12 Key Tips On How To Prevent Theft From Your Supermarket

Our retailers, no matter how large or small, are an integral part of our experience as consumers. While many have turned to shopping online, many more still use their local supermarket for a variety of reasons, with convenience, cost and conversation all being key drivers behind the decision to visit a retailer’s physical premises.

However, supermarkets and convenience stores also find themselves vulnerable to theft and shoplifting, as well as opportunistic criminals that seek to disrupt the safe and secure retail environment you’ve worked so hard to create.

At Churchill Support Services, we’re at the forefront of keeping retailers and other businesses well-informed and effectively prepared in the face of criminal activity. We’ve continuously provided support for the retail sector, in both our deep-dive into retail crime statistics, and in our exceptional security provisions for both smaller retailers and multinational brands.

With that in mind, we’ve laid out 12 key tips and tricks for preventing theft in your supermarket or retail business, as well as how you can best implement our strategies while still maximising profits and customer satisfaction.


Churchill’s Top 12 Tips On Preventing Supermarket Theft

We’ll look at 12 crucial pointers for keeping your supermarket safe and secure, as well as what they mean for the ongoing safeguarding of your people, your premises and your products.


1. Retail Security Guards Are A Must Have

A key staple of the security industry, and often viewed as the first line of defence when it comes to securing your shop or supermarket, retail security guards are the ideal way to prevent theft before it can ever become an issue.

There’s no doubt you’ll have noticed them becoming a much more prevalent presence at the entrances to retail premises. That’s for good reason – the latest report from the British Retail Consortium estimates that there’s around 8 million incidents of customer theft each year, with that only set to grow as we continue the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Retail security officers are an ideal countermeasure to that worrying statistic. While most shop owners will opt to place them at the main thoroughfares to their stores (alongside other detection equipment), retail security personnel are able to be strategically positioned wherever you’re most concerned.

That comes in addition to expertly trained eyes and ears, all honed and refined to be able to detect any possible thieves or wrongdoers before they can present an issue for your business. Not only that, but retail security has proven time and time again to be a huge deterrent to those same criminals, stopping any plans of theft before they can materialise into something more serious.


2. CCTV Is A Mainstay In Retail Security

Another of the major players in the security sector, CCTV in the retail industry has evolved significantly from what many of us would expect. Gone are the hazy and often difficult-to-interpret images of yesteryear, replaced with clearer images, better reporting, and more reliable footage.

That leap forward represents not only a better sign for the losses and shrink that a retailer faces, but also its accessibility and widespread adoption. Scientific studies have long since discussed the purported effectiveness of CCTV,  and by making that technology more robust and more widely available, retailers have been able to take advantage.

Whether that’s a small set of tactically-positioned cameras for a boutique shop, or a whole suite of cameras that are designed to offer maximum coverage over a supermarket or larger retail premises, you’re always in control of what and crucially who you see.

We’ve also witnessed these cameras also set up across areas where theft is more likely to occur. We highlighted a few of those more vulnerable areas in our recent piece on retail crime, but here’s the top 3:

  • Confectionary (such as sweets and chocolate)
  • Alcohol
  • Meat

Larger stores will also choose to monitor big-ticket items (such as clothing and electronics) more closely, opting for a tailormade CCTV installation strategy that ensures every area of concern is covered evenly and with that same level of focus.


3. Invest In A Upgraded Intruder Alarm System

An often overlooked aspect of your preventative measures when it comes to theft from supermarkets, your store’s intruder alarm system shouldn’t remain static. That should go without saying – technology has progressed at a similar rate to the CCTV solutions, and newer, intelligent alarms are quickly becoming commonplace.

That’s particularly pertinent for supermarkets and larger stores, especially those with significant amounts of stock on site, or warehouses attached to the premises. Those stores may benefit from what’s known as a “Grade 4” alarm system – the highest level of protection afforded.

Alarm systems are available on a Grade 1 (usually for low risk premises) through to Grade 4 scale, and by opting to increase your graded system – say, from a Grade 2 up to a Grade 3 – you’re affording yourself that additional protection.

That can either be done as a more self-contained upgrade, adapting your current tech to a more up-to-date system, as an entirely fresh, tailormade installation. Both of these offer minimal disruption, while still offering the levels of comfort, security and safety the retail sector demands.


4. Place Clear Signage Around Your Store

While it’s often the last thing many shop owners or managers think about, signage that explicitly mentions the security measures you have in place offers an additional level of deterrence and safety. Those who are tempted to steal may never see your security personnel or CCTV cameras, and by drawing attention to them, you’re deterring offenders before they ever offend.

Studies have already confirmed that effectiveness on offenders, with clear and prominent security signs being one of the key deterrents to those who’d made the decision to steal. Most theft is an impulsive decision, or a response to external factors like money woes, and the threat of prosecution or of consequences is often enough to deter a would-be criminal at the first hurdle.

Signs and notices that alert customers about the security measures you have in place also provide an additional layer of reassurance to those who are simply there to do their shopping. Crime can have far-reaching impacts, and clients who know you’re doing all you can to prevent those issues are more likely to return.


5. Double Check Your Self-Service Checkouts

A recent revolution in shopping that seeks to couple the comfort and speed of online shopping with the convenience and experience of a real-world retail environment, self-checkouts have fast become a feature of most supermarkets and high-street staples.

However, for all their efficiency and sophistication, they are often touted as a thief’s best friend. Research from Business Insider exposed just how concerning this is, with their data revealing that a shoplifter is more than 20 times more likely to be successful when using a self-service checkout than they would be with a more conventional till.

That includes more underhanded methods like scanning an item as a much cheaper product, or mislabelling loose items to get them at a fraction of the cost – both of which are issues that saw a substantial uptick since the introduction of self-serve tills.

Our advice here would be to station a member of staff – or an expertly trained retail security guard – on your bank of self-service checkouts, who’s able to monitor any customers that look particularly suspicious, or that are misrepresenting their items.


6. Keep An Eye On Your Staff

Of course, the last thing any supermarket owner wants to consider is that the source of their shrink or theft figures is coming from their own staff members. Sadly, with the cost of living crisis worsening, this has become an altogether too common issue.

Our recent piece on crime statistics over Christmas examined the issue of employee theft in much more detail, but in a nutshell, it’s a hugely costly crime for retailers and supermarket managers alike. While the festive period naturally sees a rise in that stat, it’s a common problem throughout the year.

The British Retail Consortium place the yearly cost of employee theft – completely separate from customer or organised theft – at a staggering £40 million, with much of that directly contributing towards the losses the UK’s retail scene faces annually.

Many supermarkets have already recognised this as a pressing concern. With loss prevention equipment positioned at staff entrances and exits, and sporadic bag checks during times of high risk, it’s essential you keep on top of checking your staff as thoroughly as you would with a customer.


7. Observe Customer Behaviour Closely

An age-old tactic, and one that’s more of a hands-on approach to preventing theft in a supermarket, it’s always beneficial to keep an eye on the movements, behaviour and actions of any customer you’re unsure of, or that’s exhibiting concerning signs.

Of course, this won’t always work. Some customers may be anxious or stressed for reasons outside of your control, or be outside of their comfort zone in your supermarket. Others might simply be unfamiliar with the layout and appear hesitant, which can be misconstrued as suspicious behaviour.

However, keeping an eye on customers from a distance can offer you that early warning sign you need to nip any threats of theft in the bud. We’d always advise watching from a distance, or asking members of staff to work in and around that area so as not to alert the customer, or make them feel as though they’ve done something wrong.


8. Stay Up-To-Date With The Latest News

It may seem self-explanatory, and already be a regular part of your day, but it pays dividends to stay abreast of the latest developments in retail, in technology, and in how the two intersect as we move towards an increasingly high-tech future.

That includes both popular or well-received decisions – such as the increasing calls for tougher sanctions for those who abuse retail workers – as well as those which have garnered more negative praise, such as the recent decision to include receipt scanners in Sainsbury’s stores in Manchester.

By doing so, you’re not only taking a more proactive role in securing your premises and your customers, you’re looking to become a much more forward-thinking business in how you get ahead of the curve.

You’ll be able to make the right decisions – and ones that are tailored to your circumstances and those of your clientele – and ultimately ensure that what you do means a more prosperous future for everyone involved with your store.


9. Provide Your Usual Excellent Customer Service

There’s few better deterrents to thieves than the way you provide your service. We’ve seen that time and time again, across multiple different industries, and even in the online sphere. Online video game platform Steam, for instance, cut piracy substantially by simply offering a better and more complete experience than illicit copies could provide.

That translates exceptionally well to the physical store. By offering a more comprehensive service, and one that adds additional value to what your customers normally receive, you’re more likely to keep your loyal customers, and more likely to prevent the more avoidable kinds of theft and shoplifting.

The likelihood is you’ve already seen these measures in place. Most modern supermarkets and retailers offer bonus schemes and discounts for spending there (think Tesco’s Clubcard, or the Nectar card at Sainsbury’s).

Smaller retailers have harnessed that too, whether that’s a coffee shop offering stamps on a card in exchange for a free drink, or vouchers to entice a return visit. All of these methods contribute towards a reduction in theft, and a smaller loss at the end of the month.

Couple that with staff who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what they’re selling, and you’re already creating an environment that not only actively reduces theft, but that might ultimately deter potential thieves from ever contributing to the figures we’ve continually seen.


10. “Face Up” Your Shelves & Store Fronts

A common occurrence if you’ve ever worked in the retail sector, “facing up” serves a much greater purpose than simply making the shop look enticing to your customers. The practice, also called “rumbling” or tidying, simply involves facing product labels to the edge of the shelf and moving the stock up to the front of the shelving so it’s easily reached.

Of course, while it does drive sales and boost profits by a small margin, it also makes it easier to recognise where something has been taken, and when. For the most part, this will just be customers picking up their favourite product, but it also offers that additional “breadcrumb trail” that a thief might leave behind.

That’s especially true for smaller retailers, or those with limited shelving space. Those brief periods in your schedule where there’s perhaps not as many customers in gives you the opportunity to recognise where products have been taken from.

Ultimately, all of this acts as a way for you to better stop theft in its tracks, particularly when you pair it with a strong retail CCTV solution, or physical security measures in the form of retail security guards.


11. Consider A Store Detective For Your Supermarket

One of the more robust options when it comes to preventing theft in your supermarket, a store or retail detective provides a more covert option for combatting the thieves or shoplifters who’ve plagued your business.

Able to seamlessly blend in with the crowds in larger supermarkets, or as an interested customer in more boutique retailers, you’ll be receiving the support and the eyes on the ground that you need to ensure comprehensive security and safety in your store.

In fact, the chances are that you’ll have encountered store detectives in some capacity as part of your personal life, and have just never realised. This is their greatest strength and, some may say, the advantage they have over more static retail security guarding options.

We’d advise a dual-pronged approach, using both stationary security guards at the entrance and exit of your shop, alongside retail detectives that are able to blend in with the crowd. This gives you the coverage you need to weed out any thieves you might have had previous issues with, or to tackle more organised theft rings or gangs.


12. Ensure You Lock Up At The End Of The Day

It may seem like a basic tip to conclude our suggestions on how to prevent theft in your supermarket, but locking the doors, windows and access points at the end of the day is arguably the most effective way to mitigate those risks.

This is particularly important for those with smaller shops or stores, especially if you’re selling high-value or especially desirable items. Taking that extra few moments each evening to ensure that all windows and doors are locked tightly, and that any access points are secured, makes a massive difference.

For supermarkets that run on a 24 hour basis, or that have evening or night shifts, there’s less of an emphasis on this as your premises is almost always occupied. However, there still needs to be rigorous and comprehensive measures in place to keep those people safe, especially during the night where visibility is reduced, and there’s a greater risk of breaking and entering.

In both scenarios, we’d recommend investing in a complete lock and unlock service. This removes any pressures or onus from you or your staff, and guarantees that your site is secured and locked with the effectiveness that only a complete security package can bring.


Choosing Churchill For Your Supermarket Security

Having led the industry for more than 27 years, and recently been named the UK’s #1 ACS-approved security provider, Churchill Support Services understand exactly what it takes to ensure the comprehensive security of the retail sector.

It’s a challenge, but it’s one that we’ve been able to continuously rise to, and provide intuitive, adaptable and tailormade solutions for. We’ve secured a range of different retail premises, from smaller shops and stores that have been in a family for generations, to massive retailers and multinational corporations.

Every single one of our retail security projects is undertaken with the same care and attention that we know you put into your business and its day-to-day operations. We custom-build all of our solutions to meet with the rigours of your supermarket or shop, taking everything into account, from layout and opening hours, to emergency procedures and fire regulations.

All of this combines to create something that’s truly built for the retail industry, and to combat the threat of theft in supermarkets, shops and stores up and down the UK.

Get in touch with our in-house experts today to discuss the options we’ve got available, and how they represent the gold standard in retail security. We’ll also provide a free, no obligation quote that addresses every area of concern, and that more than meets what you’d expect.

John Melling

Group Chief Executive Officer

John has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.