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Securing your shop from shoplifters 

You’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money in setting up shop. Unfortunately, shops attract shoplifters. So whether you're a shop owner or a floor manager in a department store, we’re here to offer you advice to help you protect your livelihood.

Six top tips for securing your shop

1. Meet and greet 

Shoplifters can always assess how easy it is to steal from a shop by how soon after they enter they are spoken to by a member of staff. It’s known as ‘the three-to-five second rule’.

Greeting customers as they enter your premises can put off shoplifters because it sends out a message that you and your staff are paying attention. If a thief thinks they've been spotted they're more likely to leave.

2. Crime mapping 

Work out where inside the store thefts are happening. Keep records of location, dates, times and CCTV of incidents or suspicious behaviour. This is called ‘crime mapping’.

Take a look at this area as if you are seeing it for the first time, then work out what you can do to protect it. Can you improve the surveillance? For example, can you see it from the till? Try making the area more visible by repositioning or lowering stock and shelving. Consider placing more staff here or even displaying the items elsewhere.

3. Electronic tagging

Tag your items with ‘Electronic Article Surveillance’. Anti-theft systems encompass a wide range of devices and technologies.

A correctly installed and security accredited anti-theft terminal (and tagging system) at a store entrance is a statement to potential shoplifters that ‘this store is protected’. Thieves will often target premises that don’t have this equipment. Most shops see a marked drop in shoplifting once they install an anti-theft terminal on the door. They’ll simply go elsewhere.

4. Keep it tidy

A clean and tidy retail outlet with clear visibility across the shop floor tells a thief that everything is shipshape – and that surveillance is also probably first class. Keep things security friendly, with uncluttered, wide aisles where possible, thereby making it extremely difficult for them to steal unnoticed. Ensure that the exterior, the grounds and the building itself are also well maintained and clean, to keep the space as visible as possible.

5. Personal safety

You can't predict who’s coming into your shop or how they will behave. Shoplifters could respond aggressively when challenged.

Employers should conduct a risk assessment in conjunction with Health and Safety directions. Always trust your instincts and only engage a potential shoplifter if it is safe to do so. If you feel confident with the situation, keep a safe distance and then ask them if they need any help or if they require a basket or a bag. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, be polite, step away and quietly alert your manager or security team.

6. Safety in numbers

For as much of the day as possible, try not to be alone. Thieves target stores where there is only one member of staff. More eyes in the store, means you’re more likely to spot a thief, so have a few members of staff and make sure they’re trained in how to spot shoplifters.

Could you spot a shoplifter?

They’re not always what you’d expect - specialising at blending in with shoppers. But you can often identify a shoplifter by their behaviour. Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for.

Many shoplifters dress smartly and will often speak to you, joke with you and engage with you. They don’t always work alone and they may try to relax or distract you while an accomplice steals. They’re good at creating diversions, especially when you’ve unlocked a cabinet. Don’t fall for it. Get one of your staff to assist you.

A key part of dealing with shoplifters is by having strong security such as a member of staff near any doors; by knowing your clientele; by encouraging staff to remain alert; and by intelligent use of security devices.

How to spot a shoplifter

There are a number of tell-tale signs that flag up a shoplifter. But remember, while the following don't necessarily mean the person is guilty – and be aware that you are responsible for your behaviour, both legally and commercially – we recommend that you keep an eye on shoppers who:

  • seem to be watching you and the staff rather than shopping and may be waiting for the right moment to steal an item
  • seem to want to keep your attention and talk for the sake of it – possibly because an accomplice is elsewhere stealing
  • look like they’re taking little notice of your products
  • seem a little nervous and possibly pick up random items with little interest
  • keep refusing your offer of help or assistance
  • frequently enter your store and never make a purchase
  • want you to unlock and open cabinets but don’t buy anything

What to do if you see a shoplifter in action

If you see them take something then ask them politely to put the item back but be careful to keep your tone neutral and back off if you feel threatened. Always be sure they’ve taken something before you speak to them – and only if you feel it’s safe to do so.

Once you're sure that they are indeed a shoplifter, call 999.

Keep burglars out of your business

You may have invested a great deal of time, energy and money in your business premises, but burglars make it their business to break in. Follow our advice below to make the property more secure, deterring them from targeting your premises.

Protect your business from the outside in

1. A well-maintained exterior free of rubbish and graffiti will reduce the likelihood of your business being targeted by criminals. So try to remove any graffiti. If any appears on a nearby wall or structure, call the local council who will send their specialist team.

2. Identify areas that may be vulnerable to forced entry and have them made more secure.

3. Make sure any service doors are locked and secure when not in use.

4. Make sure you have a monitored alarm and that it’s fully operational. For advice and approved suppliers of alarms and CCTV, visit the National Security Inspectorate and the Security Systems Alarms Inspection Board.

5. Make sure your CCTV is operational, provides facial recognition as well as good quality images and covers any vulnerable areas. 24-hour digital CCTV is also highly recommended. You'll find useful advice on buying surveillance equipment, from the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. 

6. Make sure that wheelie bins are stored away as these can be climbed on to gain access to the building, especially via the first floor.

7. Make sure there is sufficient lighting around the premises, especially loading areas.

8. Consider moving high-value goods away from display windows overnight.

9. Prune any overgrown bushes or nearby trees, as they can provide cover for anyone trying to hide from view.

10. Doors and windows are particularly vulnerable – use security-rated products to make them more burglar-resistant. For more details visit Secure by Design.

11. External shutters, although effective, may require planning approval. Use attack-resistant laminated glass in sturdy frames where possible. Alternatively, film can be applied to glass to make it more resilient.

12. Anti-ram raider bollards mounted externally can be used to protect frontages but may require planning approval.

13. Try not to keep cash on the premises and always use a bolted-down safe with a time lock and anti-tamper sensors that trigger an alarm.

14. Make sure stockrooms are locked and, where possible, keep stock out of sight.

15. Smoke-generating devices that activate on unauthorised entry create a smokescreen and foil burglary. They're designed not to damage stock.

16. Make sure your keys are not left on the premises and that only designated staff have access. In case of emergency, make sure there’s a list of keyholders who can be contacted.

Online security

Your digital assets are just as much at risk as your physical ones. That’s why you need to protect them, especially if you’re a small business with everything on a laptop.