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Retail Theft: How You Can Prevent Theft in Your Retail Store

Owning or managing a retail business comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the problems you have to deal with is retail theft. If this problem is not addressed, it can lead to the loss of thousands of dollars. Small retail businesses may even be forced to close, as they may not have the resources to absorb the losses.

In this post, we will uncover several types of retail theft and some of the measures you can adopt to prevent them.

But first …

What Is Retail Theft?

Retail theft can be defined as a crime in which an individual takes possession of, transfers, or carries away merchandise offered by a retail store without paying for it.

It may also incorporate other aspects, such as:

  • Consuming products inside a retail store and then leaving without paying for those products
  • Manipulating receipts or coupons to compromise the amount to be paid to the store
  • Switching, altering, or removing an item’s tag or label so one can pay less money than what that object is worth

Both customers and employees can commit retail theft.

Types of Retail Theft

There are various types of retail theft that affect retailers daily. Being aware of these types of theft can help you protect your business.


Under-ringing is a criminal act in which an individual manipulates a cash register or sales device so it reflects an amount that’s below the expected price of an item. While this type of theft is commonly committed by retail employees, it can also be perpetrated by customers with the help of the employees.


Shoplifting involves stealing stock displayed in a store for sale. Typically, a thief posing as a customer conceals the stolen merchandise in their pockets, purse, or garments. In the U.S. alone, this type of theft costs retailers billions of dollars every year.

Money Fraud

Money fraud occurs when a criminal uses illegal means, like counterfeit cash, fraudulent checks, or stolen credit cards, to purchase goods. This is equivalent to someone openly stealing your merchandise in front of you.

Refund Fraud

Refund fraud is a type of retail theft that occurs at the till. An offender returns stolen goods, intending to get a refund in cash or credit.

Checkout Fraud

Checkout fraud includes a number of tactics that offenders use to avoid paying for items in full. A good example is when someone fails to swipe an item at the self-checkout, or when an individual swaps price stickers or barcodes with those of a cheaper item.

How to Avoid Retail Theft

Every retail store, no matter its size, is at risk of retail theft. Below are some measures you can put in place to prevent it.

Maintain an Organized Store

A disorganized store makes it easy for thieves to make away with your products without you or your staff members noticing it. To prevent retail theft, keep the inventory organized. Also, avoid overstocking the display shelves with too many items so you can easily view the stock levels at any given time.

With a well-organized store, potential shoplifters are less likely to steal your items because they know you will quickly notice missing items.

Optimize Your Store’s Layout

There are many ways you can optimize your store’s layout to prevent retail theft. One common layout involves placing customer checkout aisles close to the entrance or exit point so customers pass them while leaving. This serves as a deterrent to potential thieves as they know they must pass the checkout area when exiting. You and your staff can spot and catch shoplifters before they’ve left the store.

Train Your Employees

Your employees should play a critical role in preventing retail theft. When everyone in your store knows how to spot potential thieves and how to respond, your store stands a better chance of combating retail theft.

The following are some of the things you can train your employees on:
Processes to follow if they suspect a person or group of stealing your merchandise

  • How to deal with different scenarios involving retail theft
  • How to alert other employees of potential thieves
  • How to remain vigilant during busy hours or seasons

Secure At-Risk Items

Identify items that are at a higher risk of being targeted by shoplifters and secure them. Typically, shoplifters target items that have a high price but are small in size.

Some of the measures you can take to protect high-risk items from theft include:

  • Storing them in locked display cabinets
  • Attaching dye packs or sensors to the items
  • Keeping the items in plain view, like near the cash register or at the front of the store
  • Attaching the items to shelves

Invest in Security Technology

If you’re looking to level up your store protection, here are some of the security systems you can adopt.

Entrance Alert System

An entrance alert system lets you and your staff know when a person enters your store so you can be vigilant. It also shows potential thieves that their presence is known, making them less likely to commit theft.

Electronic Article Surveillance

Electronic article surveillance (EAS) involves attaching security tags to your items. If a shoplifter attempts to walk out through the sensors at the exit while the tag is still on, the alarm goes off, and you can catch them.

Video Surveillance System

Video security cameras allow you to monitor what your employees and customers are doing at any given time. They also serve as a deterrent to potential thieves as they know the risk of being caught is higher.

Remain Up to Date With HQ Magazine

HQ is a B2B retail magazine that’s committed to boosting your profitability by providing critical information on product selection, store layout best practices, and technology. You can reach out to us for more tips on how to overcome retail theft within your specific niche or industry by emailing or by calling an experienced account executive at 505-275-6049.

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