Retail Theft Prevention – External Theft Part 2

May 6, 2009

Here are a few more tips to help retailers keep their  profits in their  pockets and their merchandise  out of the hands of thieves.

“Potential” shoplifters to keep an eye on:

a)Those that appear nervous or repeatedly refuse offers of help

b)Those that wear large, baggy  clothing, especially unseasonable wardrobe  (eg – large coats when the weather doesn’t warrant it)

c)Those carrying shopping bags, large purses, backpacks, even umbrellas. Although they are common items in today’s world, you and your staff need to be aware of them at all times; large items of this sort lend themselves to easy concealment.

d)groups of youngsters; juvenile shoplifting is most often accomplished with large numbers convening in one place

e)Those that create “distractions” within the store. Shoplifters often work in teams; in order for the “pick up” person to remove the merchandise undetected, a “take out” person will attempt to distract the staff.

There are ways to protect yourself, or at least limit your exposure to these potential thieves:

1)Insure that ALL CUSTOMERS are GREETED upon entering the store! Real customer will appreciate the greeting, while potential shoplifters will know they have been seen and that you may be watching them.

2)Ask every customer at checkout “Is there anything else?”, then wait until the customer answers. Studies have shown that this question is one of the most effective deterrents to shopliftings;the amount of product pulled from purses, pockets, etc, at the last minute is astounding!

3)Do NOT leave the sales floor unattended! If it becomes necessary to leave the floor, keep the time spent away at an absolute minimum and, if possible, call to the customer(s) from the backroom, letting them know you’ll be there in a minute. The psychological advantage of them not knowing when you’ll return is extremely effective.

4)Never leave cash drawers unattended and/or unlocked. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I continually find myself in stores looking at open cash drawers while the employee has their back turned, bent down to get something from under the counter, etc.

More to follow…..



  1. Very well written and it is highly useful for store managers especially in the busy areas and in the upcoming retail markets like India.

    Please keep sharing.


  2. You must watch out for regular customers as well. The last four shoplifters I could were regular customers that the employees knew. All four were middle aged males.

    • Steve,
      You’re absolutely right. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that shoplifters come in all sizes, shapes and colors;thievery knows no bounds!

  3. Great points and very well said. Also remember that at check out, if the customer is purchasing a purse, luggage, or container of some sort, to check the inside of that merchandise. A lot of merchandise like DVDs and CDs gets hidden inside of other merchandise and gets passed through the checkout lane.

    Alan, are you going to be writing up an internal theft tip sheet also?

    • Justin,
      Thanks for the comments, especially the tip about checking the inside of products being purchased. Quick story in the same vein…years ago I had a guy steal a wheelbarrow after paying for everything in it, but not IT. The day after he “stole” it he returned just about everything he bought the previous day, trying to end up with just the stolen wheelbarrow. One of my front end managers recognized him, alerted me, we checked the video from the previous day and called the cops! Thieves are resourceful!

      As for additional tip sheets, I’ll be publishing the first of a number of blogs on Internal Theft this week.

      Thanks again,

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