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Simple Measures Store Owners Can Take to Curb Shoplifting

Most people know that organized criminals target high-end boutiques and big boxes, yet hardware stores are also being victimized. The crimes range from shoplifters making off with expensive tools to theft by credit card for the purchase of building and agricultural materials. Cybercrime has also become a growing problem for small-to-medium-sized businesses. Perpetrators believe these operations lack security safeguards and are especially vulnerable.

Be careful to avoid profiling people by groups. It’s critical to educate staff members regarding the general behaviors of shoplifters and to train your team to be alert for suspicious activity.

  • Watching the cashier or staff instead of shopping
  • Wearing heavy clothing in warm months
  • Appears fidgety and randomly picks up merchandise
  • Enters store often, yet never buys anything

Recently, robbers entered a True Value store in Milford, IA, and ran out the front door with two cement saws valued at $4,000. Before the incident, the store’s owner had been working at his desk. When he noticed the two men, he walked out of his office and began asking them questions—thinking they needed help. The men then scurried off and jumped into a getaway car. These types of theft are on the rise across the country. Power tools, outdoor equipment, and seasonal tools are frequent targets. While there are no guaranteed methods to prevent theft, retailers can take measures to deter criminal activity. Using multiple strategies and a holistic approach to security and theft prevention are essential for every business to be profitable.

Nuisance Activities
Frequent loitering and panhandling are not good for business. Some owners consider these activities to be a harmless nuisance. Yet, customers may decide not to enter the store to avoid unwelcome interactions. Individuals who hang out in front of your establishment daily may also choose to help themselves to snacks since they now feel comfortable.

Different Types of Shoplifting
What should be most concerning for store owners are professional thieves. These individuals, couples, or groups skilled in specific methods of stealing can be a retailer’s worst nightmare. It’s critical to educate staff members regarding the behavior of shoplifters and to train them to be alert for suspicious activity.

Concealing occurs when shoplifters hide items in bags, backpacks, or clothing and leave the store. The person may be layered in clothing with multiple hidden pockets,

Distraction typically involves a couple or group that creates a disturbance to get employees’ attention. While people are distracted, other group members conceal merchandise and take it out of the store.

Boosting requires a deliberate plan since the shoplifter uses boxes or bags designed with concealed compartments to hide merchandise. The containers are often lined with materials that interfere with electronic article surveillance systems.

Fraudulent refunds occur when someone steals an item and returns it to the store for a refund or return.  

Methods to Curb Retail Theft
Depending on the size of your store, video surveillance or Closed-circuit television (CTTV) remote monitoring may be an affordable deterrent to theft. Many reputable companies provide these services. Companies often use remote monitoring instead of onsite security to have professionals monitor indoor and outdoor activities and prevent break-ins after closing. It’s a good idea to post signs where they will be visible. Shoplifters look for surveillance cameras, so put the signs up high and near the front and back doors.

Security Tether Cable. Power tools can cost thousands of dollars, and retailers should ensure they are secured against theft until purchased. Professional shoplifters make their living by stealing. They are hard to spot and target merchandise with a high resale value. Areas with expensive inventory should be closely monitored, and staff should be readily available to answer questions and provide service when needed.

While shoppers aren’t fans of lockable displays and cabinet locks, they understand these fixtures are necessary for retailers to prevent theft. Stores with a shortage of employees should work hard to keep customers from waiting to access items stored behind lock and key. Video surveillance and attentive employees serve dual purposes of assisting customers and thwarting shoplifters.

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) works by attaching an electronic “tag” or “label” to the merchandise. When the electronic device passes by an antenna installed at the store entrance/exit, an alarm alerts the staff that unpaid merchandise is leaving the store. EAS systems can also be a visual deterrent to casual shoplifters. According to statistics, an EAS system can reduce losses by about 70 percent.

Start with the Basics
Although technology is rapidly evolving to address retail theft better, the situation becomes more challenging daily. Start with a commonsense approach to safeguard big-ticket merchandise—display items in visible areas rather than corners. If needed, update the store’s lighting to ensure aisles are well-lit with few blind spots. Train employees to interact with customers and ask if the person needs assistance. Shoplifters avoid small talk since they count on not being recognized. 

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