Prevent retail theft – and how to catch a thief

Know what to do when thieves strike your small business

As a busy shop owner, you’re working hard to maintain a well-kept and high-quality experience for your customers. From ensuring the stock is up to date, labelled correctly, inventory’s coming in, and casual workers are turning up for their shifts, there’s a lot on your plate.

Theft is, unfortunately, an issue we need to stay on top of as stock loss can seriously eat into your profits. There are actionable and simple methods to ensure your theft prevention plan is ready to mitigate the threat.

Preventing theft with great customer service

While customer service has the potential to set your store apart from the competition, it has an added benefit of preventing theft. Your frontline employees are your eyes, face, and ears for your business. Acknowledging customers as they walk in the door is one of the most effective ways to deter an opportunistic thief.

What to look out for:

  • Pay attention to customers who appear nervous or distracted, and pay keen attention to their hands!
  • Look out for those who congregate around restricted areas, restrooms, stairways and other places just out of sight
  • Watch for objects like prams, shopping trolleys, boxes, bags, which are all great vehicles to conceal your stolen stock
  • If it’s hot outside and someone is wearing too many layers, be suspicious!

Take these measures:

  • Familiarise your staff with store security so they know where to go if theft occurs

Take inventory of what’s coming in and out of your

  • change rooms, including checking empty hangers
  • Educate staff on items and quantities of stock on display
  • Never leave the cash register unattended
  • Keep your customers in view! Read below for more tips on optimising your store layout

Optimise your store layout and design for better security

Store layout has huge potential to boost the sale of your stock. An open, well-lit store floor gives customers a welcoming experience, while also improving visibility over in case a thief walks in.

Steps to take:

  • Elevate the level of cash register/counter so staff have a good line of sight over the floor, and make sure customers can’t access it
  • Ensure your store is well lit and there are no blind spots
  • Limit the number of entry/exit points to your store
  • Where possible, have expensive items locked away. Bonus: this is also a great way to infuse upselling and customer service
  • Neatly pack shelves with secure price tags to ensure no swapping occurs
  • Keep employee and stock rooms locked, and double-check throughout the day!

Someone stole – know your rights as a retail store owner

If an amateur or professional thief chooses your store as their next hit, knowing your rights is essential to creating a positive outcome.

As a store owner or retail employee, you have a lawful right to apprehend someone you witness committing a theft in your store. It is important to have a set of procedures to prevent possible legal ramifications in the event of a lawful arrest. Remember, if the employee has witnessed a theft on CCTV, another employee then can’t make the complaint.

What to do if you or your employee witnesses a theft:

  • Be extra sure you can relay what goods were taken
  • Be able to identify where the goods were concealed
  • Never to lose sight of the suspect, but also stay safe!

If the suspected thief agrees to stay in-store after

  • you ask them, explain who you are and why you’re requesting they remain in store until security arrives
  • Remember: you don’t have a right to physically touch them
  • Advise that you’ve called 000 or the store security and ask them to surrender the property

If in doubt, don’t approach at all. Remember, a wrongful arrest may lead to criminal or civil litigation by the customer. Stay safe, and remain vigilant.

Remember the value of goods will never exceed the value of a life. Implement these simple steps and mitigate future stock loss, helping your business thrive.




Check out our library of articles to help you to prevent becoming a victim of crime.