How to Protect Your Boutique From Shoplifters

As the owner of a boutique business, keeping your store secure is an issue that you have to deal with on a daily basis. Whether you’ve just started up or have been operating for a few years, security is always a concern for anyone who opens their doors to the public. You’re likely reading this because you are worried about or are having problems with security, and are keen to find out what you should be looking out for along with how to avoid the most common retail security pitfalls. Here, we study the most common security threats for retail businesses, and how to prevent them from happening.


External threats cover those problems occurring from outside the business and its workforce. Every day there are endless reports of shoplifting, distraction thefts and scams, all of which cause a feeling of long-term fear and misery to the victim.


Mistake 1: Displays & store layouts that support shoplifting

Shops with open displays of stock are more attractive to criminals participating in shop lifting activity. In this crime, thieves will take stock without paying for it by concealing items in their clothes or bags. More often than not they will go for smaller items that don’t attract immediate attention through their sudden disappearance. However, the shoplifter will normally take a large handful of these items. Tackle this by placing smaller items around your till areas or in parts of the store where staff are frequently present. When creating big displays spare a thought for whether or not the display could be used to hide behind and conceal suspicious activity.

Distracting Thieves

Mistake 2: Being Caught Off Guard

Distraction theft is where a group of people enter a store, with some of the group grabbing the attention of the shop keeper whilst the others carry out the theft. This is a clever method of stealing in that most business owners do not realize that they are a victim until hours or even days after the event. Alternatively adults may use their children as a distraction whilst they carry out the theft, whilst staff collusion is another growing issue (see below). Awareness is one of the best ways to combat this problem. Whilst no one should be on edge every day at work, being aware of this tactic can help you recognise it when it starts to happen. Perhaps consider running a training session with you staff to alert them to the signs of a distraction theft and what to do if they realise one is in progress.

Scams are particularly common in convenience stores, where a Payzone/PayPoint till is available. Hackers can tap into these networks, and make the machine ask the owner  to perform  test transactions.  This enables them to easily take the owner’s money, while the owner thinks the request is legitimate. Mobile phone top-up card scams are also prominent, with thieves asking for a top-up card, taking a picture of the voucher number and then telling the shopkeeper that they actually wanted a card for another network provider.


Most of these crimes be deterred by the presence of security cameras, also known as CCTV. Thieves will only go for easy opportunities where the chances of them being caught are minimal, so if they see video surveillance they may be put-off. While this may not completely prevent theft, it can provide you with ample evidence to prosecute, particularly if the pictures clearly show the perpetrator’s face, thus allowing them to be identified. You should also adequately train your staff to be vigilant against distraction theft or shoplifting, advising them to call a colleague to the checkout if they feel uncomfortable or they feel something suspicious is going on. For the PayPoint scams, you must always contact the company and report any suspicious activity on the machine, along with refraining from using it until the matter is resolved.


Mistake 3: Not Checking Employee History

Surprisingly shops are not only under threat from passers-by, but also from their own staff on some occasions. As such, you should check the criminal record of each staff member before you take them on.

Staff Theft

Staff theft can occur in three ways. One way is the traditional shoplifting method, where they are left in the store on their own and hide something within their clothes to take away with them later. Instead, they may throw some stock out with the rubbish, before collecting it after work. A third method is to incorrectly ring products through the till, giving you the idea that everything is correct whilst concealing their wrongdoings.

Staff Collusion

Some staff members may instead work with family and friends to steal your stock. Whether through a distraction theft or joint shop lift, they can easily defraud you by working together.

Delivery Driver Agreements

Some staff will also sign for items that haven’t been delivered, making you believe that the full delivery is there when in fact it isn’t. This defrauds you of your money, and is often difficult to rectify.


You must always include a security clause in your staff contracts. This contract is legally binding, so if they breach any of your security clauses you could have the potential to take them to court, suing for loss of earnings or damages of a similar ilk. Again, CCTV (video) is a great deterrent but is also a great way to capture evidence if you are suspicious that member of staff is committing crime under your roof. However, it is recommended that you speak to a legal representative before participating in secret recording, as this can be illegal due to its privacy invasive nature.

Loss prevention is relatively easy to solve when you know what to look out for and what you can put in place to solve it. As threats can come from outside or in, you must remain vigilant at all times and always consider doing a weekly stock take to ensure that no major losses have occurred. Good luck.

Contributed by Nick, a physical security expert who works with LBS Group has just celebrated 30 years in the business and has worked on major projects including King’s Cross Train Station and the Tate Modern in London. 


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