So what do you think a shoplifter looks like? Thing is, they’re not exactly what you’d expect. They’re extremely good at blending in with shoppers and you'd find it hard to spot one in a crowd, but you might be able to spot a shoplifter by their behaviour. Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for.

They’re smart. Be smarter

Many shoplifters dress smartly and will often speak to you, joke with you and engage with you. They don’t always work alone and they may try to relax or distract you while an accomplice steals. They’re good at creating diversions, especially when you’ve unlocked a cabinet. Don’t fall for it. Get one of your staff to assist you.

A key part of dealing with shoplifters is by having strong security such as a member of staff near any doors; by knowing your clientele; by encouraging staff to remain alert; and by intelligent use of security devices.

How to spot a shoplifter

There are a number of tell-tale signs that flag up a shoplifter. But remember, while the following don't necessarily mean the person is guilty – and be aware that you are responsible for your behaviour, both legally and commercially – we recommend that you keep an eye on shoppers who:

  • seem to be watching you and the staff rather than shopping and may be waiting for the right moment to steal an item
  • Seem to want to keep your attention and talk for the sake of it – possibly because an accomplice is elsewhere stealing
  • look like they’re taking little notice of your products
  • seem a little nervous and possibly pick up random items with little interest
  • keep refusing your offer of help or assistance
  • frequently enter your store and never make a purchase
  • want you to unlock and open cabinets but don’t buy anything

What to do if you see a shoplifter in action

If you see them take something then ask them politely to put the item back but be careful to keep your tone neutral and back off if you feel threatened. Always be sure they’ve taken something before you speak to them – and only if you feel it’s safe to do so.

Once you are certain that the individual is indeed a shoplifter, call the police on 999.