How to deal with internal and external theft in your retail store

As a shop owner, nothing is more infuriating than a thief. Whether the theft is from internal or external entities, how they’re brought to justice will depend on you and your local laws. The only thing you cannot avoid is inventory shrinkage and the anxiety of dealing with shameless shoplifters.

There are many preventative measures you can take to protect your merchandise from being stolen by both your employees and shoplifters. We will break this down by dealing with shoplifters, and the second part dealing with employee theft.

Remember, your safety, along with your staff and customers, should be put above all else. You should always contact the authorities in the event of a theft. Being overly paranoid is also not ideal, rest assured that the majority of your customers are honest folks who will pay for your products.

Part 1: Dealing with Shoplifters (External Theft)

1. Assess risks and secure your store

Today you can find a number of security systems that give you real time access to the video feed on your smartphone or mobile devices so you can always keep an eye on your store. Ensure the coverage of the cameras are well lit and cover any blind spots as well. Not only are cameras a deterrent to theft in the first place, but catching them in the act is evidence you can provide to the proper authorities at the very least.

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Other security measures to explore are having product alarm tags for your more high-ticket items. The layout of your store can also help to reduce theft. Lock high-ticket and pricey items in a case. Keep smaller, more vulnerable items near your registers. You can get the best visibility of your items by placing all the small items near the cash and taller items around the perimeter of the store. That is why you see most cash registers near the exit of major stores.

There are six generally accepted conditions to classifying and deal with someone as a “shoplifter”.
1) You must see the shoplifter approach your merchandise
2) You must see the shoplifter select your merchandise
3) You must see the shoplifter conceal or carry away or convert your merchandise
4) You must maintain continuous observation the shoplifter
5) You must see the shoplifter fail to pay for the merchandise
6) You must approach the shoplifter outside of the store

Part 2: How to spot and deal with shoplifters

There are certain behaviors or characteristics that shoplifters commonly exhibit.

1) If they wear sunglasses, hoodies, scarves, hats, backpacks in the store…anyone that attempts to hide their distinguishing features should be closely observed.

2) If someone is lingering around their target, you might want to send an assistant to help them since they can’t decide on a product.

3) Group theft – Dealing with a pair or group of shoplifters is a tough call. The potential for them to become violent or cause trouble might put you, your employees, and your customers at risk. This even applies for lone shoplifters. In this case it is best to record and report the crime. Similarly, send a store clerk to chat up the group and it may deter them from stealing.

4) Hire security guards (aka loss prevention). Having one or more retail security guards present to patrol the area will help to deter crime for both internal theft and shoplifters. Ultimately your customers and employees are safer and they provide a quicker response time than depending on external authorities. If you’re a retailer dealing with high-value, easily stolen items, hiring a retail security guard service can be invaluable and end up saving you money in the long run.

Part 3: Internal theft by employees

Internal theft is a massive problem for any business in any industry. We’ve heard many horror stories from our customers who’ve had employees stealing from them for years. Whether it was cash, products, or some elaborate scheme conducted by several employees, it is painful to hear that someone you pay to work for you is stealing behind your back.

1) Employees with good referrals is an initial security check.
2) Routine physical inventory count helps you keep track of any lost inventory, but it also serves as a signal to your employees that you closely monitor your store.
3) Ensure proper methods of closing their cash drawer at the end of their shift.
4) Rotate your employees shifts so they work with different people and do not always get teamed up together.
5) Use your surveillance cameras, even place dummy cameras to deter further theft. Ensure your employees do not have access to the surveillance system and only a few trusted managers do.

Conclusion

Take these precautions today and you’ll reduce shrinkage, give yourself some peace of mind, and stay on top of your products. You’ve spent all this time, energy, and money to grow your business…don’t let shameless shoplifters and treacherous employees take advantage of it.