Securing a business against shoplifting and customer theft can be a challenge, given the fact that retail stores are in operation when such crimes are committed. It’s for this reason that traditional security measures such as burglar alarms and shutters are often impractical solutions. But strategies to secure premises can allow retail business owners to prevent incidents of shoplifting in their stores.
According to the British Retail Consortium’s annual retail crime survey, the cost of shoplifting and petty theft to British retail has risen year on year since 2010. In 2015, the losses soared to a record total of £613 million, amounting to about £325 per incident of customer theft; in 2016, a further 5% increase on that figure was reported. Industry bodies fear that independent retailers’ reluctance to report shop crime could be masking a much higher figure than official statistics suggest.
Deter shoplifters using CCTV
Using leading video surveillance technology, CCTV security products capture high definition images around the clock. Knowing that they may be caught in the act of committing a crime, potential shoplifters could be quickly deterred by the presence of CCTV cameras. That’s because criminals actively avoid stealing from premises that are shown to be taking action against crime.
Business CCTV security solutions differ from home CCTV in that businesses are far more likely to be able to utilise the resources to catch potential shoplifters in the act, monitoring a live-video feed and taking action accordingly. In home installations, recorded images are typically only referred to after-the-fact.
When asked why they were reluctant to report shop theft to the authorities, 33% said they believed that the police were unable to adequately prosecute shoplifters. This attests to the importance of installing a CCTV security system with full monitoring and recording capabilities, and argues against the installation of dummy or fake cameras, which are effectively useless in the event an incident occurs.
As security solutions provider Bridger Security note, security cameras “act as powerful means of personal, [and] legal protection.” In recording all activities that take place during a criminal incident, they are a source of objective and verifiable evidence. After all, the effectiveness of CCTV relies on public knowledge of its success in bringing criminals to justice.
Effectively manage your stock
A highly effective tool to prevent shoplifting is good store management. That means using appropriate inventory controls and following common stock management practices to maintain an accurate picture of how your business is operating.
High value items can be secured with radio frequency (RF) or RFID tags, the latter allowing for unique identification of products with better stock inventory capabilities. Analysis by OCS Retail Support suggests RFID technology is so advanced that its implementation could “allow for completely unattended stores to become viable”, without the risk of shoplifting.
This makes for a more feasible stock security solution than placing high value items in locked cabinets or store rooms, as business owners typically find this increases staffing requirements, slows the rate of service and reduces impulse purchasing.
Furthermore, given that a typical business will lose an average of 6% of revenue from employee theft, using authorisation and access controls, and operating an accurate and effective system for recording and managing stock back of house can reduce the risk of stock losses too.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s website, shoplifting is generally facilitated by store floor plans that provide opportunities for thieves to conceal items and make their exit without detection. Retailers can also optimise store layout to combat shoplifting with theft-deterrent strategies, by using low level shelving and displays and installing mirrors and lighting to enable full visibility.
Train staff to recognise potential shoplifters
Employees work as deterrents too, and their presence can put off any potential shoplifter who feels they are at risk of being caught in the act. You may consider other customer service solutions that can prevent shoplifting, such as using a dressing room item check-in system. Simply training employees to greet shoppers as they enter a store or offer assistance as they browse alerts any potential thief to their presence.
Training employees to identify shoplifters is another useful strategy. Baggy clothing, umbrellas, bags and pushchairs can all be tell-tale signs that an individual intends to shoplift by concealing goods on their person. And that goes for hiring adequate staff to monitor customers too.
If employing or contracting dedicated security staff, foster a good relationship between them and your sales clerks, as teams perform more effectively when there are good levels of trust. Coordinate with local police and community support officers too, to be alerted to any high risks and assist in community initiatives or campaigns to combat business crime.
It is important to plan store policies and procedures for shoplifting early in the business planning. Should an incident of shop theft occur, ensure your staff are trained in how to proceed. That may include providing contact details for the relevant authorities and establishing a clear chain of command for following up on incidents.