6 Ways Small Businesses Can Effectively (and Cheaply) Prevent Shoplifting

Some of the fastest growing and most successful brands out there have recently employed innovative tactics to discourage shoplifting, largely harnessing the power of consumer psychology.
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Shoplifting remains a constant issue for American small businesses, leading to losses of over $10 billion each year. According to the Loss Prevention Research Council, 1 out of 11 customers is a habitual shoplifter (repeat offender!). Small businesses have slim profit margins, which means that "shrinkage" (reduced inventory to shoplifting and thefts) can really put immense pressure on their ability to stay afloat. Some of the fastest growing and most successful brands out there have recently employed innovative tactics to discourage shoplifting, largely harnessing the power of consumer psychology. Check out 6 of their most successful tactics, that any small business can easily, and cheaply, start using to discourage and prevent shoplifting!

1. Strategic Checkouts
Place your checkout registers near the front door to dramatically reduce the likelihood of a shoplifter. Most shoplifters prefer to enter the store and then make a quick exit, without passing by an employees. Having customers come in near your employees will also provide your staff with the opportunity to greet new customers, a big plus for customer service and yet another major deterrent of shoplifting. One of the most successful new techniques was introduced by Apple stores -- make your registers mobile, on tablets or "phablets." Have your employees roaming the store, and check-out people right where they encounter them. This tactic has already been adopted by many nationwide retailers as a quick and easy way to dramatically reduce their shrinkage.

2. Doorman
For little more than the cost of an additional employee, hire a very tall and authoritative-looking "doorman" to stand by the door and keep an eye on things. A real, live person is actually one of the best ways to deter a potential shoplifter. This tactic has increasingly been employed, quite successfully, by major grocery store chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Fairway. Not only will the mere presence of the doorman deter potential shoplifters, but he'll also be able to provide a pair of extra eyes to monitor things. Offer them free coffee as an additional perk of the job!

3. Cameras
Some costs are absolutely worth it. Not only are cameras a deterrent in and of themselves, but they can help prevent future shoplifting incidents too! Even if you just have one working camera (decoy cameras are great, embrace them!), as soon as a potential shoplifter sets eyes on a single camera, they will be significantly less likely to attempt to steal anything. Most repeat shoplifters will also automatically assume you have other cameras elsewhere, and will not attempt to steal from your store at all. If you catch a shoplifter, let them know that you'll simply consult one of the many cameras running in your store (even if you just have one), to confirm their crime. You'll be statistically more likely to get your merchandise back, a confession, and leave a strong deterring memory that will prevent future shoplifting attempts from that individual.

4. Signs
Cameras and signs go hand-in-hand. Post signs around the store informing customers of your camera(s), and your policy of prosecuting shoplifters. No need to have glaring red or ultra serious signs that might mess with your store's aesthetic -- typically the only people noticing these types signs are the ones scoping out your store for shoplifting. Feel free to use attractive materials, creative phrasing and fun fonts. Think outside the box, beyond the wall even -- use table top signs, or little place card-like signs around expensive or shoplift prone items. It's worth noting, however, that research does show that signs featuring eyes double the likelihood of compliance.

5. Mirrors
Convex mirrors, long horizontal wall mirrors, dome mirrors -- you literally cannot have enough mirrors. The big clothing retailers have been hiding cameras behind these mirrors for long enough that now the general consumer population assumes there are cameras behind the mirrors they see. Not only will you increase your visibility of the store, but potential shoplifters will be deterred due to mere presence of the mirror (they won't feel unobserved) and the fact that they'll assume there are cameras behind them.

6. Friends In The Right Places
Small town businesses stand to greatly benefit from befriending the local beat cop. Offer him free coffee or great discounts. The cop's regular appearances in the store will serve as a wonderful deterrent, and you'll also know you have a friend you can call to really scare off a caught shoplifter. Even if the cop just drives them home in his cop car, it will be a lesson they won't soon forget.

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