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Shoplifting in Fitting Rooms

Any loss prevention professional who has worked is a store that sells apparel is probably familiar with customers shoplifting in fitting rooms. But how much do you know about changing shoplifting laws, current practices to control it, public opinion, and future technologies when it comes to fitting rooms?

Records are not exact, but shoplifting is estimated to cost US retailers between $24 and $40 billion per year in terms of shrink and the costs to control it.

Below are other statistics being quoted from various sources, some of which are estimates:

  • 1 to 2 percent of all customers enter a store with the intent to shoplift
  • Female shoplifters outnumber men by a large margin
  • 9 out of 10 shoplifters are reported to be under the age of 30
  • The peak shoplifting age is 15
  • 49 percent of all shoplifters have attended some college
  • Dollar for dollar, shoplifting losses outnumber bank robbery losses 300 to 1
  • According to the National Retail Federation, shoplifters are responsible for 38 percent of retail shrink.

This data does bear varying degrees of statistical accuracy, but when it comes to shoplifting in fitting rooms, it’s difficult to find even estimates as to its magnitude. However, the anonymity offered by a fitting room is a strong draw to a shoplifter.

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Whether in a booster bag, booster girdle, stroller or wearing stolen merchandise out of a store, the fitting room seems like a great place to conceal merchandise. So, what are some current methods to curb shoplifting in fitting rooms?

  • Fitting room attendants counting garments in and out
  • Public-view monitors and highly visible video cameras outside a fitting room entrance
  • Fitting rooms located near high-traffic areas
  • Individual fitting room service at upscale retailers
  • Chimes to alert store personnel when a customer enters a fitting room area
  • Strict policies of clearing fitting rooms of left-behind apparel on a regular basis

In addition, numerous vendors are leveraging modern technology to develop methods to provide a better customer experience and, at the same time, reduce shoplifting in fitting rooms. The future may see a system that seamlessly records and tracks merchandise being taken into and out of a fitting room by an individual customer. Customers may be able to summon sales help or automatically request different sizes through a “magic mirror.” in their fitting room. Nothing is off limits in terms of tech advancements to fitting rooms as long as a consumer’s privacy is not compromised in any way.

Speaking of privacy, how do shoplifting and surveillance laws affect current fitting room control? As of this writing, only 13 states expressly prohibit use of any monitoring system in fitting rooms. Others allow some sort of monitoring to prevent shoplifting as long as the customer’s privacy remains 100 percent intact.

Regardless of the state, however, any form of photography or video used within a fitting rooms area is a direct violation of the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act and thus is totally off limits as a shoplifting control method. Numerous legal cases have dealt with the dilemma of shoplifting in fitting rooms, but the one overriding standard is an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

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So the shoplifting battle and the challenges that fitting rooms pose continues. Hopefully, evolving technology will enable greater customer service for fitting room users and simultaneously establish legal means to reduce shoplifting.

This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated October 3, 2018.

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