Store Layout and Fixtures to Avoid Retail Theft

Your store design doesn’t just help lure customers in and encourage them to make key purchases throughout your store. It’s also ideal for deterring shoplifters and preventing problems with merchandise disappearing. Over the past few years, research centers have concentrated on learning how to decrease shoplifting. While your employees and their position inside the store are still your first line of defense against shoplifters, the very layout of the store can make a substantial difference in the way shoplifters perceive your store.

Increasing Supervision: Tailor Your Displays to Your Needs 

Many store owners are reluctant to use cords, locks, and cases in their merchandise displays because they’re concerned that it will limit access to interested customers. Although they prefer to be able to see the product or test it (or a prototype model) out if necessary, but they’re all right waiting for help to access the item itself. These measures, then, are unlikely to affect genuine sales, but do prevent shoplifters from being able to make off with expensive items—especially smaller ones.

Ideally, the goal when using cords, locks, cases, and other physical measures to protect your merchandise is to prevent it from being easy to grab and slide into a pocket, purse, or backpack. That means that employees need to know how to handle a situation when a customer wants the case opened up, from taking the item straight to the register if necessary to keeping it locked in a case until they’re at the checkout area.

Tailoring your displays to your needs also involves a few other basic steps. The entire organization of your store can be tailored to decrease the incidence of shoplifting without needing to worry that you’ve compromised the look you’re after. Make sure, for example, that shelves aren’t obstructing employee view: they should be able to see over them easily to keep an eye on customers throughout the store. Don’t worry about wasting vital sales space to hang theft-prevention signs or notices, either: raise them up to the ceiling or other out-of-reach spaces where shoplifters will often look for cameras.

Your display organization also matters. A rough, disorganized display is a thief’s paradise for several reasons. First, it’s easy to snatch an item, since there’s no clear indication of what a customer is looking at. Second, it makes it simple to make off with an item because store employees have no idea if something is missing or not. Instead, keep your displays well-organized and refresh them often enough that a gap in the display makes it obvious that something is missing.

Pay Attention to Product Positioning

Product positioning is critical to encouraging customers to browse through your products. You’re probably familiar with the recent studies that have indicated that customers are more likely to buy items when they can easily get to them, handle them, and examine them for themselves. On the other hand, you don’t want to make it easy for thieves to get their hands on those same items and slip off with them! A few product placement tips can make all the difference.

  • Keep best-selling items in high traffic areas where staff members can naturally keep an eye on them
  • Make sure that products are placed in areas that can easily been seen by both staff members and other shoppers
  • Pay attention to trendy items and ensure that they are placed in visible spaces.

If a thief feels as though they can be seen, they will be less likely to strike. Hidden corners and shadowed displays, on the other hand, are a thief’s paradise.

Discourage Theft Through Layout Tricks

The physical layout of your store can provide a number of cues and instructions for the people walking through it—not just customers who are planning to spend money, but thieves, as well. Barriers naturally block access to specific areas or encourage your customers to travel in one direction or another. Open areas of your store, on the other hand, invite curiosity and are more likely to draw people in to see what you’re offering. Those same open areas are uncomfortable for thieves, who know that they can easily be seen by both employees and other customers throughout the store. The exception to this rule, of course, is a heavy crowd in that open area, which makes it easier for a thief to go unnoticed.

Many of the pieces of design that you naturally use throughout your store can be altered to discourage theft and make it harder for thieves to get their hands on important items. For example:

  • Use your shelving to channel movement in the direction you want it to go throughout the store: low shelves, staggered shelving, and appropriate barriers can all funnel guests in your preferred direction.
  • Place valuable merchandise in an area where it can be easily seen.
  • Keep high-theft items, especially high-value ones, away from the exit to the store.
  • An employee in the right place at the wrong time can make all the difference! Knowing that the exit is monitored will often deter shoplifters. Placing your checkout in this area—while remembering to never leave registers unlocked or unattended—will make it harder for thieves to slip past.
  •  Minimize dark corners and hidden areas throughout the store. Instead, use bright lighting, visible displays, and regular employee movement throughout the store to protect your merchandise.  Mirrors can help make it harder for dark corners to turn invisible.

Your cameras also need to be placed to allow maximum visibility. If you have the option to change camera placement, make sure you shift them so that there are no blind areas. If your only flexibility is in your shelves, position them so that the cameras can see as many aisles as possible.

Keep in mind that dressing-contact lens rooms are frequently high-theft areas because they allow would-be thieves a great deal of privacy. Don’t leave them completely open so that it’s easy for thieves to walk into them unattended. Limit the number of items that can go back with customers, keep dressing rooms locked when they aren’t specifically in use, or take other measures to protect this vulnerable area.

Thieves are a very real threat to your store, but you can act to prevent them. By creating a layout that is focused on theft prevention, you will protect your vital merchandise, making it easier to keep prices low for your customers. By customizing these basic tips for your needs and the needs of your customers and employees, you can create a safer store that is less vulnerable to theft.

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