By Emily Suess

Although shoplifting statistics vary by location and type of business, there is no question that shoplifting eats into small business profits every year. When it comes to deterring theft in your brick-and-mortar store, there are several thing you can do to be proactive, helping to ensure your business is not an easy mark.

Provide excellent customer service.

What’s good for sales is also good for warding off would-be thieves, so providing the best customer service possible on your sales floor is your first line of defense.  It’s hard for shoplifters to get away with your products if you know where they are and offer them assistance. Employees that are alert to customer needs are also alert to any problems within the store. Encourage employees to walk around instead of hovering in the same location all the time.

Monitor your fitting rooms.

In clothing boutiques, shoplifters may be tempted to steal items by concealing them under their own clothing. A simple way to reduce this temptation is to ensure that customers trying on clothing are assisted by sales staff. Train sales staff to count the number of items being taken into the fitting room and to check weather multiple items have been hung on a single hanger. Once a customer is in a fitting room, they have complete privacy to hide items they want to shoplift, so make sure employees are aware of what goes in and what comes out.

Arrange aisles and shelving for easy monitoring.

In order for shoplifters to be successful, they need to find a private place where there are no eyes on what they are doing. So a good fix is to limit the number of places in your store where customers are not visible to employees. Arrange aisles so that employees working the register have a clear line of sight to shoppers. In corners and back areas of the store, you can hang convex mirrors to minimize blind spots that make you vulnerable to theft.

Require a receipt with all merchandise returns.

Most of the time, what shoplifters want isn’t the item they steal—it’s the cash they can get for it. They may steal from your store with the ultimate goal of trying to return it for you for cash. By requiring a receipt for all returns, you make it harder on the shoplifter to get what he or she wants.

Put valuable merchandise behind glass.

The smaller and more expensive an item is, the more valuable it is to a shoplifter. Valuable merchandise like electronics and jewelry should be displayed in locked cases whenever possible. If paying customers want to inspect them, an associate can get it out for a closer look. Wear keys on a key ring or lanyard at all times. If employees reach for the key from the same spot on the counter or in a drawer next to the register, for example, shoplifters will figure it out.

What tips and tricks have helped you deter shoplifters at your small business?