Shopping is generally an enjoyable activity. However, among the seemingly innocent customers, there are sometimes shoplifters, determined to get their hands on products without paying anything. But how do you spot a shoplifter, before they disappear with your merchandise?

In this article, we will share with you some warning signs of shoplifting:

  1. Nervousness, unusual behavior
  2. Loitering without a clear purpose
  3. Clothing that can be used to hide things
  4. People in groups
  5. Large bags
  6. Altered packaging
  7. Often in the fitting room

There are also some tips to prevent money loss related to shoplifting:

  1. Employee training
  2. Anti-theft signs
  3. Security cameras
  4. Mirrors
  5. Interacting with customers
  6. Electronic surveillance
  7. Security staff with or without uniform
  8. Inventory management tools

Finally, we will conclude the article with the best way to handle the situation if you spot a shoplifter.

Signs of Shoplifting

There are certain signs to look for that help identify a shoplifter. These are good clues, but they do not automatically mean that a customer has stolen or intends to steal. They also do not permit accusing them. You only have to be on the lookout if you notice more than one of the following signs.

1. Nervousness, Unusual Behavior

Constantly looking around, avoiding eye contact, sweating excessively, or appearing agitated are signs of nervousness or guilt. These behaviors are unusual. These are signs that the person might be doing something wrong.

Constantly glancing at employees, security, or the ceiling (looking for surveillance cameras), or picking up items at random without having much interest in them are also signs of nervousness. This shows extreme awareness of being watched and can be a red flag. Maybe they’re waiting for the perfect opportunity to take action when you’re not looking.

2. Loitering Without a Clear Purpose

A person who repeatedly enters your store and quickly leaves is very suspicious. It is particularly so if you offer your help several times, and they continue to refuse to interact with you or to be assisted in their shopping. 

Someone who spends an unusually long time in the store without purchasing anything or who appears indecisive may be a shoplifter. If they stay for a long time in areas with limited visibility or near the exit, it’s even stranger! Indeed, these aisles with high shelves or these corners out of sight from surveillance cameras or employees at the checkout provide an opportunity to steal. Shelves near doors are also worth watching, as someone can grab a product at lightning speed and run away before you have time to react.

3. Clothing That Can Be Used to Hide Things

Oversized clothing or clothing with many pockets can hide stolen items. Also keep an eye out for people wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather of the day. For example, it is abnormal for someone to wear a warm jacket or a coat if it is 30°C. The person may use the coat or jacket to conceal a stolen product.

4. People in Groups

People sometimes find enjoyment in shoplifting in groups. If multiple people enter within a short time window, appear to know each other, or are distracting staff, be vigilant.

Indeed, some thieves have accomplices to carry out their crime. While one of them will talk to you without any real purpose or make jokes to try to distract you and reduce your vigilance, their accomplice is stealing. Be very careful and attentive if you feel that a customer is talking to you just to hold your attention.

5. Large Bags

Shoplifters may use a backpack, a large purse, or another large bag to steal a product without being noticed. Just keep an eye out for people with a big bag, for example by talking to them. However, make sure not to rush them and treat them like thieves that they may not be.

6. Altered Packaging

Products that have been opened or that are damaged sometimes indicate theft. If you notice a theft in this way, you can watch surveillance camera videos, if any, to see when it happened and who is responsible.

7. Often in the Fitting Room

Shoplifters may use fitting rooms to remove security tags or to hide items in their coat or bag. A customer who enters a fitting room too often gives you a reason to suspect them.

Tips to Prevent Shoplifting

A first tip for detecting shoplifting and preventing it is to keep an eye out for people exhibiting suspicious behavior and to know how to recognize the signs mentioned above. However, there are other ways to prevent shoplifting before it occurs and to detect it.

1. Employee Training

Train staff to be vigilant and communicate effectively. If one employee notices suspicious behavior, they should alert others to keep an eye out. This allows them to apprehend the thief as a team and to have several people rather than one managing the situation.

If you have photos or videos of people who have already tried to steal from your store (or another store nearby), it’s worth showing them to your employees. For example, you can hang a picture of these individuals in the employee break room. This way, your staff will be more vigilant if they see these known individuals in the store.

2. Anti-Theft Signs

Hang posters reminding customers that they are under surveillance and outlining the consequences they may face if they commit shoplifting. These signs must be present throughout your store. This type of warning may seem unnecessary, but it can still deter some people from committing a crime.

3. Security Cameras

This may be the most obvious tip, but it’s a great way to recognize a shoplifter. Surveillance cameras should be strategically placed and cover as much of the store as possible, so you can see customers wherever they are. With surveillance cameras, you ensure you have proof if shoplifting occurs.

4. Mirrors

Mirrors can be used to eliminate blind spots and improve visibility in different areas of the store. This makes it more difficult for shoplifters to find places where they are not being observed.

5. Interacting With Customers

There are several benefits to starting a friendly discussion with customers. Interactions with customers not only improve the customer experience, but also deter potential shoplifters. Indeed, some people feel uncomfortable when someone approaches them.

6. Electronic Surveillance

Electronic security measures such as RFID tags or an EAS system (Electronic Article Surveillance) can help you detect and prevent shoplifting.

There is a chip with a serial number or a set of data in RFID tags. They are very useful for identifying products and for inventory tracking. These electronic tags emit a radio signal that can be read by an RFID reader. These tags do not need to be seen to be read, so they are very useful in preventing shoplifting.

Learn all the benefits of an electronic shelf labeling system here.

If you sell high-value products, you can prevent theft with padlocks or by putting these items on locked shelves.

7. Security Staff With or Without Uniforms

Having visible, uniformed security staff helps deter potential thieves. Undercover agents, without uniforms, help catch shoplifters in the act.

8. Inventory Management Tools

If you implement all the suggestions above but still experience significant losses, there may be an underlying issue with inventory management.

Inventory management tools allow you to track inventory in real time and notice losses, including theft, quickly. Point of sale softwares, such as Alice POS, allow retailers to have better control over their inventory, count inventory more efficiently and spot discrepancies between the assumed number of products and the number of products actually in stock.

Are you wondering about the relevance of inventory management? Discover all the benefits here!

How to Apprehend a Shoplifter

It can be difficult to know what to do when you witness shoplifting, especially as an employee or store manager. You first have to make sure you stay composed and that you handle the situation calmly. Poor control of your emotions, or panic, should not negatively impact your decisions and actions.

If you are convinced that you saw someone take an item and hide it, you can calmly tell them to put the item back in its place or give it to you. Only adopt this attitude when it is safe to do so. If you feel even the slightest bit threatened, back off and think about a new approach.

If you think the suspected shoplifter is dangerous, that they have a weapon for example, avoid any direct confrontation. This can make the situation worse and pose risks to you, the rest of the staff and to the individual. If the person is still in the store, continue to observe them from a distance without drawing attention to yourself.

In fact, the best option when you spot a shoplifter is to contact security. They are trained to handle this type of situation. If it is impossible to contact security staff, the next option is to contact the store manager or ask another employee for help. You should share all the observations you have gathered and the evidence you have. If you saw the act of shoplifting, suspicious behavior or altered packaging, you must report it. If you have information about the stolen product, you should report that too.

It may also be necessary to call the police. They have the power to arrest the suspect and take them into custody. Be sure to follow the store’s shoplifting policies if the store has any. This can help avoid legal problems. If you have surveillance cameras in the store, they will be effective in proving that the person actually committed theft.

Now you know the many signs to look for and tips to apply to spot a shoplifter and prevent them from causing harm. With this new knowledge, you can minimize risks and protect your business. By protecting yourself against shoplifting, you help maintain a safe shopping environment for everyone.

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