Retail loss Prevention - Shoplifting

Posted on 21st July 2017

Retail crime in the UK is still on the rise with 2015 estimates of a UK bill of £613 million, and shoplifting and organised retail crime accounting for 39% of all reported shrinkage for that year. Retail loss prevention has become more important than ever as business managers look to find retail solutions to stop shrinkage. Whilst over 438,032 shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2016, businesses are still experiencing costly and upsetting losses that could be prevented. We have 5 retail loss prevention tips for you.

Understand how shoplifters operate

It is almost impossible to describe what a shoplifter will look like but it is easier to understand some shoplifting methods. Broadly speaking there are 2 different types of shoplifters, amateur and professional. Thieves in either of these categories can be experienced and proficient at stealing but professional shoplifters make it their means of earning money and are often less easy to spot. Shoplifters may work in groups with one party distracting sales staff while the others steal. They will often use busy or opening and closing times, when staff are likely to be distracted, to make their thefts.

Whilst most shoplifting involves hiding goods inside clothing, bags or other purchased merchandise, some shoplifters might grab and run whilst others switch price labels so that they pay a lower price for goods. You won’t be able to predict which methods shoplifters are going to use but being aware can go a long way towards tailoring your retail solutions towards prevention.

Understand what shoplifters look like

There is no stereotypical look for a shoplifter. In fact, experienced shoplifters will go out of their way to change and disguise their appearance. Thieves can be all of ages, colours and backgrounds so those indicators won’t help you to spot one. However, there are certain behaviours shoplifters exhibit that you might want to look out for:

Entering and leaving a shop multiple times without buying anything.
Watching staff but not really appearing bothered about goods.
Wearing oversized clothing that could conceal goods.
Avoiding eye contact with staff.
Entering shops in large, unruly groups as a distraction.

Carefully consider your store design

A good store design can make the difference between a shoplifter targeting your shop and the one down the high street. Most organised shoplifters will check out a potential target first so follow the tips below to make your shop as unattractive to thieves as possible:

Keep displays low so that all of your goods are visible from across the shop.
Monitor how many items are taken into dressing rooms and have a limit.
Keep dressing rooms locked when they are not being used.
Keep expensive goods in a laminated glass cabinet.
Lay your shop out so that all customers must pass the checkout before departing. 
Eliminate blind spots through the use of mirrors, good lighting and CCTV cameras.
Use visual warnings aimed at shoplifters and positioned where they are likely to look (especially if this is somewhere an innocent customer might not look) for example, high up near to CCTV cameras.

Train your staff

If you are serious about reducing shrinkage, it is important to build retail loss prevention into training for all staff. Your staff are your point of contact with criminal activity. Consider employing a professional consultant for this but if you want to train your own staff you should include the following:

How to remain vigilant and recognise a thief.
Understanding which behaviours constitute an offence.
How to respond to suspected theft.
How to keep safe during a crime or apprehension.
How to contact other retailers or the police about suspected or apprehended criminals.

Install CCTV cameras and equipment

There are 2 ways that CCTV cameras can help towards retail loss prevention. The first is to deter potential shoplifters and the second is to assure prosecution results.  Security cameras will only act as a deterrent if they are in highly visible positions and cover the whole shop. It is false economy to rely on dummy cameras so invest in good quality equipment that meets police prosecution requirements and will give you reliable service. Covert cameras can be effective if positioned just below head height and pointed towards head position. It should be remembered though that under Data Protection law, all members of the public need to be made aware that the shop is a CCTV area.

A good CCTV system is only as good as its maintenance so make sure that you designate a member of staff to make frequent checks on your security camera equipment and invest in a maintenance contract. Your CCTV installation engineer will talk to you about positioning and lighting requirements. Having a good idea of which stock you would most like to protect will help with these decisions.

At Alert CCTV we are security industry specialists who only use quality, branded CCTV cameras and equipment. We work closely with clients and strive to meet both their security and budget requirements. We offer an optional service agreement and all of our installs have a 3-year warranty. For free no obligation advice on how to protect your place of business please get in touch with us on 01908 698 777 – or email us at

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