Shoplifting offences are on the rise in the UK. Figures from 25 different UK police forces suggest a 7% increase in the number of offenses reported in the last 4 years. In fact the Centre for Retail Research reports that shoplifting accounted for a loss of £1.9 billion in the UK retail industry in 2019.
According to a Home Office crime survey in the year ending March 2019, the police recorded 374,395 shoplifting cases, but the actual number of shoplifting cases is likely to be 15-20 times higher. Retailers now have to ‘manage’ their use of the police to deal with shoplifters.
As a result of finite resources, the police will now often avoid dealing with low-level retail crime, which may have resulted in potential offenders more willing to commit a shoplifting offence. Equally, an offender who has stolen less than £200 no longer needs to attend court.
Many smaller retailers can’t take advantage of all the technology that big-box stores may have at their fingertips, so what can a retailer to do to minimise shoplifting? Here are some cost-effective and low-tech tactics that can be easily and simply implemented.
1. Store organisation and products placement
Keep all merchandise ‘faced’ – this means pulling products to the edge of the shelf to create a solid wall of product. If a shelf or display is ‘swept’ by a shoplifter, then this easy to recognise.
Keep you store organised and tidy – if your store is messy and disorganised it can be harder to notice missing product until it’s too late.
2. Identify methods and behaviours
Shoplifters often work in pairs or groups so that there can be at least one person distracting sales staff while the other proceed to steal. The most common shoplifting method is to hide merchandise from sight in clothing, handbags, pushchairs, and purchased merchandise. Some common shoplifter traits include:
- spending more time watching sales staff or cashier than actually shopping
- taking several items into the changing room but only leaving with one
- nervous mannerisms and handles random items with no interest
3. Customer service
Providing good customer service isn’t just a way to enhance the customer experience – it is also a highly effective tactic to suppress shoplifting. Here are a few customer service techniques to minimise opportunities to steal:
- greet customers as they enter the store – let them know that you’re aware of their presence
- ensure there is an adequate number of floor staff at any given time
- train cashiers to watch price tags and be on the lookout for price switching
4. Optimize store design and layout
Store design and layout can minimize opportunities for shoplifters to steal. Keep in mind the following:
- place your checkout so that customers must pass it while exiting
- ensure the checkout is never unattended
- eliminate blind spots in corners that shoplifters might use for hiding
- keep dressing rooms locked and limit the number of items taken in by each customer
- keep small or expensive items in locked cabinets
Visual cues can provide a high-impact and cost-effective means of warding off potential shoplifters. The goal of retail theft-prevention signs is to dissuade potential shoplifters, not to intimidate legitimate buyers. Loss prevention signage:
- place a sign at or near your front door
- place signage up high where shoplifters may check for surveillance cameras
- the language and tone of voice on signage should reflect your brand and target clientele
6. Loss prevention strategy
Shoplifting can have a crippling effect on retailers. It is important for retailers to identify and recognise shoplifting as a problem and put a loss prevention strategy in place.