How Do Shoplifters Decide To Target Your Store?
Every store manager should know how shoplifters typically make a decision to target a store and what action(s) a store manager can take to change their mind. What is also important to know is that regardless of whether you manage a department store, specialty shop, supermarket, drug or convenience store, if the store manager in a competitive store nearby does a better job of deterrence than you do, your store becomes the preferred target of the shoplifter.
What You Can Count On
There are several things you can count on about almost all shoplifters and knowing these things will help to guide your actions:
1. Shoplifters don’t want to get caught; thus shoplifters should not get the feeling of being completely safe from detection in your store.
2. If caught, they don’t want to be prosecuted; thus it is important to strictly follow the prosecution guidelines of your company.
3. Most shoplifters prefer to be left alone and remain as inconspicuous as possible; thus one of the most important things employees can do is to let every customer know that the store is aware of their presence.
4. A shoplifter’s decision to conceal an item in the store is not a commitment to keep that item. If the shoplifter does not feel safe before leaving the store, (s)he will either “ditch” the item or buy it. There are many actions that can influence a shoplifter’s decision not to complete the theft even after concealment.
5. Shoplifters always look around for security measures; thus the clear presence of security measures will serve as warning that the store may not be an easy mark.
6. If a shoplifter gets what he came for…he’ll be back.
Actions that Encourage Shoplifters to Steal In Your Store
Since the majority of shoplifters are non-professional adults, what are the most common factors which may invite these people into your store or may suddenly tempt them to steal?
- When store employees appear to be disinterested or too busy to pay attention to customers.
- Where there is not evidence of security devices such as EAS, CCTV, chains or alarms attached to desirable items.
- When there are high fixtures, secluded corners, and easy access to unattended fitting rooms, rest rooms or dark corridors where concealment is made easy.
- When there is an abundance of merchandise not tagged with EAS devices, even if the store has an EAS system.
- When a guard at the door does not appear to be alert, is not checking receipts or is not a threat to the shoplifter in any way.
- When they are acknowledged or serviced and can remain inconspicuous.
Juveniles who shoplift are also influenced by the above factors but unlike adults who most typically shoplift alone, kids usually shoplift with one or more friends. While the non-professional adult shoplifter rarely has any kind of communication with others who steal, juveniles are heavily influenced by the comments of their friends who may label your store as an “easy mark” or advise their friends that your store doesn’t prosecute… especially “if you cry.”
“Professional” adult shoplifters (those who steal for resale) are also influenced by all the factors mentioned above and often steal with friends and have access to a “shoplifting grapevine” regarding ease of theft and likelihood of prosecution. Other factors which will tempt the professional shoplifter to target your store include:
- Easy access to merchandise which is easily “fenced” or sold on the street, especially if it is more expensive merchandise.
- An EAS system which is easy to defeat because the tags are easy to remove, there are no salespeople or guards around the exit to notice someone leaving or the system is not operational.
- Easy to get a cash refund, especially without a receipt, for any number of items and for any dollar amount.
- Easy to duplicate a receipt (“counterfeit”) and obtain a fraudulent cash refund.
- Expensive/desirable merchandise near store exits with no salespeople or guards in area, for easy “grab and run” thefts.
Although any shoplifter who is determined to steal from your store may be able to do so, few shoplifters want any unnecessary hassle and most are unwilling to risk detection when employees are attentive, when security measures are evident and when they know a store will prosecute them. Routinely using a combination of different security measures will cause the shoplifter to feel uncomfortable about stealing in your store, store managers can discourage shoplifters from targeting their store, or if they do happen to come by, quickly discourage them from coming back.
Actions Which Discourage Shoplifters from Targeting Your Store
- Employee acknowledgement shortly after entry into store or department.
- Attentive employees making eye contact or offering service, not allowing shoplifter to feel comfortable.
- As EAS system in the store.
- All “vulnerable” merchandise tagged with EAS (100% vs. 70%).
- Employee in close proximity to respond to EAS alarm.
- A CCTV system in the store.
- Mirrors located in secluded corners or other “blind” spots.
- Low fixtures which don’t block salesperson’s view.
- Restricted access to carrying merchandise into dark corridors, rest rooms etc.
- Attentive service around fitting rooms.
- Alert cashiers, who look like they would notice a price irregularity or who might check the contents of an unsealed carton at the checkout.
- An alert guard in a vulnerable area.
- Expensive, desirable merchandise located within the interior of the store vs. near store exit(s), to make “grab and run” attempt too risky.
- A strict Prosecution Policy – one that is known and active.
- Looking for legitimacy of store receipt at time of customer return.
- Having employees take an interest in refunds as a customer service problem rather than accept the return of merchandise in a disinterested manner.