As a small business retailer, it's not always easy to just throw money at problems like shoplifting and take advantage of all the technology that big box retailers may be privy to. Whether it's cameras, door scanners, or facial-recognition software, sometimes their big-ticket cost just doesn't fit with your small business security budget.
But when you recognize facts like shoplifting costing retailers upwards of $13 billion each year, it's important to identify it as a problem that needs to be dealt with.
So, what's a boutique owner to do? In this post, I'll be looking at cost-effective and low-tech tactics that you can start implementing right away.
Let's dive in.
1. Keep Your Store Organized and Products Well-Placed
How easy should it be to identify whether something has gone "missing" from your store? Empty space on your shelves should be enough of a visual cue to signal something has gone wrong.
However, if your store is messy, disorganized, or a maze to get through, it can be harder to notice that you've been "gotten" until it's too late.
Security expert and founder of Crime Doctor, Chris McGoey recommends the following: "You want to keep all your merchandise "faced," which means pulling your products to the edge of the shelf to create a solid wall of product. If someone sweeps the shelf, then it is easy to tell."
2. Identify Common Shoplifting Methods and Traits
Shoplifters will often work in pairs or larger groups so that there can be at least one person distracting the sales staff while the other proceeds to steal. The most common shoplifting method has to be hiding merchandise, here are common places where items can be quickly concealed:
- Purchased Merchandise
Occasionally, you might get the bold type of shoplifters who quickly grabs an item and runs out, but other things to keep watch on are price label switching, and false returns.
You'll also want to look for and keep these common shoplifters traits in mind when determining whether you should exercise caution or suspicion, specifically these "shoppers" tend to:
- Spend more time watching cashier or sales clerk than actually shopping
- Takes several items into the dressing room but only leaves with one
- Seems nervous and pick up random items with no interest
Depending on how long you've been in business, you'll start developing your own sixth sense for when to sound the alarm and when to keep your cool.
3. Leverage Coordinated Customer Service to Your Advantage
It's important to take effective store and staff management tactics and use them as a tool against shoplifting. Here are a few customer service techniques to minimize opportunities to steal:
- Greet each customer that walks through your door, this let's them know that you're aware of their presence
- Depending on the size of your store, you'll want to make sure you have an adequate number of floor staff at any given time
- Create and implement a policy around bags brought in by customers
- Train cashiers to watch price tags and have them be on the lookout for price switching
- Have a code which enables staff to alert each other of suspicious activities
Creating policies and training staff ahead of time regarding potential shoplifting scenarios will save you a ton of headaches that would occur from a more reactionary or ad hoc approach.
4. Optimize Your Store's Design and Layout for Theft Prevention
We've covered retail interior design, merchandising displays, and signage previously, but here I want to bring your attention to how the design of your store can minimize opportunities for shoplifters to steal. Here's what you need to keep in mind:
- Place your checkout so that customers must pass it while exiting. Given that most consumers turn right upon entering, having it prominent at the left-hand side would be ideal. Also make sure to never leave your register unlocked or unattended.
- To eliminate blind spots in corners that shoplifters might use for hiding, make sure you install mirrors while making sure there's adequate lighting in all areas.
- Keep your fixtures and displays low for increased visibility
- Keep small or expensive items in locked cabinets
- Keep dressing rooms locked and keep tabs or limit the number of items taken in by each customer
You can also take and compare notes from what your neighbouring retailers suggest based on their experience.
5. Signage, Signage, Signage
Visual cues can be an incredible effective and cost-effective means of warding off potential shoplifters. Not only do they stay put 24/7 while shoppers and staff move in and out of your sight, anti-theft signs will dissuade potential shoplifters much like a security system sign at home will dissuade a burglar.
SmartSign co-founder and CEO Blair Brewster offers this handy tip, "The goal of retail theft-prevention signs is to scare the thieves, not to intimidate legitimate buyers. Your signs should be a reflection of who you are and what you’re selling.”
Here are a few tips for maximizing the impact of loss-prevention signage in your store:
- Place a sign at or near your front door as it's often the first place shoppers look
- Instead of wasting precious shelf or floor space with your signs, place them up high where shoplifters will most likely check for surveillance cameras
- The language on the signs should reflect your company's brand and considers your target clientele
- Consider signs featuring eyes, which research has proven to double the likelihood of compliance
With these five tips in mind, don't just sit there and think about how they might work for your business, make sure you take action and put the most relevant ones to practice. Loss-prevention is a core tenant of successful retailing and hopefully this post helps you ward off shoplifters without costing you an arm and a leg.