It’s an all-too-common scene — Black Friday crowds, packing a popular retailer in search of epic seasonal sales. Or a new store opens and, with it, draws a swell of shoppers who want to scope out the latest and greatest. And, in the midst of the chaos and commotion, items seem to walk off and out without associates, security or, even, cameras catching the crimes in-action.

As we inch closer to the holiday shopping season — and some of the busiest shopping days of the year — it’s important to understand the connection between crowds and criminals. By seeing the bigger picture it’s easier for retailers to curb shoplifting during these prime shopping times. Here’s what to know, what to look for and simple steps you can take to stop retail theft when crowds descend.

#1. Focus on “light spots”

Shoplifters often avoid crowded shopping periods because they prefer lighter store personnel and security. However, during truly peak shopping times the same holds true — sure, there are massive crowds but, at the same time, in-store staff and security have a lot more to keep their eyes on. This, instantly, reduces the focus on any one shopper, including shoplifters — and that’s appealing to petty offenders and, even organized retail crime (ORC) rings.

To combat this common threat, make sure you’re properly staffed — associates, security, cashiers — especially during peak shopping periods. It’s always easier to send extra staff home if you don’t need them than it is to call in the reserves, especially on holidays and weekends. Keep that in mind and staff up, and make sure your team is evenly distributed throughout your retail space, curbing threats in every corner.

#2. Integrate a “checks” system as your POS

Gift card fraud is one of the most common retail thefts. However, issues with gifts cards can, often, be inadvertent. Regardless, during very busy check-out periods it can be easy for gift cards to be stolen from displays, improperly loaded or charged the wrong amount at checkout. Having a backup system in place can deter all or most of these issues. For example, having a manager stationed at registers to sign off on gift card purchases is a simple solution to curb thefts and, even, simple mistakes.

#3. Don’t skimp on security

During epic shopping periods it can be tempting to skimp on security — after all, it can be tough if not impossible to keep tabs on the seemingly endless crowds. However, this is the time to double down on security presence and performance. Simply having security stationed throughout — or, even, adding signage indicating shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law — can be enough to deter amateur thieves.

From there, layering in added measures — checking bags at exits, for example, or having dedicated security guards, or associates scan receipts — can ensure nothing walks out of the store without being paid for. Sure, it may slow down your shopper flow which, on heavy shopping days isn’t ideal, the impact can be huge. Not only will your team catch shoplifters as they’re exiting the store, but just seeing this presence can be enough to deter would-be crooks before they strike.

#4. Make temp workers not so “temp”

Temporary workers may be unclear on store policies or, simply, lack the information and insights they need to effectively curb shoplifters. What’s more, given the fact that these workers tend to be lower on the loyalty totem pole, it’s not uncommon for seasonal help to be responsible for in-store thefts. Again, employee theft is behind nearly half of shrinkage — about $18 billion worth annually. That’s $2.3 billion more than external thefts.

Granted, seasonal workers aren’t solely responsible for losses but, at the same time, peak theft “season” happens from October through January— the period when many retailers bring in reinforcements. What’s more, many retailers have noted the correlation between loyalty and employee theft which, again, isn’t a strong suit for temp workers.

To help curb these issues, consider bringing temp workers in earlier and putting them through the same — or, even, heightened — training that you would a “regular” employee. By bringing them into the fold for a longer period of time and drilling down on company policies, shoplifting deterrents and, even, the penalties for employees caught stealing or aiding theft, you’ll likely eliminate at least a few would-be criminals from the mix, and ensure existing staff are committed, engaged and in-step with your policies and best practices.

#5. Lock it down

While it’s great to have the right staff and security in place, sometimes you need to keep merchandise on lockdown — and that’s where Senseon comes in. By installing Senseon ahead of peak shopping periods, you’ll be able to curb internal and external thefts from day one.

Between the RFID technology and subversion-proof drawer-slide mounted cabinet locks, no one’s going in — and nothing’s coming out — without your permission. And if something does wander off? You’ll know exactly who took it, what they took and when they took it using proprietary user management software. This data can also be used in visual merchandising, marketing, and sales strategies.

For more on the Senseon system, visit our Retail Solutions page to learn more, get in touch with our expert team, and see how Senseon can enhance your seasonal security strategy and beyond.