10 Tips to Prevent Theft at a Craft Show
I bet you would never think theft would happen to a small handmade business….but it does. 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.
For several years, I worked as a visual merchandiser for major retailers. Loss prevention was just as important as sales training.
So I learned all the tricks for deterring theft and preventing a thief from walking out the door with unpaid mechandise.
Here are 10 tips (some more extreme than others) I’m sharing from MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS
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 sightlines & remove blind spots
Whether you have a small craft show 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 ringing someone through.
Consider your table’s layout.
Be sure you’re not hidden behind tall displays and that you can see from one end of the table to the other to prevent theft.
If you’re managing a large craft show booth at a market, try to keep tall fixtures along the edges so thieves can’t hide behind them and conceal your handmade products to steal. 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 you’re selling at a craft show that’s small, easy to steal or a higher price point should be kept close to you or just slightly out of reach. This will make it easier for you to notice when someone is grabbing for it.
3) Put items at arm’s length
This one is a bit harder to execute when trying to make the most use of your craft show space but if you set items up higher or near the back of display shelves so people have to reach up or 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 craft show booth or table. Not only is this good etiquette, but it will also help deter the not-so-honest shoppers.
The more attention a shoplifter receives, the fewer chances they have to steal 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 in the case of theft. They’re less likely to steal if they think you’ve noticed them and would be able to describe them to others.
5) Add Mirrors
Not only are they helpful for your craft show customers when they’re trying your handmade products on, but they also give you an extra set of eyes to help prevent theft.
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 craft show table and you can also hang mirrors from your tent and angle them slightly down.
6) Tidy your craft show space
When an area is in disarray, it makes it a little more attractive for thieves because it creates 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 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 and help prevent theft.
8) Secure High Theft Items
You don’t want to deter honest shoppers from picking up your handmade products and testing them out but if you have items 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, drawing attention and making sure theft can’t be quick and easy.
For items you’re really worried about, keep them in a display case or behind your craft show 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 craft show 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.
Testers are another great way to implement this super effective sales technique.
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 neighbors at craft shows. They’ll be busy minding their own craft show table or booth but it’s still an extra set of eyes to glance over once and keep an eye on your blind spots that may make theft easy (and of course offer to do the same for them).
Theft obviously decreases your profits. For more ways to increase your profits at craft shows, check out MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS
We don’t want to make you a paranoid salesperson on market day, but rather, just keep you aware. Many handmade vendors never have to deal with theft at their craft show table but it’s devastating for those who do.
Hopefully, these tips help you have a successful and shoplifter-free day.
Do you have tips for preventing theft? Please share them in the comments below!
Another one that I’ve found particularly effective is to employ a mannequin. Use her as a prop for your product if you can. Seeing this “person” peripherally can be a bit of unnerving to a would-be thief.
That’s a great idea Paula! That would definitely feel like a person, especially if someone is trying to avoid eye contact. Thanks for commenting!
The best tip of the bunch—is to RAISE YOUR TABLES!!!! Not only does it keep walk-by-thefts…it also makes it easier to restock as you don’t have to bend over to rearrange your things. It also keeps children’s fingers from picking up your things (toddlers in strollers are notorious thieves! haha) Lastly, it looks more professional, particularly for jewelry makers.
MY tip— at busy shows, when I have a double booth, I keep my less-expensive items that are the furtherest from the check out. One year, I tried swapping it up, only to have the more expensive stuff stolen in the first 15-20 minutes!!! (they were spotted but not caught, sadly)
That’s a great idea Connie! Thanks for sharing. Lots of benefits to a raised table 🙂
I am doing my first show in Dec. My theme is Babies and bibs and all things baby. I have no idea how to package them to make them feel special. I also have Binkie clips and I am worried to death about how to make them attractive. Can you help? PLEASE!!!
Nice tips but wondering what to do if I see someone stealing? Shout, “stop, theif!”? Run after them? Don’t want to leave my booth to do that. I’ve done several craft shows and have never seen any type of security. Thanks.
Having worked 10 years in retail loss prevention, the best deterrent is great customer service. But not to the point of being annoying. As a customer, I usually leave when the seller’s actions are rude, and sometimes I walk up to them and give them tips. As for actual theft, never confront a thief; just use customer service. Even if you’re trained in Krav Maga, you never know how a person will react.
Add some noise. Jingle bells on holiday items, or using a crunchy cellophane packaging will add noise when items are picked up or put in a bag. That extra sound can deter a thief and also give you time to look up and see who’s handling which items.
One time at a show I was doing, a teenager picked up one of my rings and started to walk away from the booth. In a nice tone of voice I said, “Excuse me, how would you like to pay for that – cash or charge?” She promptly put the ring back and left.
I really liked Kathy’s response, ” How would you like to PAY for that, cash or charge”, perfect and nipped it in the bud. Sounds like real Irish Diplomacy.
I’ve done craft fairs for many years and the only item I have had stolen was a little ribbon angel. The person who took it had engaged me in a lengthy conversation where she asked if I could make them in different colored plaid ribbon. She was the owner of a high end Christmas shop and indicated she was interested in several dozen in a variety of colors. We had concluded what I thought was a business deal when another customer asked a question. When I turned back the shop owner was walking out the door with the angel in her hand and never paid for it. When I contacted her after the craft fair to work out the details of her order she said she had changed her mind and hung up the phone. I was pretty sure she was going to make them herself using the one she stole from me as a pattern. Just because someone is a business owner doesn’t mean they are honest or trustworthy. It was a hard lesson to learn.
Thanks for the tips. I use tent netting on three sides of my booth so everyone has to come thru the front and I can position myself and the cash box, etc behind my L shaped table set up. I also put extra inventory under the table skirts for easy access.
Prepping for my first craft show (since 1981! TeeHee) & have found a wealth of info here. The 5-day Challenge was outstanding.
Thinking of loss prevention, I’m taking our portable “Nanny Cams” for the tent. Sometimes a subtle reminder is all it takes to reinforce childhood lessons of Respect… of Self & for Others *wink*.
Would anyone happen to have any tips on preventing theft in a rented space within a mall? I do not man the booth, my items are simply taken to the register, and recorded using my renter code. Ive had 3 items stolen this month and its only the 15th. Its a very small space I rent. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!