More than $13 billion dollars worth of merchandise is stolen from retailers each year, according to the National Association Of Shoplifting Preventions.

It’s a big issue but one that you can take steps to address. The good news is that shoplifters, like most thieves are known to look for the easy mark. You don’t need to turn your store into Fort Knox to keep your wares safe, you just have to take the necessary steps to make your place more of a hassle than it’s worth for the aspiring shoplifter.

Here are five quick and easy tips that can help you reduce shoplifting in your store:

1) Make Signs

It might sound like a half-measure but getting some signs made is the first step in letting people know that you are paying attention. The key here is not going overboard – there’s nothing worse than entering a store and being made to feel like a crook. So choose just one or two signs, position them so they are clearly visible and let them do their work. A simple sign saying, ‘CCTV in operation in this store’ is best. If you really want to address the problem directly, stick with basic statements, like ‘Shoplifters will be prosecuted’. Steer clear of signs that are designed to intimidate – for every shoplifter you deter, you’re probably scaring off twenty customers too.

2) Keep Your Store Clean And Organized

Ever wonder why department stores train employees to be obsessive about refolding clothes out on the shop floor. It’s not just because it helps sales (although it does). A well-organized and neat inventory makes it much easier to spot when something is out of place. Employees should be trained to refold every piece of clothing that isn’t put back properly and to keep items at a constant level.

It’s for this very reason that shoplifters love a sale environment where there is a little more chaos and inventory is likely to be less well organized. So, if you’re planning a sale, make sure to staff adequately.

3) Place A Greeter At The Front

Shoplifters want to be anonymous. They need to be able to quickly get in and out of a store undetected. This is again one of the reasons big-box retailers will position a greeter at the front of their stores. It’s not just a nice customer service practice (although, again, it is), it’s a way to make sure that they have to go in and out of the store past the same person.

In reality most small businesses don’t have the spare capital to hire a greeter/bouncer for their store, so it’s important to consider the positioning of your point of sale environment. Ideally, you should have direct line of site on the exit and be able to greet your customers as they come in – and monitor them as they leave. A cheerful, ‘welcome to my store’ along with good eye contact will help boost sales – and let potential shoplifters know you’re aware of their presence in your store.

4) Manage Where Customers Can Take Merchandise

You don’t have to be overbearing, but don’t make it too easy for customers to take unpaid merchandise into areas that they can conceal it. Special attention needs to be paid to restrooms and dressing rooms. Not many customers are going to object to a ‘no inventory in the restrooms’ policy – and it’s simple to instigate a policy of checking in with a sales assistant before going into a dressing room. I like the solution that yoga apparel business, LuluLemon has in place. They have chalkboards on the outside of the dressing rooms and sales assistants write up how many items you’re taking in with you. It’s effective but it feels more fun and less intrusive than other methods.

5) Implement Effective Inventory Management

Sometimes the problem of inventory leakage isn’t immediately evident. If you’re being systematically targeted, chances are you’re going to notice it pretty clearly at the end of the sales day – but in general, it won’t be this clear. That’s why it’s vital that you implement a proper inventory control tool, such as the one offered as part of the ShopKeep point of sale system. By tracking your stock and your sales, you’ll be able to clearly pull reports on your ‘leakage’. Remember, just because you’re losing inventory, it doesn’t mean it’s shoplifting but at least you’ll be aware of the problem.

Being targeted by shoplifters sucks but there is good news: there are some quick and easy remedies available and what’s more, the technology you need (cameras, sensors, point of sale systems, etc.) is cheaper than ever.


About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.