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How To Spot a Shoplifter in Your Retail Store

Did you know the average business loses between $500 and $2500 monthly to shoplifting?

Don’t let this unfortunate statistic become a reality for your small business! 

In this blog, we’ll explore how you can protect your bottom line by learning how to spot a shoplifter — and the strategies you can use to prevent theft

Understanding Shoplifter Behavior

Your first step in learning how to spot a shoplifter is to understand their behavior. In this section, we’ll share the warning signs to look for and some of the most common strategies thieves might use on your sales floor.  

What Does a Shoplifter Look Like?

First, we need to clarify that shoplifters don’t fit a single profile. Anyone could be a shoplifter, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.  

That’s why it’s so important to know the warning signs of potential theft. Watch out for these red flags: 

  • Nervous Behavior: Keep a close eye on customers who avoid eye contact with employees on the sales floor, are fidgeting excessively, or are constantly looking over their shoulders. 
  • Unusual Clothing or Bag Choices: Shoplifters might wear oversized, bulky coats regardless of the season, or they might carry large, seemingly empty bags or backpacks. 
  • Wandering and Loitering: Pay close attention to customers who seem to loiter in your store for an abnormal amount of time without making a purchase. They may be waiting for the right time to steal. 
  • Frequent Exits and Entrances: Shoplifters may visit your store several times without making a purchase to scope out your security measures and store layout. 

While these behaviors aren’t sure signs that a customer intends to commit a crime, being aware of them is an essential step in learning how to spot a shoplifter. 

What Tactics Do Shoplifters Use?

Sometimes, thieves might not display any warning signs before making a move. 

In these cases, you’ll need to be able to catch shoplifters in action. Knowing thieves' techniques will help you apprehend potential shoplifters and implement effective anti-theft techniques

Let’s take a look at the shoplifting tactics you should be aware of: 

  • Concealing Merchandise: Shoplifters might hide stolen merchandise in their clothes, bags, or even inside of purchased items. 
  • Tag Tampering: Shoplifters may swap the tags on items in order to pay a lower price for a more expensive item. 
  • Snatch and Grab: Shoplifters may quickly enter your store, gather a large quantity of items regardless of size or style, and run out. Thieves using this technique often work in groups, entering all at once and then scattering throughout your store. 
  • Return Fraud: Criminals might steal items from your store and later attempt to return them without proof of purchase for a cash refund or store credit. 

Understanding the most common theft techniques will help you spot a shoplifter in the act, allowing you to intervene and protect your store. 

Comcash Mastering Retail Inventory Management Guide

How To Stop Shoplifters in Your Store

Now that you know how to spot a shoplifter, you need to know how to stop one. 

In this section, we’ll share the critical strategies you need to implement to keep your small business safe from theft. 

1. Train Your Employees

Your team members are your eyes and ears when you aren’t able to be in your store — which is why they need to be able to spot a shoplifter just as well as you can. 

Plan regular training sessions for all your employees regarding theft prevention, and make sure to cover the warning signs of shoplifting, the most common shoplifting techniques, and your business’ policies for apprehending thieves. 

Remember, one of the best ways to deter criminal behavior is to offer excellent, attentive customer service, so make sure your team members know how to engage your shoppers and potential thieves on the sales floor. 

2. Reconsider Your Store Layout

Consider your business from a shoplifter’s perspective. What opportunities might they have to steal from your store? How easy would it be to target your most high-value items?

If this exercise reveals areas that are vulnerable to theft, you may want to rearrange your store to make it more difficult for thieves to navigate. 

For instance, if your most expensive and most frequently stolen items are toward the back of your store, far away from the checkout counter, you might want to consider moving them to a more visible location, allowing you and your team members to keep a closer eye on your shoppers’ activity. 

3. Use Security Cameras To Spot Shoplifters

Security cameras are a classic anti-theft technology for a reason. 

The presence of cameras often deters thieves, showing them that the business they are targeting takes security seriously. 

In addition, security cameras also allow you to investigate instances of theft in your store, giving you evidence to take to the authorities in the event of a crime. 

4. Identify Shoplifting Patterns Using a POS System

Another unique way to spot shoplifting is to use your store’s point of sale (POS) system

Your POS system should give you detailed insights into your store’s sales performance and financial health, making it easy to identify discrepancies and instances of potential theft. 

Equipped with this data, you’ll be able to assess the impact of shoplifting and take action to protect your bottom line. 

Protect Your Store With Comcash

You’ve learned how to spot a shoplifter in your store — and now it’s time to take action to protect your small business from theft and loss. 

Along with vigilance, training, and technology, we recommend implementing a POS system that allows you to monitor your store from anywhere. 

If you’re ready to take the next step in protecting your store and boosting your bottom line, check out Comcash, an all-in-one POS solution designed for small businesses just like yours. 

Featuring advanced reporting and analytics, robust inventory management, and built-in security tools, Comcash has everything you need to keep your store as profitable as possible.

See Comcash in action by scheduling a live demo today, or use our build and price tool to create your custom POS system.

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