Shoplifting costs businesses roughly $35 billion per year, and juveniles make up roughly half of that total value. That’s a large amount of money that no business wants to lose. Research shows that over 72% of thefts occur without any premeditated thoughts and is caused by a lack of impulse control and too much free time. This is compounded in the summer months when kids are left to their own devices hanging around the mall.
It’s pretty simple, you don’t want kids to steal from your business. That part we all know. But how do you actually stop it from happening? Here are 5 common shoplifting tactics to watch out for in your business so you can put an end to it once and for all.
5 Common Shoplifting Tactics To Watch For
1. Overly attentive customers
People who are planning on shoplifting will often watch for the perfect opportunity by studying the sales associates. Watching the staff helps them figure out the perfect moment to shove something in an open bag, tuck something into their coat, or stuff small items in their pockets.
It’s important to have your staff work together to keep your store safe. If they know that one associate is busy, make sure the others keep a close eye on the customers. Partnering up to watch the customers makes it harder for a potential shoplifter to find that opening they are looking for.
2. Pairs or large groups who spread out across the store
Many shoplifters work together in groups to distract the employees. One person will distract the staff member by asking questions, while the other starts grabbing things. It’s even more effective when there is a large group of people because they can cover more ground.
Your staff can’t be everywhere at once, but if you make them aware of this tactic, they’ll be better equipped to watch out for it. This is why it’s so important to make sure you have enough staff on hand to handle the customer traffic.
3. Returning customers who never make purchases
If you start to see the same people over and over again in your store even though they never make a purchase, you need to take note. Sure, maybe they like to window shop, but there’s a chance that they have already figured out that your store is an easy target. This is why it’s important to greet every customer when they arrive at your store.
If a customer walks into a store and is ignored by staff, they will know that no one is paying attention. If an employee speaks to them, asks them about their day, asks them about what they are looking for, etc., the customer will know that they have been seen. Sometimes that’s all it takes. The potential shoplifter is no longer able to blend into the background because the employees have taken note of them and made sure to follow up with questions. It’s a simple tactic that can deter impulsive shoplifters.
4. Large bags and baggy clothes
Baggy clothes and large bags are basically “Shoplifting 101”. But it shouldn’t be discounted because it’s so simple–it’s a cliche for a reason. Some people tuck things into their jackets, while others place their large bag on the ground and drop items directly in the bag when no one is looking.
Your advantage in this situation is that summer isn’t the best time for big coats and sweaters. If you spot someone wearing an excessively large coat you can be sure to keep an eye on them. However, shopping bags are always going to be an issue. Some stores implement policies where customers must leave bags at the front of the store, but if you don’t want to do that you’ll have to make sure your staff is prepared to keep an eye on the clients.
5. Price Tag Swapping
A trick that many shoplifters use is switching out the price tags on items with one from a cheaper item. Their thought is that the associate will not notice the price difference. This is an issue that will specifically affects businesses whose POS doesn’t show a description when scanned.
By swapping out the price tags, shoplifters are able to reduce suspicions from associates. As long as they aren’t caught swapping the tags, they are home free. This is why it’s so important that associates get to know their product well. Sure, it’s a bit tricky to know the price of every single item, but they should at least be familiar with the range of prices on the more popular items.
So, how do you put an end to shoplifting?
Shoplifting is one of those things that won’t disappear completely even if your staff is constantly on the ball. They can try to watch every customer in the store, but there will always be someone who sneaks through. But one of the methods that works best for stopping shoplifting is to point out the social consequences that theft has on the people in the store.
Because the majority of thefts are committed impulsively, the person isn’t thinking about how it affects others–especially when it’s a popular and successful business. People tend to see corporations as these faceless organizations, but franchisees and store managers know that the cost has to be recovered by someone. Real people are affected when theft occurs. People lose their jobs, product cost increases, and customer experience declines.
Bring them back to reality
One of the easiest ways to highlight the social effects of shoplifting are posting signs in the store. Posting notices that point out some of the consequences might be enough to make people think twice. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple messages like, “We use security cameras to prevent shoplifting so we can keep our prices down,” are often all it takes to bring someone back to reality. Realizing that stealing items results in higher prices can give impulsive people the logical reasoning they need to stop themselves.
Shoplifting hurts businesses. This summer, make sure you and your staff are prepared to handle the increased traffic. Share these tips with your team so that everyone knows what to watch out for. If you need help developing a better layout for your cameras, use this guide to make sure your entire store is covered.