Retail thefts (shoplifting) cost Canadian businesses nearly $5 billion each year. As a business owner, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk and potential impacted of retail theft.

A female shoplifting in a store

Manage the Risk of Shoplifting as a Business

The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) recommends that businesses focus on prevention, which can help minimize losses due to shoplifting. Consider adopting the following measures:

  • Have a well-lit store.
  • Advertise against shoplifting and discourage loitering.
  • Pay a potential shoplifter a lot of attention - the thief is likely to leave.
  • Locate mirrors so all areas of the store can be seen at a glance.
  • Avoid tall display counters that obstruct views and avoid narrow, cluttered aisles.
  • Only display one of a pair (e.g. a single pair of shoes).
  • Divide stores into sections and assign certain employees to each section.
  • Keep valuable merchandise away from store exits and in locked cabinets, and fasten down items used for display.
  • Develop adequate inventory controls.
  • Plan policies and procedures for shoplifting early in the business planning strategy.
  • Inform and train employees how they can help deter theft.
  • Closed-circuit TV cameras aid in identifying thieves.
  • Staff should be extra alert during peak hours, store openings, closings, and shift changes.
  • Provide customers with receipts and spot check receipts at the exits.
  • Hire trained security personnel.
  • Form cooperative, mutually-beneficial partnerships with other retailers, property management, police, and community agencies.

Training Employees to Prevent Shoplifting

The most effective way to prevent thefts is to remove the opportunity for a crime to take place. The HRPS recommends that you train your employees with the following in mind:

  • Greet customers as they enter the store and provide them with the best customer service possible - shoplifters shun attention.
  • Take note of people who frequently enter the store without making any purchases.
  • Watch for people who appear nervous, are wandering around, and possibly picking up items with little interest.
  • Watch for people carrying large purses, shopping bags, strollers, umbrellas, or bulky clothing. Note that thieves concealing items may walk with short or unnatural steps.
  • Be mindful of distractions. Professionals work in pairs - one distracts while the other shoplifts.
  • Only show one valuable at a time to a customer.
  • Lock display cases.
  • Limit and know the number of clothing articles a person has with them in a dressing room at any given time.
  • Remove empty hangers from clothing racks so that the presence of one could more easily indicate a shoplifter is at work.
  • Watch for label switching, short-changing cashiers, and phony returns.