By Rohit Prakash, CEO and co-founder of Townsquared
Retail theft, including shoplifting, cost the global retail industry more than $128 billion last year, with $42 billion lost in the United States alone, according to a recent study. For small stores, that can make or break their business. With the summer tourism season upon us, Main Street businesses need to be diligent about keeping their stores and shoppers safe, while at the same time driving revenue during the hot season for tourism.
For many businesses, it starts by establishing relationships and an open dialogue with neighbors. Like any issue, when small businesses work together, they share the collective expertise of the group and can be more effective in spotting suspicious activity and mitigating problems before they start.
Here at Townsquared, we’ve developed a platform to make it easy for businesses to connect online, however, we also recognize the value of face-to-face gatherings. We’ve hosted safety meetings to give neighborhood business owners a venue to share their best practices for keeping businesses secure and customers safe. Here are a few of their tried and true tips:
Great Customer Service is your best weapon.
Meet and greet customers, move about your store (rather than sticking behind the counter). Know who’s in your shop. While the occasional legitimate shopper may be put off by over-attentiveness, the majority of them will shop anyway; so don’t be afraid to be attentive.
Pay attention to their attention.
Real shoppers tend to have their attention focused on their hands – handling clothes to feel the fabric, checking prices, and generally focusing on the product they’re thinking about buying. Shoplifters divert their attention in the hopes of you averting yours just like a magician tricks you into looking away from where the action is happening.
Don’t be distracted by…
If something seems like a distraction technique, it probably is. Take, for example, the old fainting routine. (One shoplifter pretends to fall ill, the other takes stuff, unnoticed, in the commotion.) If someone is really feeling faint or ill, they’re probably going to want fresh air, not to make a scene in the middle of the store. “Friends” who come in together and then quickly fan out are another common distraction technique.
Don’t be an easy target.
A shop floor with expensive items at the front (to draw customers in), lots of blind corners, and the pay point all the way at the back makes for an ideal place where a shoplifter can come in, grab some merchandise, and get out quickly. Make sure you can see the whole sales floor from any point, keep any expensive merchandise at the front under lock and key and position your pay point close to the exit.
If you see a shoplifter, ask yourself these questions before you approach them:
- Did you see the subject approach the area?
- Did you see the subject select an article of merchandise?
- Did you see where they concealed the merchandise?
- Make sure to keep them under surveillance (they can’t have had opportunity to drop it somewhere or hand it off to someone else).
- Did they fail to pay after passing the last point where they could have?
- Can you identify exactly where the articles are?
Always remember that when approaching a suspected shoplifter, the your safety and the safety of your employees is the top priority. If you have reason to be concerned for your safety, calling 911 or your city’s non-emergency line is the best first step.
Rohit Prakash is the CEO and co-founder of Townsquared, the online network where verified neighborhood business owners and staff share advice and resources