing director, Corvinus Consulting Group in Washington, DC. Attentive employees signal that someone is watching, which often sends shoplifters packing. Consider purchasing a door chime to announce entry and exit. “Make sure someone greets the customer, and if you see a customer just hanging around avoiding eye contact, ask if you can help.”

When patrons are walking around with merchandise, offer to bring the items up to the register or fitting room. This simple tactic delights a customer and deters a shoplifter. “Fitting rooms are always an area to be controlled and closely monitored,” Pacher says. “Make sure there is designated staff responsible for that exclusively, if possible, or keep it locked and open it as needed. Always count the items taken in and out.”

Create a Culture of Accountability

Pre-screening helps identify high-risk employees, but it’s not always affordable for small shop owners. Luckily, there are other ways to curtail employee theft. If practical, create a policy that a second signature is required for discounts, voids, gift card purchases and specials. Use your POS system to track inventory against sales, and secure backrooms with restricted-access control. These measures provide documentation that keeps everyone accountable.

“Build an internal culture with personnel that is trained on what to look for from external theft, [understand] why and how security measures are in place, and most importantly, know what measures are in place to protect personnel from wrongful accusations,” says Michael Fraser, CEO of VDI Space, a professional services company with offices in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle. Staff members report 26 percent of all theft, he says. “The more profits are stolen away from where they work, the less likely the company will have money for raises and promotions, impacting their paychecks and even their jobs.”

Use the Right Tools

Security camera systems are effective loss prevention tools but not always cost-efficient for small retailers—although some experts say just having a few cameras in plain sight can have an impact. Even basic products can limit shoplifting and internal fraud. Security mirrors help you see around fixtures and displays for those times when you can’t be on the floor. “Using a computerized register, online banking and lockboxes limits the possibility of skimming, larceny or billing schemes, and are also cheap,” Pacher notes.

Consider a more secure access system than just a key or key-code, Pacher adds. “Code entry is dangerous, because anyone can tell the code to a friend without being detected,” Pacher warns. “But a card entry system also psychologically works as deterrence because if my card is used for a break-in, the computer immediately registers me as someone coming through the door. So if I do not report my card being stolen and someone breaks in using my access card, well, I am in trouble, right?”

Keeping your retail operation safe and secure is paramount to your overall success. “It is your business, so make it your business to be careful,” Pacher says.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance business journalist and consultant in Carrboro, NC. She grew up in a family-owned gourmet grocery and understands the special challenges of running a small business. Follow her on Google+.

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