Written by Sarah Cox, Managing Director of charity and faith insurance specialist, Ansvar
Ansvar is a charity insurance specialist, so we often see insurance claims from our charity shop policyholders for stolen stock.
Sadly, since the pandemic we’ve heard from many charities faced with the harsh reality that they’ve seen a rise in theft from their charity shops. Whether that’s due to a rise in unemployment, or the increased cost of living, it’s hard to tell. But it is happening more and more often across the country.
It’s difficult to imagine someone stealing from a charity that helps so many in need. In this article, we will be sharing advice on how best to protect your charity shop from thieves.
Charity shops are a huge part of fundraising efforts for so many good causes, so when items are stolen from these shops, it has a much bigger effect than simply making less profit, as would be the case for many traditional businesses. Stolen stock is literally stolen income which is vital for the charity to keep serving those who really need their support; for those who work for or manage the shops, it can feel like a personal violation, as intimate as having your own home broken into.
Oftentimes thieves see charity shops as easy targets because they are staffed by volunteers who might not be as vigilant as if they were being paid or believe that police will not take action because small sums are involved.
What can be done?
As bleak as this reality may seem, certain things can be done to help minimise the risk of theft. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, you can install a variety of security technology, including but not limited to security shutters, alarms, and CCTV. Please remember, if you do install CCTV, that you must ensure the right policies and procedures are in place, including GDPR considerations.
Even something as simple as the layout of your shop can also affect your vulnerability to shoplifting. Are there secluded corners that can be made more visible with mirrors and bright lighting? Can the fitting room be positioned to be in a clear line of sight from the counter?
You can also consider adding theft deterrent equipment to your stock, such as anti-theft clothes tags or security casing on more valuable items. Wherever possible you should also keep cash out of sight in a secured place, moving notes to another location during the day so they aren’t all kept in your till. Of course, card payments can also be encouraged to minimise the cash kept on the premises.
It is also worth reviewing your insurance policy for your charity shop. Many policies cover cash lost and damage caused as standard, but they may not cover the theft of second-hand goods. It is always worth getting the advice of someone knowledgeable such as a broker who will be able to advise on the most suitable policy for you.
Training your staff and volunteers to be able to identify suspicious behaviour, and times where you are more exposed to risk – for example when staff are distracted during shift changeovers or deliveries. There should be an easy-to-follow procedure for staff to follow if they spot someone shoplifting. You should always be vigilant about who you accept to work in your shop too, staff could also shoplift. Ensure you follow up on their CV references before taking them on.
Of course, you can never totally eradicate your risk of theft, but hopefully, this article has helped you identify ways you can increase your security and minimise risk where you can. Every penny and every item stocked is so important to protect so you can continue to further your cause and help as many people as possible with the funds you raise.