Are you a retail shop owner wondering how to prevent shoplifting? Do you think some retail items have been disappearing from your stocks and shelves? Or maybe you’ve been noticing for a while, but you’re not sure about it.

Perhaps you’ve found countless evidence of open packages, broken items, or missing sales items without any documentation. Are you noticing that some products in your shop are missing without any records of purchase? Then, this article is for you.

Generally, all kinds of businesses face the risk of regular theft attempt, but retail stores are more vulnerable, unlike others. Most thieves know national retail stores are capable of using closed-circuit television (CCTV), video surveillance, and other anti-theft devices. The thieves are also aware that mom-and-pop shops cannot afford such resources – making such retail shops easy prey.

Experiencing retail loss regularly can be very frustrating for store owners and operators alike. Even with working video surveillance and regular record keeping, a retail loss is inevitable. After questioning employees, checking video footage, and counting your losses continually, you may still find it hard to pinpoint the thieves and prevent further losses.

So, how do you prevent shoplifting and theft in retail stores? Unfortunately, there’s no absolute or complete way to keep your shop theft-free. Nevertheless, there are various ways through which you can mitigate the risk of shoplifting as much as possible.

Furthermore, items don’t walk off, sprout legs or destroy themselves. Therefore, there is only one possible explanation – vandalism and theft. With that in mind, this article will provide you with various tips on how to prevent retail theft and reduce retail shrinkage in your store. 

This article will also help you understand more about business security in Toronto and how to prevent shoplifting. More to the point, we will show you how private security guards can help you avoid this problem.


How to prevent shoplifting

To prevent shoplifting activities on your end, it is ideal that you take your time to put some strategies into play. Although you may not be able to stop it entirely, you can always prevent it from happening regularly. Below are a few insights on how to prevent shoplifting in Toronto.

Know what to look for in shoplifters.

To stop a shoplifter, retailers must first be familiar with the categories of shoplifters and common shoplifting methods. Also, you should know what to look for in customers who exhibit strange behaviour. With this, you’ll be able to understand more about how to prevent shoplifting.

Firstly, the main things to consider are visual clues. Generally, most shoplifters use items to conceal stolen items. Although in rare cases, a thief can grab and run, but that is not very common in Toronto. Most shoplifters have a plan for how they will remove the merchandise from your retail store.

For example, a long coat in the middle of summer provides a great place to conceal merchandise. Female shoplifters often carry more than one handbag or purse. Going to a retail shop with a purse is not something that calls for attention, so it makes sense. However, going to a retail shop with more than one is unusual.

In some areas in Toronto, shoplifters tend to hide items in strollers, umbrellas, clothing, and even inside bags.

Here are a few additional red flags that indicate a potential shoplifter:

  • Picking up random items and “pretending” to look at them.
  • Paying more attention to the employees than the goods.
  • Walking in the opposite direction of the employees. Each time you move, they move. 
  • Additionally, if you operate an apparel store, watch the number of items they take into the dressing room.

Be a neatnik. 

A good sign that your store is perfect prey for shoplifters can be spaces on your shelves. If your store is messy and unorganized, then it may be hard to spot the signs of shoplifting quickly. 

You should always arrange all your merchandise correctly. Start by pulling your product to the edge of the shelf. This will help you to create a solid wall of product. Also, if someone sweeps the tray, it will be easier to tell if merchandise is missing or not.

Always put out the welcome mat.

A shoplifter would want to be anonymous and avoid making contact with store employees as much as possible. However, one of the most effective ways to dissuade shoplifters is to greet every customer that walks into your store. 

Always make good eye contact with them while greeting. Don’t just shout “Good morning” over the counter. 

A simple greeting can make potential shoplifters change their mind about stealing in your shop. Also, it brings about fear in would-be shoplifters because they know you can identify them.

Utilize plastic shelf dividers. 

Adding clear plastic shelf dividers at the edges of shelves can prevent thieves from sweeping a shelf. This will help you avoid theft while allowing customers to hand-select the items they need. 

Also, utilize clear locked plastic cases that will contain high-theft items such as printer cartridges, expensive drugs and many more. Always ensure you keep sales representatives near these cases regularly. That way, honest customers can comparison shop without too much hassle.

Always make light available. 

Most places with regular shoplifters are places with lousy lighting. Ensure that your store is lit adequately, especially if you are open at night. Bad guys don’t like good lighting. 

You can as well take a walk-through your store during the day and night specifically to find dark, poorly lit areas. Sometimes, some corners of the store or the back of high shelves can be dark. 

Dark spots are the best friends of shoplifters. Remove them, and you reduce the chances of your store falling victim to shoplifters.

Have a significant secret code. 

Having a signal unique to your employees to alert them of suspicious activities is also ideal. You can make the signal something easy to remember for easy communication. 

Also, ensure that it does not identify a particular area of the store or make a customer feel targeted. Find a way to communicate with your staff. That way, everybody can work hand in hand to pay close attention to all actions customers make in the store.

Keep a clear line of sight. 

Thieves are less likely to steal if an employee or other guests can easily see the crime happening. Make sure you don’t create a hidden barrier – always use store features that allow for clear visibility. Your goal is to eliminate the opportunity to steal by increasing visibility.

Understand the behaviour of retail shoplifters 

Most regular thieves will not dress or act suspicious and will seem like a completely normal shopper. They don’t want to get caught, so the best way they can do this is to trick you into believing that they are just one of your customers. Don’t expect any visible behaviour that will tip you or other customers off to what they are doing.

Often, thieves use distractions, sleight of hand or pretend they are paying attention to other things while slipping an item into their pocket. Many times, shoplifters will work with an accomplice to keep an eye out for them or assist them in creating a distraction. 

Sometimes thieves will not use their pockets at all to store items and may place the item in their cart along with a coat or purse. While some tend to stroll throughout the store, locate and steal the items, then walk out the exits undetected.

Be prepared for any of these tactics. Be extra vigilant. Your Toronto retail store will thank you for it.

Hire loss prevention staff

Having people that are designated to monitor security systems and floor areas of your stores can play an essential part in protecting your merchandise. With the use of special loss prevention staff, you can quickly identify a shoplifter with the use of careful and discreet observation.

For this system to work effectively, you should have a staff member continually monitoring CCTV footage and one or two-floor staff discreetly observing shoppers. 

Your CCTV monitoring staff should be able to alert your floor staff via a 2-way communication system to tip them off on where the shoplifter is.

Always lock expensive & easy to steal items

Creating hoops for shoplifters to jump through makes it harder for them to steal items. This might even discourage them from stealing in the first place. Placing expensive items in hard to reach areas or using locks on easy to steal items is ideal for preventing shoplifters. It makes it harder for thieves to steal your merchandise without your knowledge.

Also, you can utilize locks on smaller items since cameras may not do enough to stop shoplifting acts. By using magnetic clips and special seals, you can prevent tags from being removed swiftly and making theft more obvious.

If you’re looking to prevent significant asset loss, your expensive items should always have the best security around them. Also, glass boxes that require a lock are excellent for dissuading would-be criminals from theft. Always take the items directly to the cash register after unlocking the case. This way, the shoplifters cannot walk away with your items once it is obtained.


Related article: Toronto Home Security Tips


How security guards can help you prevent shoplifting

Shoplifting is an unpleasant reality in the retail sector and can cost store owners thousands of dollars in lost revenue. You need to have a shoplifting policy and plan in place to help protect your property and merchandise from would-be shoplifters. 

One of the most efficient ways to reduce the incidence of shoplifting is by hiring retail security officers. Private security guards and services in Toronto offer retail stores a number of benefits. 

Some of them include:

Monitoring your surveillance equipment

Security cameras in your store are a great deterrent to shoplifters and having them monitored by security guards is an added layer of protection for your store. Unfortunately, shoplifters are not the only people who may steal from you. 

Employee theft can be a problem for retailers. Staff may steal merchandise and take it home or not ring in purchases made by friends or family at the cash register. Knowing that professional retail security guards are monitoring surveillance cameras will stop employees from stealing.

Professional security guards can also identify patterns in behaviour using a CCTV. That way, they can stop shoplifters before they wreak havoc on your products. 

Keep watch at store entrances and exits

Retail security guards can see who is entering and exiting your store. Many stores are equipped with electronic monitoring equipment. These equipment have alarms that are activated if someone leaves with electronic tags still attached to the merchandise. Guards can search any bags that have tripped the alarm.

However, customers are not the only people leaving your store. If you’re noticing an increase in inventory reduction, you can always ask the security to check everyone before closing. Also, employees going home at night through back exits or those that discard trash every night could be taking merchandise.

Professional security guards in Toronto can help you avoid all these kinds of losses. Their presence at the entrance and exists also prevents smash and grab thieves from being successful.

Act as a visible deterrent

Shoplifters don’t want to be seen or get caught. The presence of a retail security guard will make thieves think twice before stealing anything. A security guard standing at the entrance of your store reminds people that you’re taking security and safety seriously. With this, the risk of getting caught may outweigh the shoplifter’s decision to steal.

Also, at peak times of the year, including Christmas, Boxing Day and Black Friday, you should always have retail security guards onsite at your store. Let them walk randomly around the store. This bolsters their authority and acts as an even bigger visual deterrent. 

Trained to recognize suspicious people and activities

Employees, retail managers and store owners may think they can recognize a shoplifter. Nevertheless, shoplifters come in all ages, sizes, shapes, and economic backgrounds. They may prove hard for regular civilians to identify.

On the other hand, retail security guards are trained to spot suspicious people and behaviour. Someone wearing a heavy coat in the heat of summer could tip off a trained business security guard.

Or a guard walking around the store could catch someone switching price tags, stealing merchandise or acting nervous and avoiding eye contact. Security guards know some of the schemes and tricks shoplifters use to take from retailers. They can use this information to protect your business. 



Notably, the majority of shoplifters are not professionals, but they are always a pain in the neck with each theft. However, you can always control your volume of losses by utilizing any of the business security tips outlined above. 

Lastly, hiring private security guards in Toronto is one of the best ways to make sure that your products don’t walk off. Call us today for the best private security service in Toronto.