4 Ways to Prevent Shoplifting in Your Store

ways to prevent shoplifting

Being a brick-and-mortar retailer these days is challenging enough, especially with competition from eCommerce sites. The last thing you need is to worry about losing sales to shoplifters.

But according to Sennco Solutions, more than $35 million worth of retail products are stolen every day. That adds up to $13 billion a year.

There are two types of shoplifting. Organized retail theft is the work of shoplifting rings that resell the items; they typically target bigger retailers. Small retail stores are more likely to be the target of opportunistic shoplifters, people who don’t walk in planning to steal something, but spot an opportunity and decide to grab an item. By some estimates, nearly three-fourths of shoplifting events fall into this unplanned category.

How can you protect your store from shoplifters of both kinds? Try these tips.

Ways to Prevent Shoplifting

Know What Items Are at Risk

Products that are easy to conceal and sneak out are popular targets. So are “impulse” buys. Clothing and accessories, cosmetics, CDs, DVDs, and small electronics or electronics accessories (like smartphone cases) are common targets for theft.

Design Your Store to Foil Shoplifters

  • Make sure your store has enough open space to allow you to see all areas of the store. A cluttered space makes it easier to steal (and harder to tell if anything’s gone missing.)
  • If you have high shelves or secluded corners, use convex mirrors that allow you to see these “hidden” areas from the cash register. Merchandise these areas with products that are bulky and hard to steal.
  • Consider putting valuable items in locked cases so that customers need the help of a salesperson to access them.
  • Place your checkout counter near the middle front of the store so it’s centrally located — and so customers have to pass by while leaving.

Send Warning Signals

  • Installing mirrors or security cameras (even fake security cameras) can convince thieves to go elsewhere or scare opportunistic shoplifters out of acting.
  • Post signs saying, “Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted” to indicate that you take shoplifting seriously. (You can phrase this in a more humorous or lighthearted way, depending on what you sell and who your customers are.)
  • You can also post signs saying that the store is protected by security cameras. Even if customers can’t see the cameras, they will likely think they are hidden or disguised.

Use Your Employees as Deterrents

  • Train employees to greet shoppers when they enter the store and to keep an eye on shoppers as they browse (unobtrusively, of course.)
  • Have employees watch for suspicious packages, large bags or customers wearing bulky coats (especially in warm weather.) These are often used to smuggle products out of a store. You may want to ask shoppers with large bags to check them at the register.
  • Put locks on dressing room doors so customers can’t enter without help from an employee. Have employees count items when customers enter and again when they leave.
  • Hire adequate staff. A common tactic among retail theft rings is for one thief to distract the sales clerk while another thief stuffs a bag with products. If you don’t have enough employees on the floor, you’re setting the stage for shoplifting.

As you take advantage of these ways to prevent shoplifting, remember that you want your store to be a welcoming place to visit. Friendly staff who greet customers, stroll around, chat and offer assistance with a smile can do more to prevent shoplifting than any security system.
Shoplifter Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

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