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Mahesh Odedra (left), Priyesh Vekaria (middle), Tom Dant (right)

Customer service excellence, transforming the shop floor and employee incentives. This is just a few strategies retailers have implemented to deter shoplifting.

In the past year, convenience stores have poured £339m into crime prevention and detection measures, according to the Association of Convenience Stores Crime Report 2024. The report highlighted retailers’ efforts in fighting against the concerning increase in shoplifting. It found retailers invested in areas like CCTV, security staff, intruder alarms and internal communication systems. 

Convenience Store spoke to three retailers who have reverted to traditional techniques to address the shoplifting epidemic.

Mahesh Odedra, owner of Great Glen Spar store in Leicestershire and Lake Avenue Premier store in Suffolk says he was catching around two or three shoplifters every week. Store theft was a particular issue for him starting last summer coming into Christmas. Since Mahesh introduced KPIs for staff, he explains there are now only four or five shoplifting incidents a month. 

“It hasn’t eradicated the problem, but it’s definitely less than half of what we used to experience,” he added. “What we’ve done is devised our own plan to keep the staff engaged and be part of the solution.”

He sets around ten KPI measurements for each of his employees. They are then rated on a scale of one to five. If the whole team performs well they are given a joint monetary bonus. 

Mahesh believes it gives team members a sense of ownership too: “If I see things that aren’t that aren’t up to our standard, team members will be scored down. So to avoid this, they motivate each other to make sure everyone is proactive in supporting the business.” 

As part of the KPI measurements, staff are encouraged to note down every time they suspect a shoplifting incident. Since introducing these KPIs Mahesh said his team members are now more vigilant. He added AI technologies to catch shoplifters are superb but “none of them beat eyes and ears”. 

“If you’ve got eyes and ears in your store, that’s your biggest asset, especially for owners that don’t spend a lot of time in their stores. So incentivising the staff to be those eyes and ears and I think is the is the most success that we have,” Mahesh adds.

Meanwhile, One Stop owner Priyesh Vekaria, has been deterring crime through a simple smile. His Croydon-based store has faced an uptick in shoplifting, a trend he attributes to the cost-of-living crisis and shrinking disposable incomes. 

“During these difficult times, if the opportunity and temptation arises, it’s something that most people are now sort of attempting. It’s currently the highest and it’s increasing because the number of attempts that we stop on a weekly basis is increasing more and more regularly just because of the amount of things that people are looking for now. Previously, we would find that you have the prolific offenders who would come in to steal things to sell them to fund their habits”.

Now, Priyesh is noticing a significant shift in items being targeted by customers who are struggling to make ends meet, including cheese, bacon and higher-value products such as washing powders. 

He reveals that training staff to deliver excellent customer service is a cornerstone of his strategy for reducing shop theft: “You can deter shoplifters by ensuring that you have adequate teams on-site at any one time. Each and every customer is treated with individual respect and every customer is welcomed into the store. Every customer is treated with the utmost best customer service. 

“Customers will receive a please and thank you, no matter what sort of form of mind you’re in, that customer must leave your store with a smile embedded in their mind, or that you’ve made their day. It’s all about training and educating your team to deliver the best customer service with good working practices”.

Despite the rise in attempted shoplifting, Priyesh’s methods have proven effective in reducing actual theft. He explains the increase is “by virtue of the current economy and the circumstances we face.”

“However, there are definitely fewer successful shoplifting incidents in our store compared to once upon a time,” he says “Providing them with outstanding services means that you receive that whole concept of we’re not going to do what we would like to do here. We have to do it somewhere else”.

Tom Dant, managing director of three Lincolnshire-based Spar stores, was forced to reorganise his store around to make it more challenging for optimists rather than creating an easy shopper experience. 

The first aisle, located close to the door, was previously used for seasonal stock. He says that shoplifters were “filling bags of chocolate”. To address the issue, he replaced seasonal stock with large soft drink products. 

Additionally, Tom explains: “For categories we can’t move, like confectionery, we’ve made it difficult for them or harder for them to shoplift by taking products out of display packaging and we’ve put shelves closer together so they can’t just lift a box of products and walk out with it. Anything to slow them down”. 

“Some days we were losing two or three boxes of chocolate, whereas now maybe one a week, so it’s certainly made a massive difference,” he added.