From the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

Organized retail theft accounts for $30 billion in annual store-level losses, according to the FBI. Professional shoplifting gangs are such a problem that in January, President George W. Bush signed legislation requiring the creation of a national database to identify organized retail crime, which should help law enforcement officials target areas with high levels of this kind of activity.

Barbara Staib of the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention in Jericho, New York, says the organization's information gathered from convicted shoplifters indicates the best deterrents:

  • Attentive employees: "For a shoplifter, anonymity is key," says Staib. When your employees acknowledge a customer, it tells the individual that he or she has been seen and could be identified later. Train employees to watch for typical gang behavior where one individual creates a stack of items that will then be stolen by a second individual. Offer to keep selected items behind the counter.
  • Electronic devices: Video cameras and electronic article surveillance tags, or EAS tags, make it more difficult to remove articles from your store undetected.
  • Prosecution: Staib says shoplifting gangs have become more prevalent due to inconsistent shoplifter punishment and rehabilitation. Stores known for pressing charges on shoplifters are less likely to be targets.
Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.