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How Do Supermarkets Prevent Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is an offence under the Theft Act 1968 which involves taking goods from a store without paying for them.

There were over 359,000 reported cases of shoplifting in England and Wales in 2019/20 with supermarkets and other retail stores being targeted for theft.

People may shoplift for several reasons such as not having enough money to buy the goods, selling the stolen items for money, supporting an addiction, having mental problems such as an uncontrollable urge to take things, or simply for fun.

Whatever the reason, it leaves a huge financial burden on supermarkets with the total cost of retail theft amounting to £2.2 billion in the UK alone.

The possible consequences of getting caught shoplifting are being arrested and taken into custody. If convicted, it may even result in being jailed for up to six months if the stolen goods are worth less than £200 or for a maximum of seven years if they are worth more than £200.

Sadly, even being fined and jailed doesn’t deter shoplifters from stealing items of value because, most of the time, they know they can easily get away with it.

How can they be stopped and what can supermarket owners and managers do to prevent shoplifting? Read on to find out:


Before we look into ways for preventing shoplifting in supermarkets, you need to understand how these criminals work and what type of goods they usually go after.

Most shoplifters will simply place items in their pockets or hide them in their bags. However, that is not the only way that they go about stealing items of value.

Other common methods include not paying for items under their cart, switching price tags of expensive items with less expensive ones, and consuming edibles and discarding the wrappers.

It is also insightful to look at the most commonly shoplifted items in the supermarket since it will help you come up with a better action plan.

Some of the top shoplifted supermarket items include:

  • Packed meats,
  • Alcoholic beverages,
  • Razor blades,
  • Makeup and cosmetics,
  • Cheeses,
  • Batteries,
  • Coffee,
  • Sports items,
  • Perfumes and fragrances, and
  • Small electrical goods and accessories.


Shoplifting is a common issue faced by most retail stores including supermarkets. Regardless of the size and type, almost every other supermarket has been targeted for theft and has faced losses owing to shoplifting.

The good news is that you, as a supermarket owner or manager, can take steps to prevent shoplifters from targeting your store. Here are some of the most effective ways:

Identifying a shoplifter

You must never assume that someone is a shoplifter based on their appearance, race, or gender. However, there are certain behaviours that you must keep a lookout for.

A shoplifter may take active steps to avoid being seen, seem nervous and constantly check their surroundings, repeatedly pick up and put back the same items, and either wear large clothes that are not suitable for the season or carry large bags.

It is important to note that while you should look out for and monitor the aforementioned signs, they don’t necessarily mean that the individuals in question are shoplifters.

Identifying at-risk items

In addition to stealing expensive items, shoplifters go for items that are small and lightweight that they can easily hide without getting noticed.

You must identify the at-risk items and take precautions by displaying them in a way that makes them harder to simply grab and hide somewhere.

While this may be a great way of preventing theft, it may lead to a bad customer experience for individuals who genuinely wish to buy the product and would have to speak to a supermarket employee for their removal.

Optimising the supermarket’s layout

Optimising the store’s layout in a way that everything is in plain view and there are no blind spots that shoplifters may take advantage of may significantly reduce the chances of theft.

You may do this by moving displays, reducing the height of the displays, illuminating the area, and avoiding keeping expensive items at the back of the supermarket.

Also, placing the customer service area near the exit doors will ensure that everyone in the supermarket will have to go through them, giving the supermarket employees the perfect opportunity to apprehend shoplifters and prevent them from leaving.

Conducting pre-employment background checks

Although most of the security threats faced by supermarkets come from outside, there are several instances of internal theft where the threat stemmed from within the supermarket by disgruntled employees.

If not monitored and kept a check on, some employees may also indulge in criminal activity such as shoplifting and inventory shrinkage.

Therefore, to ensure that your staff members can be relied upon and that they pose no serious risk to your establishment, it is necessary to run thorough background checks on them and provide them with the necessary training on supermarket safety and security.

Using security systems for supermarkets

Sometimes, due to the sheer size of a supermarket or the amount of activity taking place, it may become difficult to keep an eye on every inch of the store resulting in the staff members putting their guard down.

This gives the perfect opportunity to potential shoplifters to do what they came in to do and leave the store undetected.

For this reason, it is best to invest in security systems such as CCTV cameras and surveillance systems for supermarkets that not just provide an extra set of eyes but also deter criminals and help catch shoplifters if they choose to act upon their ill-intent.


Video surveillance systems such as CCTV cameras offer a wide range of benefits to supermarket security, one of which is to reduce and prevent shoplifting incidents.

They are one of the most effective deterrents against not just shoplifting but all kinds of security threats, and their mere sight is enough to scare away shoplifters from trying to target your property.

CCTV cameras are like an extra set of HD eyes that record and monitor everything that is going on and are great at protecting your valuable merchandise from being stolen.

The recorded footage is easily accessible from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, and can be seen as a live feed or recorded footage. It helps catch shoplifters in the act and is also considered legitimate evidence in the court of law.

The monitoring and recording features make CCTV cameras a must-have security system for all supermarkets. They not just deter criminal activity but also offer a greater level of control over daily operations.

The placement of CCTV cameras is very important in enjoying the maximum benefits from these popular security devices, which is why it must be done strategically and after considering all the factors.

Some of the best places to install CCTV cameras to prevent shoplifting in supermarkets include the main entrances and exits, on every aisle covering the maximum area, and near the cash tills.

All the high-traffic areas must also be covered, including areas without any staff members present, to ensure that opportunistic thieves do not take advantage of the opportunity and are always under surveillance.

Also, depending on where the cameras are installed and the type of models being used, they can act as either visible or hidden deterrents. Choosing between the two depends on whether the supermarket owners and managers wish for their customers to know where the systems are or not.


With advancements in technology, CCTV cameras have evolved from basic recording equipment to full-fledged surveillance security systems used by businesses and homeowners around the world.

They are well worth the investment and provide a comprehensive security solution to prevent shoplifting and other threats in supermarkets.

To ensure that the CCTV cameras serve their purpose, you need to choose the right type of system with the required features for them to be effective.

Aren’t all CCTV cameras the same? No, they aren’t.

With an increase in demand, there are several options available in the market with certain models made for a specific purpose.

The most popular types of CCTV cameras are:

  • Bullet CCTV cameras – one of the most common types of CCTV cameras in the world, their recognisable look makes them a highly visible deterrent against theft and intrusions. They are ideal for outdoor use and in applications that require long-distance viewing.
  • Dome CCTV cameras – another very popular choice that gets its name from the vandal-resistant dome-shaped casing that the camera sits in. They have a discreet shape making it difficult to see which way they are facing and allow wider angles to be monitored via 360-degree rotation of the camera.
  • C-Mount CCTV cameras – bulkier in size and come in a rugged casing that protects them from harsh weather conditions. They have detachable lenses that can be switched to adapt to the distance and field of view without losing focus.
  • PTZ Pan/Tilt/Zoom CCTV cameras – can pan sideways, tilt up and down, zoom in and out of objects, and can adjust the right angle of the camera to record the area of interest. They allow more control over what is being monitored and are the ideal choice for remote monitoring.
  • Day/Night CCTV cameras – built to effectively work during both the day and night-time, regardless of the lighting conditions. They are ideal for places that require round-the-clock outdoor CCTV monitoring.
  • Infrared/Night vision CCTV cameras – use infrared technology to record images and videos in absolute darkness. They can also withstand fog, dust, and smoke, and record coloured footage during the daytime while capturing black and white footage during the night.
  • Network/IP CCTV cameras – connected over a network that allows both the live and recorded footage to be accessed from anywhere in the world via the internet. They are the best choice for remote monitoring and allow storing archived footage on network video recorders (NVRs) and digital video recorders (DVRs).
  • Wireless CCTV cameras – made for the sole purpose of minimising the installation time and use of excess wires for a cleaner appearance. Due to their discreet appearance, they easily blend in with the surroundings working as a hidden deterrent and are ideal for situations where good presentation is key and the display of excess wires might ruin the aesthetics.
  • High Definition (HD) CCTV cameras – come in a variety of resolutions ranging from 720p going all the way up to 4K, delivering high-quality images with zooming capabilities. They are particularly useful in high-risk areas where the foot traffic needs to be monitored closely and the perpetrators need to be easily identified and caught using the recorded footage.

Some of the features to look for when installing CCTV cameras in supermarkets are:

  • Resolution and camera quality – the recording quality measured in vertical and horizontal pixel dimensions. Supermarkets must have systems with a higher resolution to capture clear images of shoplifters that make it easy to identify them.
  • Field of view – the area covered by cameras. Cameras with a wide field of view, along with panning, zooming, and tilting features can help monitor a large area inside the supermarket using just a few cameras.
  • Notification alerts – receiving customisable alerts and notifications on your smartphone or device as soon as any unusual activity is detected. They help to always stay in the know, especially when your attention is most required.
  • Professional CCTV monitoring – CCTV cameras monitored by professional staff at Remote Video Receiving Centres (RVRC). It is ideal for large and high-risk supermarkets, especially those that are susceptible to shoplifting incidents.


Surveillance is a tricky topic and, depending on how it is used, it can either help enforce the rights to security, fair trial, and privacy, or undermine them.

You have certain responsibilities as data controllers that are clearly outlined in the Data Protection Act (DPA) to protect the rights of the data subjects, aka the people being monitored.

CCTV operators in supermarkets have to be very careful with how they use the systems and only use them for a clearly defined purpose, which is mostly to deter crime.

You must establish clear responsibilities and procedures, along with documenting all aspects of data control and ensuring that the data is stored securely and can only be accessed by authorised personnel.

You need to inform everyone in the area that they are being recorded, which can best be achieved by putting up clear signage or communicating with the people involved.

Monitoring staff is permissible as long as they have been made aware of it in writing and explained the reasons behind it.

You are, under no circumstances, allowed to install CCTV cameras in private areas such as toilets and changing rooms.

The data subjects may ask to see the CCTV footage that you have of them and you are obligated to provide them with the recorded data within one month.

In certain cases, you may also be required to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a CCTV operator, which includes paying a data protection fee.


CCTV cameras in supermarkets are an effective deterrent against shoplifting along with serving other valuable purposes such as monitoring for health and safety issues, detection of anti-social behaviour, and also as a way of keeping track of customers and their buying habits.

We offer a comprehensive solution that covers all aspects of CCTV use starting with professional installation to monitoring, maintenance, and repair.

We have been working in the security industry for over 40 years and are well-acquainted will all the surveillance camera laws for businesses in the UK.

We install only state-of-the-art CCTV systems from trusted brands such as Hikvision and can make informed recommendations on the best type of surveillance cameras for your supermarket.

We offer professional CCTV monitoring services as part of a comprehensive business security solution and use trusted Remote Video Receiving Centres (RVRC) manned by experts in the field.

Our SSAIB approved contractors provide CCTV maintenance and repair services to ensure that the systems always work fault-free.

We also offer national contracts for multi-site companies for services including CCTV systems, burglar alarms, door entry/access control systems, fire alarms, locksmiths services, and safe and vault engineering throughout the UK.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our leading experts right away!

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