Recent and shocking facts from the Lodgic Intelligence Centre highlight that this Christmas, retailers are at a greater risk of theft than ever before. Lodgic Intelligence Centre say that the reasons for this are down to: increased activity by organised criminal gangs, reduced security staffing and a decrease in the response to shoplifting by the police.

Moreover, earlier this year, the British Retail Consortium found in their annual Retail Crime Survey that the total direct financial cost of all retail crime has risen to £700m. Out of this amount, shoplifting accounts for £500m per year.

The survey also found that there has been a growth in severe violent incidents causing injury to retail employees.

This is why it’s vital for retailers to protect their businesses from shoplifters and organised crime groups during the lead up to Christmas. Security Scotland have created this discussion on retail theft to help keep businesses secure and staff safe during the festive period.

Be vigilant

It’s easier said than done, especially during the lead up to Christmas when retail stores at are their busiest. However, remaining vigilant can be as simple as becoming more aware of the people who are entering your shop. Take time to notice each customer. Approaching all customers with a smile and willingness to help might spook a potential thief. You can make potential suspects know of your presence simply by asking if they need any help.


Hold a staff Christmas training day

The Christmas period is a time for retailers to employ new staff. Most temporary Christmas jobs in retail tend to go to younger people and it’s often their first job. When it’s a younger persons first job it can be challenging, especially at Christmas time.

Although Christmas is such a busy time for retailers, proper training for new staff – and existing ones – shouldn’t be overlooked. Nowadays, staff need more than just sales and customer service training. With the increase of violent incidents involving retail staff, staff must be fully trained in how to deal with situations where they feel threatened.

Holding a staff training day will prove to be very beneficial. Not only is it a chance for new staff to meet the team and bond, it’s an opportunity for everyone to be brought up to speed with current security procedures too.

Spotting a shoplifter

Not every shoplifter looks like a stereotypical thief. So, sometimes it can be difficult to spot one. These are some of the most common ways to spot a thief:

General suspicious behaviour:  This is the first and most obvious sign of a shoplifter. A customer who has shifty eyes, watches staff, looks nervous and doesn’t particularly look like they know what they are looking for, would be showing suspicious behaviour.

Lingering: Shoplifters may either linger inside the store, waiting for their opportunity to steal. Or, they might linger outside, to watch staff and scope out the store before entering it.

Common customers: When a shoplifter gets away with stealing in a shop, they are likely to keep returning. A customer who enters the store and never makes a purchase could be a potential shoplifter. This is why you should get to know regular customers.

Common shoplifting techniques

Shoplifting techniques are ever changing, but some of the most common techniques include:


The ‘Simple Bagging’ tactic is when a would-be shoplifter conceals the item in a bag that they have brought into the store. This generally done while no one is observing the shoplifter.

Accidental Theft

This tactic generally takes place in a queue with the items that an individual is planning to steal and pays for only one. The thief holds what he intends to steal in full view, avoiding suspicion due to their apparent intention of payment. In the unlikely event of being caught, the thief can simply pass off the attempt at stealing as accidental.

Ticket Switching

This is when a shoplifter switches the price tags of merchandise most likely putting the cheaper tag on the product, they wish to obtain.

Fitting room bagging

Fitting rooms are generally weak points in any retail store. Shoplifters can conceal items while being concealed. They will look for weak and busy members of staff manning fitting rooms to either enter with large amounts of merchandise, or double hanging items of clothing on one hanger.

Partner Method:

This technique is carried out by a team of two. The first person will enter the store dressed as a stereotypical shoplifter to act as a distraction and allow the second person to enter the store and hide and steal items while staff and security and observe the first person.

Common scams to watch out for

Having some knowledge on common shoplifting scams might be what catches a thief one day. Some of the most common scams include:

‘Man-in-the-middle: Unusual requests from so-called suppliers, such as being contacted to make a payment into a new bank account.

Fraud returns: This is one of the most common tactics used by thieves. False returns happen when a thieve returns items that may be stolen to gain cash. The can try and return this by using stolen receipts or using receipt tape.

Don’t forget about counterfeit notes and vouchers

For those who have worked in the retail business for some time, the ability to spot counterfeit notes and vouchers comes as second nature. However, new staff may not be as skilled in spotting fake notes and vouchers.  Most shops nowadays have equipment that can identify counterfeits, such as pens or UV lights, but not all staff remember to use them.  It’s important to remind all staff to always test notes and vouchers, regardless of the amount of money that’s being handed over.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s tips for spotting counterfeit notes and vouchers

  • Watermark: Real watermarks should be barely visible until the note is held to light and the clear portrait with subtle light and shade becomes visible.


  • Paper: Real banknote paper should be crisp and not limp, waxy or shiny. The special printing processes give banknotes a unique feel. It should not feel like normal paper.


  • Serial Numbers: Real notes have unique serial numbers. If two notes show the same serial number, one of them is fake.

Increase visibility

Increasing store visibility can help tackle theft. For example, hideaways and blind spots are easy areas for shoplifters to hide their stolen items. Visibility can be improved by making some small, yet effective changes to the store layout, such as:

  • Keep shorter displays near to tills and taller displays closer to the perimeter.
  • Ensure that aisles and shelves are not cluttered
  • Place point of sale display material away from exits and entrances
  • Consider the location of pay points – is the back of the store really useful?

Investing in a security system

Criminals will be deterred if retails stores have a security system in place, CCTV cameras in particular. CCTV cameras should be installed outside and inside your premises. With technology ever evolving, monitoring your store operations is easier than ever. Monitor from home, pay points, store rooms or the store office. CCTV is especially useful for small businesses that have a few members of staff.