17 Ways To Prevent Theft In Retail Store (That Actually Work)

By now, I’m sure you are all aware of the increases in theft that many of your locations have had in the past months. As with any business, it’s important to stay on top of preventing larceny and be familiar with prevention methods.

Theft in retail stores has always been a growing concern with around $61.7 billion in losses during 2019 alone according to the National Retail Federation.

This blog will highlight 17 ways to stop shoplifting before it happens.

Prevent Theft In Retail Store

A large amount of retail theft can be prevented by implementing the following measures:

  1. Lock smaller expensive items like electronics in showcases.
  2. Secure the stock that hangs on pegs with peg hook stop locks.
  3. Apply magnetic sensors to expensive goods to sound an alarm at the exit.
  4. Set up surveillance cameras to cover every part of the store.
  5. Use convex mirrors to monitor blind spots.
  6. Arrange your store so that less expensive items start from the entrance.
  7. Use a point of sale system to keep track of your stock.
  8. Perform regular physical stock-taking to make sure what’s on hand.
  9. Limit employee access to expensive stock.
  10. Request that customers leave their bags in the store’s care while they shop.
  11. Employ someone to compare receipts with goods upon leaving the store.
  12. Develop strong relationships with employees.
  13. Be extra cautious when the store is busy.
  14. Keep an eye on groups of customers who move around the store together.
  15. Keep the police informed of all crimes.
  16. Try and interact with every customer by offering assistance.
  17. Warn the thieves with a sign that shoplifting will not be taken lightly.

Now let’s look at all these security measures in more detail.


Lock Smaller Expensive Items Like Electronics In Showcases

Any expensive stock that can fit into someone’s pocket can be displayed from within a locked, glass “showcase”.

It’s best to provide keys to this display case to only two people on any given day.

General sales staff will ask for the product to be taken out and a note can be made to keep track of what’s coming and going.


Secure The Stock That Hangs On Pegs With Peg Hook Stop Locks

Peg Hook Locks

If you hang your stock on the sides of the walls using pegs, you can make use of stop locks like these on Amazon.

A very powerful magnet is required to detach this lock from the peg.

These locks reduce shoplifting in a big way as most shoplifters won’t come prepared with the unlocking tool.

If a thief does bring their own magnet they may be able to remove the lock but it will make the theft a lot more obvious when you see them removing items from the shelf without assistance.


Apply Anti-Theft Tags To Expensive Goods To Sound An Alarm At The Exit

Anti-Theft tags like these on Amazon work well to set off alarms at the exit of the store, you just need to make sure to have the system to detect them.

The tags are removed or deactivated by the sales staff before the customer leaves so that it doesn’t set off the alarm at the exit for paying customers.


Set Up Surveillance Cameras To Cover Every Part Of The Store

Not only are CCTV cameras great for monitoring all parts of your store in real-time, but they also help when you need to prove that the theft was committed.

There’s also less theft in a store with cameras than a store without because the shoplifters don’t want video footage of them committing the crime.

Even if you only realize the stock is missing after the thief is gone, you can still give the footage over to the police to help them with shoplifters in general and maybe even find the one caught in your video.


Use Convex Mirrors To Monitor Blind Spots

Convex Mirrors

Using convex mirrors is a cheaper way of monitoring your store and also make shoplifters think twice.

These mirrors are placed in corners to view areas of your store that are ordinarily blind spots. Here’s an example on Amazon.


Arrange Your Store So That Less Expensive Items Start From The Entrance

It’s best to arrange your retail store so that the more expensive items are close to the PayPoint in view of the cashier and other employees.

Small items that are popular among thieves should also be placed close to the checkout station.

Larger items that are more difficult to steal and cheap stock should be placed further away in areas that can’t be monitored 100%.

Set your shopping aisles up so that you can look down the full length of the aisles from the PayPoint area. Don’t have any shelves with stock blocking your view of other aisles.


Use A Point Of Sale System To Keep Track Of Your Stock

I’ve worked in many stores that had a POS system but they never used it correctly.

If a POS is used correctly you will be able to track your stock levels efficiently to detect theft.

If you perform the end of day cash up correctly you will be able to balance out each day properly to avoid losses.

Stocktaking must be performed with the POS system at least once a month to identify any stock losses and to identify fast-moving goods to help order correctly to maintain stock levels.

With a fully functional POS you will be able to identify specific times and dates of sales to help with missing stock investigations.

If you use a POS correctly there are so many benefits that I can’t fit them all into this article.


Perform Regular Physical Stock-taking To Make Sure What’s On Hand

You should arrange to either close the store for a couple of hours or pay your workers some overtime to help physically count all the stock in the store.

The stock levels should be entered into the POS to see if there are shortages.


Limit Employee Access To Expensive Stock

For very expensive items like high-end electronics, give access to only two people to access the stock.

When I worked for a cell phone retailer the phones were kept in timed safes and only the manager and assistant manager had the pin codes to unlock them.

If the customer changes their mind, the employee returns the phone to the manager to be locked up again.

If you make use of showcases to keep your stock safe, only provide keys to a select number of employees who can give the stock to other employees upon request.


Request That Customers Leave Their Bags In The Store’s Care While They Shop

There shouldn’t be any reason for your customers to come into your store with other shopping parcels or big bags.

By requesting for your customers to keep their bags with you in a designated area, you will reduce the number of shoplifters bagging your goods and not paying.

Provide the customer with a numbered token which they will use to get their bags back once they’re done shopping.


Employ Someone To Compare Receipts With Goods Upon Leaving The Store

I’ve been to many stores where my goods were compared to my receipt upon leaving. It’s a slight irritant but it will reduce shoplifting in a big way.

If you make sure to train your employee in a way that makes them treat customers politely, the customer won’t feel so offended.

When the store is busy the employee doesn’t need to check everything 100% as this will cause congestion at the store exit.

The fact that shoplifters see them checking should be enough to decrease theft.


Develop Strong Relationships With Employees

In my personal experience working in retail stores for over a decade, I noticed that there was more theft in stores where workers felt like they were being mistreated and undervalued.

In the stores where the owner made an effort to treat the employees with respect and interact with them more, the employees felt like they’re part of the business and actually looked out for the store’s well being.

Forming good relationships with your employees will decrease theft as the employees won’t want to betray your trust and they’ll also want to protect the place that they’re working at because they’re happy working there.

A miserable employee can lead to many problems for your business. They won’t care if they see someone stealing something as they will think “it’s not my problem, I’m not a security guard” An employee that’s being treated well will think “I got to call security to catch this thief because they messing with my workplace here” An unhappy employee has the frame of mind that the owners don’t care about them so why should they care about the owner’s business.

A little bit of communication and empathy for them will go a long way in forming good employee relationships.


Be Extra Cautious When The Store Is Busy

Most retail store thefts occur when the store is busy. The thieves know that all the employees are busy and don’t have time to keep an eye on them.

You could higher a part-time worker to come in during busy times to assist customers who are shopping. This will decrease the time customers spend looking for products and will deter shoplifters who don’t plan on buying anything.


Keep An Eye On Groups Of Customers Who Move Around The Store Together

Shoplifters often work in groups of two or three. Sometimes one or two of them will be loud and distracting while the other one steals the goods.

They also use each other to block off your view from the theft.

While I was working at a cell phone store, three young guys came in to look at the demo phones. They said they were just looking and didn’t need help. They picked up brochures and were looking at phones.

When they left, a brochure was on top of one of the demo phones so I walked to it to put it back on the brochure stand. This is when I saw the demo phone was missing and the cable lock was cut. They just put the brochure there to hide the theft and buy enough time to get into the busy mall.


Keep The Police Informed Of All Crimes

Even if the shoplifters get away, report the theft to the police. This way they can put all the reports together and work on handling these thieves.


Try And Interact With Every Customer By Offering Assistance

Employing someone to greet and assist customers around the store helps to reduce theft because shoplifters don’t have many options when an employee asks if they need any assistance.

At this point, they know that they’re being watched and that their face has been exposed clearly to at least one employee.

It will also help actual customers in finding what they need quickly and keep the shop less crowded so that thieves can’t take advantage of a busy store.


Warn The Thieves With A Sign That Shoplifting Will Not Be Taken Lightly

Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted Policy Sign Card

Signboards like these on Amazon help to deter shoplifters because they show the thief that you are serious about shoplifting and will have them prosecuted if they’re caught.


Conclusion: Prevent Theft In Retail Store

Shoplifting isn’t as common as it once was, but it’s still a major problem for retail stores. If you’re opening a store of your own, you need to be prepared to prevent theft. It can be tough to tell if a person is going to steal something or not, but as discussed in the article there are ways you can stop retail theft from happening.

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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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