Shoplifting is one of the oldest problems we face as a society. According to Wikipedia, stealing more than five shillings worth of goods was a crime punishable by death under the Shoplifting Act of 1699. And in 18th century Europe, many shoplifters were hanged, even for small thefts.
While we no longer mete out such harsh treatment for offenders, shoplifting continues to plague retail stores today more than ever. The statistics are staggering. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention:
Approximately 1 in 11 Americans shoplifts
550,000 shoplifting incidents happen every day
Shoplifting costs American taxpayers more than $33 billion every year – about $75,000 a minute!
Stores lose more than $45 million a day to shoplifting
Desperate times, desperate measures
It’s a fact of life – when times are tough, crime goes up. The COVID pandemic has been no exception, and shoplifting is up considerably since it began. With millions unemployed and struggling, it’s no surprise more staples such as food and hygiene products are being taken. Many people are simply broke, hungry, and struggling to pay bills and take care of their families.
Whatever the reasons for the act, shoplifting has a wide-reaching ripple effect. While the most visible costs are to the retail industry, it’s a community problem, resulting in:
Higher prices for goods
Lost jobs when businesses are forced to close
The inconvenience and invasiveness of in-store security measures
Lost tax revenue at the local and state levels
An added burden on police departments and courts
Financial and emotional hardship suffered by family members of shoplifters
Bottom line: shoplifting steals from all of us.
How should your business address shoplifting?
While you can’t stop every incident, you’re not powerless. Follow these 10 common sense steps to make your business a harder target and help you deal with shoplifters more safely.
Keep your store adequately staffed. An empty store is an invitation to a shoplifter.
Keep your store clean inside and out, organized, and well-lit. A messy and disorganized store can make it easy to steal without being spotted.
Use dome mirrors overhead to better observe activity throughout your store.
Consider installing Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to be your “eye-in-the-sky” over high-theft items.
Block off cash register lanes not in use to make it harder for a shoplifter to exit without paying.
Use “assertive hospitality.” Train your employees to routinely walk the aisles, making eye contact and greeting each shopper with a friendly, “Can I help you find something?”
Be aware of red flags and common target areas for shoplifters. Extra baggy or multi-layered clothes, a nervous demeanor, extra bags, or excessive people watching may be signs of a shoplifter. Be aware of high target items such as cigarettes, meat, and batteries.
Watch for open merchandise during checkout and immediately offer to get a replacement item for the customer.
Use extreme caution when stopping a shoplifter. The wrong decision could result in injury or death of an employee or customer and/or a costly liability suit. Train your staff thoroughly. You can only legally stop a shoplifter if someone has watched the suspect continuously, observed him or her enter the aisle or section, pick up the item, conceal the item, and attempt to leave the store without purchasing the item.
Call police immediately and prosecute. When police arrive, report how you’ve followed the legal requirements above, and follow through with prosecution to show the community and shoplifters that you won’t tolerate the crime.
Like other crime, shoplifting isn’t going away anytime soon, so follow these tips to protect your business, your employees, and your customers.
Download our 10 Ways to Deter Shoplifting Safety Tip and regularly train and monitor your team to ensure best practices are followed. Talk to the grocery insurance team at RiskPoint Advisors to ensure you have adequate protection against this costly exposure.
Joe Scarpello Melissa Johnson