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Boutiques use cameras, interaction to stifle upswing in theft at holidays
Vigilance helps stop theft
Jackie Slaughter, a regular customer of Gypsy Threads Boutique, looks at items on one of the racks in the store. While the manager of the boutique doesn't see shoplifting occur often in the store, she interacts with everyone who enters to ensure they know she is around, and she knows many of the customers personally from interacting with them during their visits. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Cameras, cameras and more cameras.

That’s how most boutique shops in Gainesville are combating sticky fingers and missing merchandise throughout the year, not just at Christmastime when shoplifters might be most tempted.

Store manager Samantha Rotunno said Gypsy Threads, a shop off Thompson Bridge Road, doesn’t have a huge problem with theft.

However, they were hit pretty hard during the summertime when someone stole around $3,000 worth of merchandise from their store.

They were able to get the items back.

“We knew who the people were,” Rotunno said.

Now the shop has a security system in place and cameras around the store. They also have a sticker on the front window, displaying a SimpliSafe home security system logo and a warning that the store has a 24-hour police dispatch.

Rotunno, who commutes from Dahlonega to the store, said she also keeps an eye out for suspicious behavior.

“You have to be aware of everything, you know what people have on them at all times,” Rotunno said.

She also counts what the customers bring into the dressing room with them.

The manager has years of experience in retail. She has noticed a significant difference between working at a larger retailer, like her previous employer BCBG at the outlet mall in Dawsonville, to working at Gypsy Threads.

“People would steal from our store literally every day, and we couldn’t do anything about it,” she said. Even though the store had sensors on every item, people were able to cut them off.

Now that she’s been working at the boutique for about eight months, she said with no doubt the store has far less shoplifters.

Wool and Flax, which just opened its doors in October, hasn’t had any problems with disappearing clothes from their location off Thompson Bridge Road.

Owner Leslie Cooley said the shop has an alarm system, and she’s considering putting up cameras.

She credits their luck with usually having two people working in the shop and the generally open floor plan.

Owner of Garment & Grace Boutique Happy Volle said her floor plan also allows for her employees to see throughout the store.

“It’s a small enough space, we can see everything,” Volle said.

Since they opened in July, they haven’t had any problems with theft that they have been able to detect.

“I did find some tags once, and I wondered if they had just fallen off or if they were stolen,” sales associate Misti Patton said.

They also moved the jewelry closer to the register so they could keep an eye on it. Volle said she is also so in tune with what they have in the store that she would immediately notice if something went missing in her inventory.

“There’s nothing more than a hundred dollars’ worth in (the store),” Volle said.

Mallary Ruiz, sales associate for Image Boutique in the downtown Gainesville square, said about two months ago someone came in and took a few items from the store.

The owner followed the woman to the next shop, just to inform the shop’s owner that the woman had just stolen from her.

“There was no way to officially prove it since she took it in the fitting room,” Ruiz said.

Upsy Daisy Boutique, which is one store down from Image Boutique, uses security cameras as their main counter to theft.

“I also try to interact with people,” owner Dawn Parks said.

Parks makes sure every customer knows she is there, engaging with them and being personable.

“We want them to know that we’re people, too. We’re not just a store owner,” Parks said.

Overall, however, she said she hasn’t had a significant problem with theft that she has noticed.

Dress Up Boutique, also in the square, doesn’t have a problem either, according to Hillary Harper. Harper, who is the director of marketing for Dress Up, said all 16 locations of the store have cameras and keep track of their inventory.

However, she said their customer service is so on point that they know where every customer is.

“We like to have a one on one with each of our customers,” Harper said.

The stores are also designed to have very few blind spots.

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