WAXAHACHIE - As a small business owner, Amber Caverly has enjoyed getting to know her customers and meeting their needs. Unfortunately, a small portion of that trust between merchant and patron was broken when she caught a shoplifter in action on Dec. 17.
Caverly is the owner of the Velvet Angel in downtown Waxahachie.
“Whenever I had my son 13 years ago, I decided that I didn’t want him to be placed in daycare. I wanted to raise him myself. So I started my own business,” Caverly said. “Being your own boss has its own challenges and having employees has challenges as well. But at the end of the day, it is great to have a personal relationship with your own employees and to be able to take off when you need to for family, friends, or to go on vacation. You work a lot, but you have a lot of flexibility.”
As the economic climate has changed, Caverly has had to adapt her business to draw customers into the store. She and her staff at the Velvet Angel work to provide that one-on-one shopping experience for customers. This connection has allowed her and other downtown businesses the ability to give back to the community through events sponsored by the Waxahachie Downtown Merchant’s Association.
“The (large) number of events that we are able to do in downtown because we have so many great businesses that all work together to put on events to make downtown a destination,” Caverly explained. “As our profits grow we start giving back more to the community and to the people that have supported us. With the events that we do downtown, especially with the WDMA, we are committed to giving a portion of those proceeds back to the city, the community, and to improve downtown or to give to organizations that are local.”
According to reports from the Waxahachie Police Department officers were dispatched to the 300 block of S. Rogers St. to a theft in progress call last Sunday, December 17. Police arrested Candace Page Long.
Online records from the Wayne McCollum Detention Center show that Long has been charged with theft of property greater than or equal to $100 but less than $750. She has since bonded out of the detention center.
Caverly stated that when Long came into the store, she told her that she was a regular customer who shopped there regularly. After the short exchange, Long browsed items picking out several and Caverly recalled providing assistance by placing them in the dressing room for Long to try out.
“She was in the dressing room for about 10 or 15 minutes. When she came out she had two handfuls of merchandise. As I approached her to help her there were about 15 hangers in her hand. I went to go grab a set of hangers, and she said, 'this is the stuff that I want.' I said, ‘oh, I will take the putbacks and the stuff that you want,” Caverly recalled. “I hung the stuff that she wanted up behind the register. The other set of stuff I laid on a table beside the cash register. She told me when I grabbed both of the things from her that, ‘I am going to have come back in 30 minutes because I left my wallet in my car. I said no problem I will hold your stuff right here.”
As Caverly sorted through the unwanted items to place back out for sale, there were several of the shirts that had two hangers on them. When confronted by Caverly about the alleged theft, Long quickly denied it. The police were then called and Caverly locked the door to the store until they arrived. She noted that Long went back inside the dressing room.
"The cop pulled up. I opened the door, and he asked me what happened. I explained it to him. At that point she came out of the back of the dressing room and is standing at the back of the store,” Caverly recalled. “So he (the officer) walks back and asks her what happened and she denies the claim. I tell him that she walked back into the dressing room. Underneath the small ottoman, she had taken every item out of her purse and shoved it underneath.”
Caverly stated prior to her putting the items in the dressing room it was empty. After items were discovered, they were photographed by police and Long was arrested.
Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby stated that the criminal element takes advantage of retailers during this time of the year because there is so much activity taking place in stores and merchants feel rushed. He shared that one of the best ways to prevent theft is for merchants to be friendly to customers.
“Greet people as they come in and make eye with them contact. If they are a genuine customer, they will appreciate that. If they are not, they won’t like it because you may actually remember their face. The other thing is to be aware of all the shoppers in the store and in your area. If someone is not looking at what they are handling and looking around obviously there is something suspicious there,” Goolsby said. “Don’t hesitate to call us or to walk over and ask that person if you can help them. That will either help as a customer or deter any criminal activity. The other thing is when they do come to checkout don’t hesitate to ask for identification.”
Goolsby stated if a person tries to leave with merchandise without paying for it, rather than going after them, be a good witness for the police. Get a good description of the person and, if possible, a license plate of the vehicle they are driving.
“You never know whether they are armed or whether they are willing to hurt you over it,” Goolsby explained. “Honestly, it is not worth you getting hurt over it.”
Goolsby added that merchants need to have good communication with their employees or other business owners to share information they have learned.
The National Retail Federation’s website states that during the five-day holiday weekend of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online — up from 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey.
The most popular day for in-store shopping was Black Friday (77 million consumers), followed by Small Business Saturday with 55 million consumers. Average spending for a person over the five-day period was $335.47 with $250.78 going toward gifts.
According to the Waxahachie Police Department, there were 55 thefts of vehicles and businesses in December 2016. Over that same span the previous year, there were 53 total thefts. Home burglaries totaled 14 in December 2015 and fell to 7 offenses the following year.
Caverly stated that the merchandise that was part of the attempted shoplifting totaled around $300. She has since found several items from local boutiques for sale on Facebook swap pages, which includes items she believes to have been stolen from her store.
She added that incidents like these hurt the community as a whole.
“It makes me feel very frustrated and really sad that people think that they have to steal from a small business owner. This is our livelihood and this is how we feed our family,” Caverly said. “The money that we make in these stores people don’t realize the amount or rent that we pay for square footage, and it just keeps going up. So these kinds of problems are detrimental to small businesses. I believe that it is one of the top reasons why small businesses go out of business is theft.”
Caverly encourages her fellow business owners to talk with each other, contact police if there are issues, and even install video cameras in their stores so everyone can enjoy shopping in downtown.