Following a significant dip during the pandemic, shoplifting and theft crimes are back on the rise in Britain. According to police recorded crime statistics for England and Wales, there was a 25% increase in shoplifting in June 2022-2023 compared with the previous year. To put that into more concrete numbers, police reported 342,342 shoplifting offences in 2022/23, compared with 275,076 the year before.
With trends indicating an additional increase in theft from stores during the Christmas period, it pays to be prepared this festive season. Below we’ll take you through 11 tips for preventing shoplifting affecting your business.
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Top tips for securing your establishment
1. Meet and greet customers
Most thieves make a quick assessment of how easy it’s going to be to steal from a shop as soon as they enter it. Having someone there to greet customers immediately sends out the message that there are staff around interacting – and keeping an eye on – customers. If a thief sees this, they’re more likely to cut their losses and leave.
2. Keep the shop floor tidy and presentable
Maintaining a clean and tidy outlet will improve visibility across the floor and is an important aspect of healthy operations management. When a thief enters and sees everything is well maintained and in order, it indicates to them that the place is well staffed and personnel are keeping an eye on the items and its presentation. This can play a significant role in deterring any attempts at theft. Meanwhile, spaced out, wide aisles and displays make it much harder for thieves to go unnoticed.
3. Ensure you’re well staffed
With the Christmas rush, staff will be busier than ever, so make sure you have enough personnel on shift to manage the store effectively. This will make it much harder for thieves to pocket products unnoticed. Also, shoplifters tend to target shops where they can see just one member of staff and may even work in teams to distract them while the other steals items. Overall, more staff means more eyes and more attention being paid to customer activities.
4. Be aware of at-risk items
Tragically, in this cost of living crisis, the most shoplifted items are reportedly basics and essentials, such as medicines (including calpol), formula and nappies. However, shoplifters are also known to target meats, cheeses and cosmetics.
If you stock items that are at particular risk of being stolen, consider taking steps to better protect these products. Many stores are resorting to keeping these items in security protectors, although keeping them closer to the till or in highly visible areas may be enough to deter theft.
5. Train your staff to watch for theft
Your employees can be the best defence against shoplifting. Talk to them about what to look out for and how to avoid scams. One way they can deter would-be thieves is by closely monitoring customer’s activity inside the store. Additionally, staff can regularly check in with customers and ask how they can help. This sends a message that this person is aware of everyone in the shop and what’s going on. If shoplifters feel like they’re being watched, it’s less likely that they’ll try to steal. However, make sure you train staff to be discreet as suspiciously observing well-meaning customers can be off-putting.
6. Publicise the consequences of stealing
Post your shoplifting policy somewhere prominent, like in the changing rooms. That alone might be enough to scare off some potential shoplifters, but don’t stop there. Installing mirrors and cameras is another way to intimidate thieves.
7. Pay attention to changing rooms
If you don’t have a huge team of staff, it might seem like a hassle to run back and forth unlocking changing rooms, but it’s necessary. By locking the rooms (and giving customers a number for how many items they’re trying on), you’re creating a serious barrier to theft. Alternatively, you can just make sure changing rooms are always manned and staff are taking note of how many items customers are entering the cabin with.
8. Schedule appropriately
Sometimes people get busy, out of the blue. It happens. But on days and times when you know it’s going to be hectic, like a weekend afternoon or during the run-up to Christmas, don’t try to get by with bare-bones staff. As discussed in point no. 3, this makes it much easier for shoplifters to go about their theft unnoticed. However, you may additionally choose to have your more experienced staff on shift at peak times and organise the schedule to place teams that work best together on at the same time. Talk to your employees about common shoplifting behaviour so they know what to look out for.
With Square’s POS software, employees can quickly and easily take payments from customers, allowing them to manage the till efficiently and free up time to keep an eye on the shop floor.
9. Electronic tagging
If you have the resources to do this, you might also consider tagging high-risk or high-value items. With electronic surveillance, thieves are unable to leave a store without an alarm going off and being caught red-handed. Plus, the mere presence of this surveillance equipment sends a clear message that this shop is protected and monitored against theft which is often enough in and of itself to deter shoplifters.
10. Conduct ‘crime mapping’
Crime mapping locates where the most thefts are taking place in your shop. You may find these are in more hidden corners or areas where items are displayed in a haphazard fashion. You can use this data to put together a plan of action for reducing theft, which may include increasing the visibility in these high-theft zones, or placing staff nearer to the area to closely monitor customers. Crime mapping will also reveal times of day or days of the week when the shop is most vulnerable to shoplifting. You may decide to have more staff on shift during these times or adjust your opening times to avoid high-risk hours.
11. Install cameras and mirrors
If you really want to get serious about preventing (and prosecuting) shoplifters, equip your shop with cameras and security mirrors. Not only will you be able to help identify shoplifters but also the mere presence of these items can act as theft deterrents.
By implementing some or all of the above strategies, executives can maintain business continuity and avoid experiencing higher rates of shoplifting this Christmas and beyond.
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