I bet you would never think someone would rip off a small handmade business....but it happens. You obviously want to assume the majority of your shoppers are stopping by because they're interested in supporting you and we never want to deter them from shopping but as a small business, you also have to protect your profits.
Here are 10 tips (some more extreme than others) on how to help prevent theft at your next craft show, market or event. Using 1 or more of the tips below can allow you to go about your market day, helping your supportive customers and quietly letting shoplifters know, this is not the booth to mess with ;)
1) Create clear sight lines & remove blind spots
Whether you have a small table or a large booth, you want to be sure you can clearly see the majority of your products, regardless of where you're standing in your space. For tables displaying jewelry, it would be easy for someone at the other end of the table to try on a ring and walk away while you're filling out an invoice. Be sure you're not hidden behind tall displays and can see from one end of the table to the other.
If you're managing a large booth at a market, try to keep tall fixtures along the edges so thieves can't hide behind them and conceal products. If your fixtures sit outside of your booth or tent, try to make sure they're one sided and the side that houses the product is facing you.
2) Keep small items close to you
A fairly obvious tip but worth mentioning; anything that's small, easy to steal or a higher price point should be kept close to you at the table or just slightly out of reach so someone would draw attention to themselves if they were grabbing for it. Which brings us to our next tip....
3) Put items at arms length
This one is a bit harder to execute when trying to make the most use of your space but if you set items up higher or near the back of display shelves so people have to reach out to grab them, you'll be more likely to notice when someone picks something up. This makes it harder for thieves to nonchalantly add items to their bag or pocket.
4) Say hello!
Be sure to say hi to each person who approaches your booth or table. Not only is this good etiquette it will also help deter the not so honest shoppers. The more attention a shoplifter receives, the fewer chances they have to shoplift and the less likely they are to do it. Even if you're helping another customer at least try to make eye contact with your other shoppers and give a quick nod, smile or hello if you can. This will also help you identify them if need be, which they'll try to avoid at all costs.
5) Add Mirrors
Not only are they helpful for your customers when they're trying your wares on, they also give you an extra set of eyes. Sitting a mirror at the end of a table, so it reflects the length of the table, can help you view what's going on at the other end while you're helping another customer. If you have a larger space, place a full length mirror in areas that are a little harder to see from your table and you can also hang mirrors from your tent and angle them slightly down.
When an area is in disarray, it makes it a little more attractive for thieves because it creates a bit of distraction and chaos for them. In between customers, take the time to tidy your space and take inventory. This makes it easier to help paying customers and to identify which products you currently have left and quickly notice when something is missing.
7) Wear a Money Belt
Make use of a money belt or apron during craft shows for safety and convenience. Leaving a change purse full of all your hard earned cash, sitting behind the table equals a big payday for someone willing to reach behind it while you're distracted. Wearing one allows you to be a little more mobile while conducting transactions. If you're feeling a little weary of a certain person but are in the middle of a sale, you can guide the customer to a different area to give them their change.
8) Secure High Theft Items
You don't want to deter honest shoppers from picking items up and testing them out but if you have products you're particularly worried about, pin them down to the table cloth or secure them to a fixture. Customers will still be able to take the pins or ties off to pick them up but it will take a bit more of an effort to do so. For items you're really worried about, keep them in a display case or behind your table so customers have to ask to see them.
9) Have "Testers"
If you make duplicates of items, have lots of stock or sell very similar items in different sizes, colours or scents, put one out and keep the others behind your table or in baskets, bins or boxes behind the "tester" on display. That way customers can try out the product but still see that there are other variations available.
10) Enlist Helpers
If you know it's going to be a really busy event, ask a friend to help you or hire an extra hand. You could offer to pay them fully or partially in your handmade products (they get $100 worth of your products instead of a $100 bill) so it's not as big of an out of pocket expense. It's also worth it to get to know your neighbours at craft shows. They'll be busy minding their own table or booth but it's still an extra set of eyes to glance over once and while and help you out (and of course offer to do the same for them).
We don't want to make you a paranoid sales person on market day but just keep you aware. Many handmade vendors never have to deal with theft at their craft table but it's devastating for those who do. Hopefully these tips help you have a successful and shoplifter free day!
Do you have your own tips for preventing theft? Please share them in the comments below!
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