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According to the Department of Justice statistics for the year 2010, $16 billion per year is lost due to shoplifting. This translates to 9% of sales for the average-size store. A small retail business can lose most of their slim profit margin to these losses.

The following are tips to help prevent shoplifting. These tips require thought and ingenuity, but the cost is small and the benefit could be large. 

Prevention Tips

shop liftingAlert employees are your best defense. Establish procedures to follow if they suspect shoplifting. Always trust your "gut response" and follow through with suspicions, either by direct contact or by calling the police.

  • Be aware of customers' hands and their pockets, purses, and backpacks.
  • Watch groups of people, especially if a person tries to distract you.
  • Folded newspapers or magazines can be used to hide small or flat items.
  • Keep an eye on customers who seem nervous, have wandering eyes, or are loitering or lingering in corners or hidden areas of the store.
  • Bulky clothing and packages, bags, purses, and backpacks can be used as hiding places.

Make sure all areas of the store are visible to employees. Keep counters low, no more than waist-high; mount mirrors in corners so there are no blind spots.

Arrange counters and display tables so there is no direct route to the exit.

Place expensive items in the center of the store and/or near the register. If possible, keep these items locked in display cases.

Arrange displays so that missing items are easily noticed, by using colors, patterns, or rows to keep track of items.

Reverse alternate hangers for garments to prevent "grab and runs."

Post signage that announces and observes a zero tolerance policy to prosecute shoplifters. The threat of being caught, questioned by police, and maybe even put in jail could be enough to discourage some shoplifters.

Signal the entrance of customers by a bell or chime.

Do not leave merchandise unattended outside the store or easily accessible just inside the store entrance, as this creates an easy opportunity for a "grab and run."

Do not give out shopping bags to those not making a purchase.

Request that large purses and backpacks be left outside of dressing rooms.

For more information or an on-site store security check, please contact Community Service Officer Sheryl Patton at 415/389-4100, x124 or via e-mail at

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Last updated: 11/17/2015 5:00:12 PM