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    What is retail theft! & How to prevent it!


    Did you know that retail theft is the most common crime in the US! In fact, 1 out of 11 Americans are shoplifters! On top of that, did you know that 33% percent of people surveyed admit to having shoplifted at least once in their life. That’s 1 in 3 people! It’s a serious problem, and it can be hard to prevent. In this blog post, we’ll discuss:

    1) Confronting Suspects

    If you suspect someone of shoplifting, here are a few things to consider:

    Confronting Shoplifters

    First and foremost, the safety of your staff and yourself are more important than the products! If confrontation looks dangerous in any way, it must be avoided!

    However, if you choose to confront the suspected shoplifter, catch them when they’ve left the premises. Until they have left the premises with the item, technically the law has not been broken. Further, it is important to have more than one person with you when you confront the shoplifter!

    Establish Probable cause

    If you wish to hold a person who has been caught stealing from your store, you must first establish probable cause. This implies that you or one of your workers saw the individual take your stuff and attempt to leave the shop without paying for it.

    Law Enforcement

    Know how the law works in your jurisdiction. Most law enforcement agencies will have guidelines for confronting suspects and a reporting system. And, local law may limit what members of the general public are able to do.

    2) The Most / Targeted Shoplifted Merchandise

    Generally, small items that are easy to conceal are easy targets for would-be shoplifters. According to the National Retail Federation, the items that shoplifters most target:

    • Chewing gum,
    • Advil
    • Cellphones,
    • Claritin,
    • Rogaine,
    • Red Bull energy drinks,
    • Dyson vacuums,
    • Bumble and Bumble hair products,
    • Cover Girl cosmetics,
    • Crest Whitestrips,
    • Deodorant

    3) Best practices for preventing retail theft:

    • Keep the store neat and organized
    • Contract a security guard service to cover peak hours
    • Provide excellent (in-your-face) customer service
    • Have an employee greet customers as they enter the building
    • Install cameras, and security systems (be wary of blind spots)
    • Develop procedures on how to confront a thieves (avoid if dangerous)

    Employee participation is critical for loss prevention measures to succeed. Staff members, managers and owners should:

    • Engage customers as they traverse the store
    • Provide an employee training program, that covers theft prevention
    • Ensure you have regular staff training so your people can work as a team to prevent theft and keep them safe.
    • Prepare and post An emergency contact list.
    • Keep an updated employee work schedule so management knows who was working when the theft was committed. (Default witness list)
    • Create codes to use over the public address (PA) system that alert or warn staff.
    • Employ a hiring policy that includes a prior conviction assessment or criminal record screening.

    Create a culture of loss prevention amongst your staff and coordinate your efforts with employees.

    4) How to Identify Potential Shoplifters

    Suspicious behavior by customers looks like the following:

    • Oversized coats or baggy clothing is a no-no.
    • Avoiding direct eye contact
    • Watching staff, not the merchandise
    • Looking for places to hide i.e., dressing rooms, aisles, blind spots
    • Hiding in corners to stash smuggled merchandise into pockets or bags
    • Taking advantage of stores during peak hours
    • Walking with short awkward steps to conceal hidden items
    • Carrying bulky packages, pocketbooks, baby carriages, knitting bags, etc.
    • Lingering in one area, especially if it is near an emergency exit
    • Picking up random items and “pretending” to look at them.
    • Paying more attention to the employees than the goods.
    • Walking in the opposite direction of the employees.
    • Bring too many items into the dressing room.
    • A customer who is not a regular customer.

    5) Reasons why people commit retail theft

    There are seven types of shoplifters to be mindful of. Note: the motives are different for each:

    Addictive Compulsive

    • This kind of theft happens when shoplifters are addicted to the act. They can’t help themselves, and they keep doing it even though they know it’s wrong. An example of this would be someone who steals many things even though they don’t need them.

    Professional / Organized retail theft

    • Organized retail crime (ORC) persons who steal retail items in large quantities for the purpose of resale. Professionally executed, typically coordinated under well-planned procedures and rules. This is the most dangerous form of retail theft! (Loss Prevention Magazine)


    • Addict shoplifters are persons who feel an overwhelming desire to shoplift or constant tension and pressure to shoplift with repetitive thoughts about shoplifting.(BlackBear)


    • This Retail theft occurs because of perceived economic need. These thieves tend to steal inexpensive necessity items and may be with children.


    • This tends to be early-stage shoplifting (Teens). This type of shoplifting is motivated by rebellious behavior, peer pressure, or boredom. In adults, it is usually motivated by persons with emotional issues, such as anxiety or moodiness.


    • This occurs when people forget to pay for things when they are shopping. Absent-minded theft often happens to senile individuals or when people are in a rush.


    • Kleptomania is a mental disorder that causes people to steal things, even if they don’t need them or can afford them.

    6) Retail theft as defined by law?

    This four-letter question seems very basic. However, in law, the concept is, in fact, vague, and yet the legal definition of theft (aka, larceny, shoplifting) is the one that is enforceable and matters most to retail establishments. The following legal examples constitute retail theft (Jordan):

    • Removing merchandise from a retail store with the motive of not returning it
    • Altering or replacing price tags to pay less than full retail value;
    • Moving an item from its original container into another container with the intent to avoid paying full price;
    • Ringing up a product for less than total value, with the intention of keeping the difference as a profit
    • Removing a shopping cart from a store’s property
    • Returning an item that was not paid for.

    While these theft offenses seem minor, a larceny charge can become quite serious. A person caught with stolen merchandise can be banned from shopping at a particular retailer for up to life or worse. In addition, if charged by law enforcement and convicted of a crime could lead to fines, a significant loss of freedom, (up to one year or longer) and a criminal record.

    Is retail theft and Shoplifting the same thing?

    Theft, aka larceny, is a comprehensive concept that encompasses a multitude of other legal terms. For example, in most US jurisdictions, Shoplifting is a form of retail (theft) that means taking something from a store without paying for it. In contrast, theft is an umbrella term because it can represent various specific types of larceny—anything from stealing a chocolate bar to more severe crimes such as grand theft auto.

    The Economic Cost of retail Theft / Shoplifting

    The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) found that shoplifting costs retailers about $13 every year and the American taxpayers an estimated $33.21 billion annually, or about $75,000 per minute. For the average retailer, losses due to Shoplifting average 1.7% of all gross sales.

    Retail theft is a serious problem, and it can be hard to prevent. However, by following the tips we’ve provided in this blog post, you can make it much more difficult for thieves to steal from your store. Stay safe out there!

    Interested in learning more about reducing time theft? Also visit Buddy Punching: What you need to know!

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