For small businesses, shoplifting presents a very real and serious threat to the bottom line. Particularly for artisan businesses – where profit margins may be already low and each item is unique and customized – having your inventory stolen has an impact. Unfortunately, business owners are discouraged from intervening directly with a customer they suspect of stealing an item. The customer, when confronted, may act erratically – or even violently – which could endanger the safety of those around.
Don't turn to vigilante justice to prevent shoplifting. Instead, follow these simple and unobtrusive tips to discourage thieves and make your store a less appealing target:
"Don't turn to vigilante justice to prevent shoplifting."
Welcome each customer
Shoplifters typical act only when they think they can get away with it and will not risk a confrontation. If you give a warm, friendly welcome to everyone who enters your store, you may be able to dissuade a possible thief by showing them you are paying attention – as well as put your legitimate customers at ease.
Know the signs
Key to preventing shoplifting is simply remaining vigilant at all time. Encourage your employees to watch out for customers who are lingering out of sight or appear nervous or aimless. Approach these people and – with a friendly tone – ask them if they need any help. If they say no, let them know that you are always happy to help if they have any questions and that you'll be nearby just in case they need you.
Keep your store neat and well-lit
The more clean and organized your shop is, the easier it is to see at a glance if anything is missing or out of place. Bright, inviting lighting also discourages theft, even in areas that might be obstructed or difficult to see in.
Lock up your high value items
While you may want to encourage your customers to look more closely at the detail or craftsmanship of an extremely valuable item, keeping them under lock and key will keep them safer – both from theft and damage. It may even have the incidental consequence of making these items seem more desirable. Let anyone who is shopping know you are happy to unlock a case and show them an item if they wish.
Have a sign
While a sign that says "Shoplifters will be prosecuted" may be hyperbolic – prosecuting shoplifters can often be more costly and time-consuming than the items they steal – the psychological impact of the sign may be enough to turn them off. If you can have a humorous or folksy variation on that sign, even better.
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