Image of a retail store with shelves

CCTV Installation for Retail Stores: A comprehensive guide

UPDATED: 28/9/2023

You manage a retail store. You’re tired of theft and missing stock. A well planned and monitored commercial security camera system will be your best friend. This article is a compact but comprehensive guide for installing a CCTV system in your retail store based on our experience.

For a brief read without in-depth explanation, skip to Important Areas of Surveillance.

The principle of retail CCTV

Before getting into the details of how to design your camera system, we must strip the idea down to the fundamental. The main goal here is to reduce theft/minimise stock loss. Cameras act as a deterrent because criminals can see they will be spotted and recorded if they steal something.

Your camera placement must accomplish these two crucial functions to be an effective deterrent:

Identify the perpetrators of theft

This is the biggest fear that potential shoplifters have. If their identity is known, it can be passed on to the police. In New Zealand, smaller theft is not investigated by the police, however any theft over $1000 is taken seriously. Shoplifters won’t target your store if it is clear their faces and identities will be in the hands of the police, and pasted all over social networks.

Additionally, by establishing the appearance of the perpetrator, you can then trespass them from your store. If they attempt to come in again, you have the right to deny them access, and if they force their way in, it is now a serious police matter.

Hard evidence of responsibility

The identity of the thief does not matter, if there is no solid proof that they actually stole something. You may have seen them do it. You may know the item went missing around the time they were in the store. But if you do not have clear video of them physically stealing the item, you will fight an uphill battle trying to get justice served.

Your security cameras must have a clear view of them hiding the stolen item in their bags, their clothing, or any other method they use.

Understanding camera lens angle

This is a technical aspect which is nonetheless quite important. Wielding the correct camera lens angle will make your cameras much more powerful and let them monitor their specialised area effectively. You can also consider PTZ (Pitch-Tilt-Zoom) cameras for areas where a single camera doesn’t cut it, regardless of angle used.

Wide Angle

A wide angle camera lens is typically smaller in size, capturing a wider/larger field of view. This makes it good for large areas where it isn’t possible or reasonable to put multiple specialised cameras. Parking lots, large sales floors, stock rooms are some examples.

Shown in blue in the diagram as a dome camera.

Narrow Angle

These cameras are for more tunnel vision areas, or where you need to view a small area from far away. You will get better zoom and detail, at the cost of field of view. This type of camera is far better suited for hallways, shopping aisles, or any other corridor-type areas.

Shown in purple in the diagram as a turret camera.

diagram showing the difference between wide and narrow camera angles

6 Important areas of surveillance

Most likely this is what you opened this article for. These are the areas that should be watched by separate cameras, and carry significant value.

Remember, the cameras should capture:

  • Facial features as clearly as possible
  • Any identifying clothes or other physical features
  • Items clearly stolen by the shoplifter
  • Capture the intruder’s movements
  • Accomplices or getaway vehicle

1. Cash registers and checkouts

Almost self explanatory. Cash registers are a hot target in retail stores because of their contents – pure money. They can be a target not just for intruders, but also for employees.

Checkouts are more for supermarkets but also a common area of theft, where customers can avoid putting items on the checkout, pretend scanning them, or disguising them as a cheaper item. Your CCTV system needs to easily be able to capture all of this happening in detail so there is no dispute in case of suspicion.

We would recommend a narrower angle camera here, that can capture the register and the immediate surrounding area. Of course, this depends on how many registers you have and where they are placed. You may find a higher resolution wide angle camera can cover a spread out register/check out area.

Diagram of a security camera monitoring multiple cash registers

2. Exits and Entrances

The access ways to your store. Even though there is no direct risk of someone standing here and stealing, it is a great place to get photos of people’s faces. Cameras can be placed almost at head height, making it hard to avoid your picture getting taken without raising suspicion.

The PB tech shop in Penrose is a great example of this, there is a camera between waist and head height, recording high quality footage of everyone leaving the store. This means great surveillance images of the thief’s facial features. Shoplifters get their faces pasted on a wall nearby for easy recognition if they come back.

diagram showing a cctv camera right above an open door

3. Sales floor

Picture a large sales floor in a retail store such as a clothing shop, the bakery/fruit section in a supermarket, or a display electronics section. Any sales floor with an open plan absolutely must be monitored. The open plan means even a single camera can cover this area and there is little room for shoplifters to carry out their theft. We would recommend a wide angle camera here.

diagram of a security camera monitoring an open plan shop floor

5. Item Aisles

Most stores utilise shelving aisles to deliver a space efficient approach for displaying their stock. While this maximises your utilised area and increases your sales, it also creates a lot of space hidden from view. If you have the budget, we recommend you place a narrow angle camera watching every shopping aisle.

Item aisles are where the overwhelming majority of stock is located, and is vulnerable to theft. This is where your surveillance cameras need to clearly see  and capture footage of the shoplifter stealing goods. It can also capture the method used, for example if the thief is using a bag, baby stroller, or even just baggy clothing to hide the stolen items.

6. Stock room

This room is more prone to employee theft than an outside intruder, however it must be watched in either case. The stock room can be similar to the sales floor if it is an open plan with shelves on the side, or it can have its own stock aisles. Use the corresponding model to place your cameras here:

  • For open plan, think about wide angle cameras
  • For stock isles consider narrow angle cameras just like the retail aisles
  • Capture images of employees or intruders that steal from the stock room
  • Consider a camera on the entrance to the stock room, capturing valuable security footage of the perpetrator’s face and identity


Retail stores have their own unique challenges for security, being a hot target for a quick robbery. Depending on the layout of your store and where your most valuable items are, you must decide on the best camera type and placement to capture a perpetrator’s identity and clear footage of them stealing. You may have a great idea for how to lay out your cameras now, but get in touch with us if you want a professionally installed business security system to help you boost your retail store security.

two security cameras; one black, one white

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