July 1, 2015

5 Tips for Avoiding Theft in Retail


Theft is a problem that all retail stores deal with, unfortunately. And if you’re a burgeoning store that doesn’t have much money to work with, you might not be able to afford expensive store surveillance equipment from the get-go.

But that does not mean that there’s nothing you can do to prevent theft. Truthfully, employees stealing from you is as big of a problem as customer stealing your merchandise. However, there are ways that you can defend yourself from theft, even if you don’t have much of a budget set aside for tackling this problem.

Here are five tips that can help you reduce the threat of theft in your retail store.

Store Design Matters

Putting thought into the general layout of your store is imperative when trying to prevent theft. One of the best rules to abide by is to set up your store so that all of the smaller items are close to the register. Anything that can be easily pocketed tends to be a popular target for people who might want to steal.

This way, the cashier will be able to keep an eye on these smaller items at all times. Naturally, the checkout area of your store should always be somewhere between the merchandise area and the exit.

It’s also a good idea to design your store layout in a way that creates a very simple line of sight from the front of your store to the area where your customers are shopping. Of course, you won’t be able to see every corner of your store at once, but this type of layout will definitely help decrease the chance of theft. Remember, if potential thieves believe that they are being watched, they will be less likely to try and steal something.

Hire Honest Employees

Naturally, this is easier said than done. You can never be entirely sure about the type of people you are hiring, but there are ways to decrease the chances of employing a “bad egg.”

One of the best ways is to hire people you know or ask your most trusted employees to recommend new workers. You also need to make sure that you are contacting the references and past employers of all of your applicants to make sure that they check out as good and honest workers.

You can also set up an anonymous way for your employees to report any suspicious behavior they are noticing at the store. If employees know that the rest of the staff is watching and that there is a way to report stolen money or products, they will be less likely to try anything.

Use Technology to Track Inventory

Even if you don’t have much money to spend, you can still get your hands on excellent computer software that can make tracking your inventory much simpler. There are software solutions that can both track your inventory and money that start for as low as $30-$40 a month.

Such a tool would give you a very clear idea of what you have on your shelves and what has been sold. Taking a look at these statistics will make it very easy for you to see whether inventory sold and income are matching up, and if they are not, that’s a telltale sign that someone is stealing from you.

You can also use electronic tags on your store items. These tags will trigger your alarm system if someone tries to walk out of the store without paying for the item. However, this could get a little pricey if you have a lot of inventory. If that’s the case, you can prioritize and simply tag the items that are most expensive or easiest to steal.

Make Your Presence Felt

If the boss never shows up to the store, there is always a better chance that employees will steal. Not making yourself visible gives off the impression that you aren’t very interested in your store. This translates into an open invitation to steal. Why would you care if a few dollars or items go missing every day if you don’t care enough to visit the store?

The best thing to do is to make random visits to your store. Stop by without warning to check in on everything every now and then. Do this periodically, but don’t have a set day of the week or time of day for it. This will keep everyone honest and on their toes.

Give Special Attention to Desirable Items

Generally, there are three types of products that people steal most from retail stores: pricey items that they cannot afford, small items that can easily be pocketed, and items that people are commonly embarrassed to buy, like condoms.

You run into an even bigger problem if you have expensive items that are small and easy to conceal. In such cases, it’s a good idea to lock these items up somewhere so that a customer will have to ask to see them. You can either keep them behind the counter or perhaps in a locked, glass enclosure like electronics stores do with small but expensive technology and equipment.


Curbing theft in your retail store can be a pretty daunting task, especially if you sell a lot of small items that are easier to swipe and you don’t have the funds to secure your store with a sophisticated surveillance system. But implementing these tips should help you to keep theft under control when it comes to both customers and employees with “sticky hands.”

Creating a culture of honesty within your staff is also an integral part of at least making sure that your own people are not stealing from you. The rest depends on your level of diligence and how dedicated you are to doing all of the little things possible to help prevent people from stealing your merchandise.