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The first step is to recognise the types of shoplifters that threaten your business. Many employees do not know what to look for in-store to prevent shoplifting.
Amateur Shoplifters
Usually steal on sudden impulse or temptation. If they succeed it will empower them to try their luck again. They usually show signs of nervousness and tend to look around them in every direction as they near the item they intend to steal. Amateurs usually work on their own.

Adolescent Shoplifting
Adolescent shoplifting is only different in the aspect of the items stolen. These tend to be trinkets, toys, electronic games, magazines and confectionary. Small luxuries that they cannot afford with their pocket money. Often a team of two or more teens work together, where one or more distracts the store salespeople and the other grabs the item / s that are targeted.

Professional Shoplifting
Professional shoplifting is prevalent in New Zealand today. They work on their own or in pairs. They will “steal to order” and have contacts that will advise what they are looking for to sell onto a client. This usually includes itemized lists with brand, size and colour. Professionals usually make their living through shoplifting and may work up to three days a week doing this. They have often honed their skills with the help of another professional shoplifter who acts as their mentor. Sales staff are unaware that the shoplifter has already cased the store over a number of days and have pinpointed where the items are they want to shoplift. They use specially crafted tools e.g. belt hooks, coat-length pockets and false bottom bags. Working in tandem with a partner they organize one to be a decoy to staff whilst the other lifts the merchandise and walks away free.

Senior Citizen Shoplifting
Professional thieves are not only the young and middle-aged but some are now in their seventies and eighties. Being seen as elderly by staff in a store has many advantages. They are accorded more respect and often use the excuse of a failing memory if caught with unpaid merchandise. Some senior citizens reason that their pensions do not provide for them well enough and therefore they are entitled to help themselves to the small luxuries of life.

Vagrant Shoplifters
These transient shoplifters are likely to be very unkempt in appearance and steal because of physical need such as hunger. They are more likely to grab merchandise and run.

Kleptomaniacs are compulsive thieves. They are more likely to steal openly and take items, which they would normally have no need for. This is a psychological illness and needs treatment to stop the compulsion. Often these types of shoplifters are caught and continue offending time and time again. They can be any age and from any background.

Shoplifting Techniques
The first things a shoplifter looks for is to find an area in the shop that is not supervised and during sales or Christmas holidays when staff are very busy is the best time.

Loose Fitting Clothing can be used to hide smaller items

Coat length pockets also provide good hiding places

Swapping the ticket price from a lesser-priced item to a higher priced item. Under consumer policy stores must allow the item to be sold for the marked price.

Palming items – lifting a smaller item up with the palm of a hand and pocketing it.

Prams and babies – prams have often been used to conceal items, as they are a moveable shopping cart. Items are concealed under babies. Small children are sometimes used by unscrupulous parents and given items to be hidden under their jackets or in their pockets. If stopped the adult can express dismay and pretend to scold the child for trying to steal.

Consumption of goods on the premises – In supermarkets children are given something to eat off the shelves before they come to the checkout. Store policy should be that nothing is consumed on the premises by shoppers.

Open handbags or bags – can be used to drop items into when no one is looking. A good excuse for this is the stolen item must have just dropped in there.

Umbrellas in loose position – can be used to drop lightweight items into and then closed tightly when the shoplifter approaches the checkout counter or decides to exit the store.

Scams: Two or more shoplifters working together
  • One of the duo creates a major disturbance, which has staff rushing to their aid. The other shoplifter then picks up and leaves the store with the desired stolen goods.
  • One person monopolizes the staff member asking all sorts of questions about merchandise in the shop whilst the other conspirator has free access to walk out with the targeted goods under their jacket.
  • Merchandise is picked up by one of the pair and transferred by passing by each other and the goods are then moved to the inside of a bag/umbrella or coat etc….
  • The most common method for shoplifters working in pairs is one stands as a lookout while the other person steals the item. This is most often used in the big department stores where it is harder to monitor customer movements.

How to Lower the Shoplifting Risk in Your Business
  • Make sure the lighting in your store does not have dark spots where customers are hard to observe
  • Standalone display stands that are in isolated corners of your store are easy pickings for the adept shoplifter
  • Any merchandise that is too close to the door should be moved
  • Make aisles wider to avoid congestion which can make palming items allot harder
  • Display signs in prominent positions throughout the store advising customers that all bags are subject to search on discretion of the management.
  • A good company policy is to transfer the customer’s goods from the trolley they bring to the counter into another one that they take to their car. This avoids items being hidden under personal items such as jackets.
  • Run your own test and look at the store in a new light – how easy would it be for you to shoplift items.
  • Train all staff on security procedures
  • Never leave a department unattended especially in the busier periods of the day such as lunchtime.
  • The use of mirrors to provide security for blind spot corners is also a good measure.
  • A time-lapse camera can be used to monitor the comings and goings of customers.
  • Install the electronic tagging system that sounds an alarm if the merchandise is taken outside the store without being paid for.
  • Expensive items can be locked in cabinets or chained so that the potential buyer must ask for help from the sales person.
  • Clearly state company policy throughout the store on shoplifting e.g. it is our policy to prosecute all Shoplifters.

Back to Business Security Index

New Zealand businesses lose millions of dollars per annum due to shoplifting. Only a fraction of the stolen goods are ever recovered and it is important that all businesses take precautions to reduce their overall shoplifting risk.

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