Protect Your Pop-Up: 9 Ways to Improve Security at Your Pop-Up Shop

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By Madeline Gearheart

Pop-up shops are a great way for small businesses to bring in extra money on the side, get more publicity, or expand locations without tons of overhead.

But while a pop-up isn’t as much an investment as a brick-and-mortar, it still requires organization and planning to execute properly—not to mention security, which could be a heightened risk in a temporary space. Here are 9 tips for securing your pop-up shop:

  1. Direct traffic.

Arrange your pop-up shop so that the visitors are forced to walk a specific path. For extra measure, place mirrors to reflect the areas of the floor that you can’t see. Controlling the direction of traffic makes it easier to spot someone acting shifty, and setting up furniture on the borders consolidates items in the middle of the shop and makes it harder for passersby to grab and go. These tactics can not only prevent loss but also protect your rights, since you have to witness a person pick up an item and leave the store without paying to make a defensible accusation.

  1. Be tidy.

Keep as much merchandise as possible within eyesight, and limit your inventory. The less visual clutter there is, the easier it will be to notice if something goes missing. By limiting your inventory, you do risk bringing in less revenue. But on the plus side, you may be able to use the limited supply to drive demand and interest in your brand. Not to mention, smaller inventory means fewer products to pack and haul to your pop-up—and hopefully even less to haul back.

  1. Put your register near the exit—and the entrance, if possible.

With your register at the exit of your pop-up shop, you are literally creating a barrier to people leaving without paying. Many potential shoplifters will get cold feet when they realize they have to pass you. With your register close to the entrance, you may be able to head off shoplifting by greeting people personally. This simple touch can deter stealing because it breaks down the illusion of being anonymous.

  1. Bring backup.

It’s not easy looking out for shoplifters while also trying to run the shop. Bring one or two of your employees so you don’t have to shoulder that mental labor all by yourself. And if you do have to confront a shoplifter, there is strength in numbers. Just be sure to assign your workers specific zones of the store, or have them alternate roles every hour, so nothing falls through the cracks.

  1. Try psychological tricks.

If you absolutely must work the shop alone, you might be able to use inanimate objects as backup—really. One method is to set up a small camera, even if you don’t actually monitor it, so people feel watched. But this is a popular method, and if your setup doesn’t look realistic people might be skeptical. Luckily, way cheaper options exist—like displaying art with eyes, which has been demonstrated in at least one study to drive people from anti-social behaviors (e.g., stealing).

  1. Display smaller or pricier items in locked cases.

This tactic is common sense. Just make sure you have the budget and time to set up the cases beforehand and the extra workers to monitor the shop while your back is turned.

  1. Establish a shoplifting policy.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries up front. Some stores outright ban large purses and backpacks, requiring you to check them in while you shop. You may not have the room in a pop-up shop to do this, but you can still post signs that explicitly call out shoplifting and its consequences.

  1. Lean on existing security features in your pop-up location.

Ask the owner of the retail space about any loss-prevention tools and law enforcement relationships they already have in place. If they don’t have any, negotiate your contract for extra protections or to secure your own tools, like a real security camera.

  1. Have a plan.

If you already have a retail store, you can generally rely on the loss prevention plan you already have in place. If you normally sell in a different state, or if you’re an online retailer, know the shoplifting laws in the state where your pop-up shop will be, and have a plan for how to approach the shoplifter and what to do if they won’t comply.

For even more ideas, try reading up on situational crime prevention and learning the larger factors that prevent stealing (e.g., increasing effort, reducing reward, and more). That way you can tailor tactics to your specific pop-up shop.

You probably can’t prevent 100% of shoplifting events. But the more tactics you use, the more of your hard-earned money you’ll get to keep. Start with one or two tactics today, and enjoy that pop-up cash.

Madeline​ ​believes​ passionately​ that a business should be ​in a state of constant evolution—adapting processes to improve efficiency and tweaking products to meet customers' changing needs—and she uses her writing and communication skills to champion those goals every day. Before entering the tech and small business sector, Madeline wrote articles about health and whole-food nutrition.

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