Prevent and handle shoplifting in your store

Last year the South African Police Service, with Stats SA, published the country’s crime statistics for 2018, showing which types of criminal activity have increased – and decreased – in the past year.

Statistics for shoplifting reported a decline of 7.8% with 67 454 cases reported in 2017 and 62 180 cases reported for 2018. We welcomed the decrease but even so, shoplifting remains a major problem for the retail industry in SA.

The best way to deal with shoplifting is to stop it from taking place. Read on for tips on how to prevent and deal with shoplifting in your store.

Utilise security tools

A popular low-cost tool to deter shoplifters is signage, which remains a top choice among smaller retailers in SA. Anti-theft signs placed at your entrance and exit points can serve as a deterrent.

The best way to deal with shoplifting is to stop it from taking place.

Another low-cost tool is the strategic placement of mirrors to eliminate blind spots so you can easily track what’s going on in every corner of your store.

If your budget is a bit bigger, consider installing video camera’s so that you have any illegal activities on tape and you are able to identify any of your customers who are prone to shoplifting.

Keep it clean and tidy

A disorganized, cluttered store makes it easy for shoplifters to steal while making it extra hard for you or your staff to spot if any missing stock. It is imperative that you keep your store as tidy as possible at all times. Keep all products visible at all times and set up your stock and shopfittings in such a way that you can easily check if anything is missing immediately after suspecting theft.

Instruct your staff to engage with every customer


Another foolproof way to minimize shoplifting incidents is to instruct your staff to greet and engage with every customer who walks through your door. When shoplifters are aware that they are being watched, they are less likely to act and you will be demonstrating excellent customer service too!

How do you spot potential shoplifters?

 Educate your staff on how to spot potential shoplifters and to look out for these signs of suspicious behaviour:

  • Avoids eye contact
  •  Looks at the staff instead of the products
  • Goes in and out of the store repeatedly without completing a sale
  • Wears bulky clothing (i.e. jackets or coats) when unnecessary
  • Enters with a large group

Does your retail store have a shoplifting policy?

Even the best deterrents can fail to discourage shoplifters. So, what should you do if you find yourself or your staff dealing with a shoplifter? That depends on many factors including your location, the size of your store and the price of the item they attempted to steal. Some stores choose to prosecute and involve the police. In some cases, the policy would be to just retrieve the merchandise and ban the shoplifter from the store. Whatever you decide, be sure to communicate your policies to your staff to avoid confusion or mistakes.

Dealing with shoplifting is never a pleasant experience but is an unfortunate reality in the retail sector. When dealing with shoplifters, it is important to familiarise yourself with the law and what your restrictions are to avoid trouble and ending up on the wrong side of the law. You may want to visit your local police station to speak to a professional law enforcement officer about what you can and should do when dealing with a shoplifter. You can also use the opportunity to get the contact information of officers in your area so you know who to call if you find a shoplifter in your store. It is never ok to take the law into your own hands and inflict harm or punish the shoplifter.