Learn how to stop shoplifters in their tracks
Shoplifting may be part of "the reality of retail," as Bonnie Kallenberg, who owns four Finders Keepers consignment shops in and around Atlanta, puts it, but that doesn’t mean business owners have to accept it.
Kallenberg and her staff fight such thievery every step of the way. "I was in denial about shoplifting for some time myself. But then I saw things going missing—and that forced me to open my eyes and do everything I could to combat it. The more you make it evident that you’re aware of and trying to prevent shoplifting, the more shoplifting you’ll discourage."
Such tactics are especially helpful when it comes to deterring "casual shoplifters," adds Kallenberg, who also serves as president of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops. "They really don't want to get caught or get into trouble," she says. "It's more of a game for them, and they'll usually only do it if it seems like it’s going to be easy."
Here are a few of the tactics Kallenberg uses to stop shoplifters in their tracks:
Although Kallenberg opened her first consignment shop back in 1990 (she's since added three more), she outfitted it and its counterparts with security cameras only in the last year or so. They're far from foolproof, and they can't cover every inch of each store. But she considers them worth the expense thinks they deter a good number of people from stealing.
2. Changing-Room Attendants:
This can be another expensive endeavor, Kallenberg says, especially if it's someone's full-time job (as it is for an employee at one Finders Keepers shop), but it, too, can provide a clothing retailer with a healthy return on investment—or at least some peace of mind. After all, she reminds, "the fitting room is a prime target for a lot of shoplifters."
3. Security Tags and Towers.
This pair of products—the tags are attached to store items and they beep if they pass by one of the towers—can go a long way toward discouraging thieves, according to Kallenberg, although they present a few challenges to store owners, too. Chief among them: "the towers can remind customers of being at a discount or drug store," she says. So, she and her staff decorate them "to make them prettier and also make them less obtrusive."
4. Attentive Staffers:
"A lot of people say that one of the best ways to stop shoplifters is to have good customer service," says Kallenberg. She agrees with that sentiment but adds that "the reality is that you’d have to have an army of employees watching everybody in your store all the time for customer service alone to be completely effective." That's simply not possible in her case, so she does what she can by making sure staff members greet and make eye contact with everyone who comes through the door, for example. "It’s an easy way to let customers—the ones interested in shoplifting, especially—know you’re aware they're in the store," Kallenberg explains.
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Security consultant and private investigator Chris McGoey, who owns and operates Los Angeles-based McGoey Security Consulting, agrees with the last of Kallenberg’s strategies, in particular. "Good customer service removes the opportunity for shoplifting," he reiterates.
In addition, he suggests that smaller retailers interested in decreasing the amount of shoplifting in their stores consider the following do's and don'ts:
- Do invest in loss-prevention training for your employees.
- Don’t cut back on the number of employees when sales are down or your budget is overspent.
- Do make employees responsible for reducing loss (and, on a related note, compensate them for providing a high level of customer service).
- Don’t stock too much merchandise or make displays too high, both of which make it easier for shoplifters to conceal merchandise.