Protect your retail business from crime
Guidance on the types of crimes a retail business may be at risk of, strategies for deterring crime and sources of help and advice for preventing retail crime
Any business can become a victim of crime, and retail businesses are at risk of certain types. This can include damage to your premises or theft of stock and money. Such crime can affect normal trading and your bottom line. Crime can also pose a risk to staff.
It is important to take action to reduce your risk of being targeted by crime. Taking certain security measures can deter crime and minimise loss. See retail business security measures.
This guide explains the most common crimes a retail business is likely to face, what you can do to prevent or reduce crime, and where to go for help when dealing with crime.
Types of retail crime
Retail businesses may be at risk to certain types of crimes and being aware of these can help to protect your business. Below are some examples of common retail crimes:
- Shoplifting is a common crime committed against retail business. It involves stock being stolen by a thief posing as a customer. It may be committed by individuals or organised groups.
- Money fraud is when criminals use an illegal method to pay for goods. This may include counterfeit cash, stolen credit cards or fraudulent cheques.
- Checkout fraud includes a number of tactics where criminals avoid paying in full for goods when paying at the tills. Examples include swapping barcodes or price stickers for a less expensive item or deliberately failing to swipe a product at a self-checkout.
- Refund fraud is another crime that can happen at the till. It can take the form of an offender attempting to return a stolen item in exchange for money or credit, or falsifying receipts.
- Burglary can be committed against retail stores, usually when the shop is closed. These 'smash and grab' crimes involve forcing entry and stealing merchandise.
- Abuse can be aggressive or violent behaviour of customers towards shop workers.
- Vandalism is also a risk for retail businesses. It could include graffiti, smashed windows or damaged signs.
- Online scams are a risk for retailers, particularly those who sell online or hold customer data digitally. They could become a victim of online fraud or cyber security breaches.
There are a number of ways the risks of these crime can be reduced. See retail business security measures.
Retail business security measures
You should assess the risk of crime in your business and take reasonable steps to reduce it. Measures should aim to make it more difficult to commit a crime, reduce the rewards for potential criminals, and increase the risk of the offender being caught. Ensure any action taken is realistic and cost effective.
Taking steps to secure your retail premises can help protect against vandalism, burglary and other crimes. You should carry out a business security survey to assess your environment and reduce opportunities for crime. Measures you might take include alarm systems, security lighting or shutters. See secure your business premises.
Reduce the risk of cash theft by reducing the amount of money you keep on premises. Help to prevent payment fraud by checking for counterfeit notes, using a secure chip and pin system and inspecting cheques carefully. See business security: cash.
Measures to prevent theft may include regular stock checks, locked cabinets for high value items and CCTV. Check new employee references thoroughly and have procedures in place to prevent theft by staff. See business security: stock and theft prevention.
Look out for suspicious behaviour to identify shoplifters. See top tips to reduce shoplifting.
If you hold sensitive information digitally, in is important to manage the risks of a cyber-attack. Common measures to keep your business safe online include strong passwords, firewalls and security software. As a retail business, you should ensure that your point-of-sale system is as secure as possible. If you sell online, you could be particularly at risk of online scams, malware and viruses.
Help and support to prevent retail crime
There are a number of organisations and initiatives that offer advice and support to help protect your retail business from crime.
Retail Crimewatch is an award winning information and image sharing exclusion order scheme between Belfast City Centre Management (BCCM), retailers and the
Police Service of Northern Ireland.
This crime reduction initiative allows retailers to serve civil exclusion orders on those found committing retail crime on their premises. The initiative is a partnership agreement between BCCM, the PSNI and Retail Crimewatch members.
Each month members receive images of individuals who have had previous convictions for shoplifting within Belfast City Centre. These individuals are banned from entering the premises of members. The scheme currently has over 400 members.
Policing and Community Safety Partnerships
The Policing and Community Safety Partnerships are local bodies made up of Councillors and independent people from each council area who work to make communities safer. They do this by focusing on the policing and community safety issues that matter most in that area.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) can deal with a crime when in happens, but it also provides advice to deter crime in your business. In a non-emergency situation you can contact the PSNI on Tel 101. For emergencies, where there is immediate danger, contact Tel 999. To report a crime anonymously contact Crimestoppers on Tel 0800 555 111.
Neighbourhood Watch is a crime prevention scheme that anyone can get involved in. As a retailer, taking part in your local Neighbourhood Watch can help protect your business and the community.
Retailers Against Crime
Retailers Against Crime (RAC) is UK-wide retail crime partnership aiming to detect and deter crime. RAC identify and provide intelligence on organised crime and share information with the police. The organisation helps its members in identifying suspects and deterring crimes, making them aware of particular risks and the tactics used by criminals. You can contact the Retailers Against Crime Northern Ireland office on Tel 01786 471451 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banknote Watch is a crime prevention initiative that promotes information on spotting stolen and counterfeit banknotes. It provides banknote advice for businesses.
Get Safe Online
Get Safe Online offers free expert advice on online safety. They provide information and online security advice for businesses.
Top tips to reduce shoplifting
The risk of shoplifting in retail businesses is very difficult to remove. However, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your business from thieves. Follow these tips to help reduce the risk of shoplifting:
1. Make sure you have adequate staff on premises, and that they are alert and trained to spot potential offenders.
2. Use good store design as a deterrent. For example, customers must pass pay desk before they leave.
3. Make sure high-value products are properly secured or tagged, and place visible security measures/staff at exit points.
4. Give receipts for all purchases and keep an accurate record of your stock.
5. Use CCTV and other security measures to reduce areas where theft could take place.
6. Use visible signage around your premises to re-enforce security measures - eg 'shoplifters will be prosecuted'.
7. Lock high-value items in security cabinets and supervise access.
8. Supervise clothes fitting rooms and ensure toilets and similar areas do not have outside access.