Preventing Shoplifting.... Part 1: Staff & Local Community

  • Published on: 14 November 2017
  • By: Paula
Preventing Shoplifting.... Part 1: Staff & Local Community

Well the John Lewis Christmas advert has been released, along with all the other major retailers, so Christmas has officially begun….! And after spending a massive £7m on one TV advert they are obviously expecting serious sales results over the festive season.  It’s the last push of the year for retailers to increase their profits, as it’s the time when consumers spend the most; British families spend an average of £821.25 on gifts, food and drink and decorations over the Christmas period.  

With all the extra stock and customers, it’s also an opportunity for shoplifters, so extra attention needs to be paid to loss prevention strategies.

Over the next three weeks we will be producing a 3-part guide to preventing shoplifting, covering the following;

  1. Staff & Local Community
  2. Store & Stock Management
  3. External Security and Technology

Part 1: Staff & Local Community

Staff Training
Your staff are your best defence against shoplifters.  Give them the necessary training to be able to spot a potential shoplifter and know what to do if they see it happening.  

There are many different methods of stealing from retailers, some will act in a nervous or suspicious manner but there are also many who know exactly what they’re doing and are confident in their methods. Staff should be trained in the behaviours to look for and the techniques shoplifters use.

Some of the most common methods include:

  • Bagging or hiding; hiding items in extra bags, prams or other equipment.  Some shoplifters will also use metal lined bags to avoid the stores alarm system.
  • Price swapping; changing the price tags on items for a lower price.
  • Distraction; groups of people coming into the store and causing a distraction so one or more can steal items without being noticed.
  • Walking out; some will just grab an item and leave.  If staff aren’t paying attention and stock is close to the exits this can be done quickly and without being noticed.
  • Return fraud; stolen merchandise may be ‘returned’ or shoplifters simply take an item from within the store and ask for a refund, claiming to have lost the receipt.
  • Layering clothes; some will take extra items into the changing rooms and layer on the clothes they want to steal.
  • Opening items; taking a high value item into the store toilets or changing room, removing the packaging with the alarm tag on and hiding the item to take away with them.

Store Policies
Staff also need to be aware of your store policies with regard to shoplifting.  Is it store policy to prosecute all shoplifters, and should a member of staff stop someone themselves or call a Manager?  There are procedures for undertaking a citizen’s arrest and if you expect your staff to do this they need to understand when and how they can do so.  The safety of all involved is paramount, if anyone is in danger it is better to let the shoplifter get away.

Customer Service
When positions in retail are advertised, customer service skills are usually, if not always, included as a requirement for the job.  However there are occasions when these skills can be well hidden!  Maybe the staff are having a bad day, but if you want to increase sales and prevent losses paying attention to customer service is essential.

Greeting customers when they enter a store lets them know they’ve been noticed.  For an opportunistic thief this may be all it takes to make them think again about stealing from your shop.  Many of the bigger retailers have staff members standing by the entrance for just this purpose.

If staff offer a customer assistance when they’ve been standing in one part of the store for a few minutes or are acting suspiciously it can prevent them taking something – and if they are a real customer, they might appreciate the help and it could lead to a sale!

Simply being visible around the shop, paying attention to customers, keeping the shop tidy and making it obvious that they are alert can have a positive impact on deterring shoplifters.

Staff Motivation
Unfortunately, there are times when staff and shoplifters join forces. A staff member works with a thief to steal, removing security tags, ringing up a cheaper item or providing refunds on stolen items.  There are many ways they can collude, and internal theft can be common.   A company’s culture can have a direct impact on its staff motivation; treating staff fairly, paying them properly and providing training and promotion opportunities will create a positive environment.  This helps not only in deterring staff from potential theft but also leads to an improvement in customer service and ultimately reduces loss from shoplifters.

Internal & External Communication
Internal communication is essential, keeping staff informed about changes, new stock and store policies ensures they are involved and able to provide the service you expect.  But external communication can be just as important.

If you are part of a chain of stores, keeping all stores informed about losses, shoplifting methods and best practice techniques can help the whole company. 

Working with other businesses in the local area is also important, sharing information and letting them know if you’ve been targeted by shoplifters; what to look for and what they are stealing.  And you can receive warnings from other shops of shoplifters operating in the area.

There are Shopwatch schemes in operation across the country.  Operating in a similar manner to Pubwatch schemes, they use radio links to keep each other and the local Council CCTV monitoring teams aware of known shoplifters and what to look out for.  Police will also be involved and by working together, local businesses can prevent and catch shoplifters before they cause too much loss.

Part 2: Store & Stock