Store's interior design may be best front against shoplifting, study says

Oct 19, 2006

Getting the goods on a thief may not be necessary if a store’s interior is designed to deter shoplifting in the first place, a new University of Florida study finds.

Making stores attractive and alluring to shoppers has long been the aim of retail designers rather than preventing theft, but a store’s interior layout often influences shoplifters in whether to steal there, said Caroline Cardone, who did the research for her master’s thesis in UF’s interior design department.

“Shoplifters enter a store, scan the space and quickly judge whether it’s unprotected, understaffed or offers a quick escape,” she said. “Once they recognize a store’s vulnerability, they’ll take advantage of it again and again.”

Some common patterns emerged in Cardone’s analysis of data collected by the Loss Prevention Research Council, a multidisciplinary team of UF researchers, which included interviews with 20 apprehended shoplifters in Orlando, Dania, Fla., and Chicago.

The criminals often sought stores with chaotic, overpacked aisles or crowded, cramped spaces because they offered good camouflage, she said.

Wide, clear aisles, a clean, well-maintained interior and a logically planned store make it less likely for thieves to escape detection, Cardone said. Aisles should be visible from the checkout lane, and the cashier’s view of the store should not be blocked by high shelves overstuffed with merchandise, she said.

“Such design tactics will help contribute to the perception of the store being orderly and well-monitored, which seems to make shoplifters feel more vulnerable,” said Cardone, who will present her findings Tuesday at a two-day retail design workshop at UF.

Thieves reported seeking “blind spots” hidden from the view of employees and closed-circuit television cameras where they would take products they had picked up in other parts of the store and stuff them into a sock or pocket, Cardone said. Often these were easily concealable items such as batteries, film and tooth-whitening products that could easily be resold on the street, sometimes to support a drug habit, she said.

Some stores place these sought-after goods behind counters or in locked cases, frustrating legitimate customers who must go out of their way to ask for them, which hurts sales, Cardone said. A less threatening approach might be to station employees in the aisles in direct sight of these coveted items, perhaps at a “customer service station” by the cosmetics counter or pharmacy, where they can answer questions from customers while watching for suspicious activity, she said.

“One CVS pharmacy had a regular employee camped out in the aisle with a folding table and her job was to market cosmetics to people,” she said. “It makes a lot of sense to have an employee in cosmetics talk about the benefits of the products. By the same token, you don’t dare steal anything with this person standing 2 feet in front of you.”

Stationing a store “greeter” near the exit and lengthening the amount of space between the cashier and front entrance also increases the odds that shoplifters will be caught, she said.

Alternate exits create stealing opportunities, as many large mass-merchant chains find with attached garden areas that sell plants and garden accessories, Cardone said.

“The offender simply brings the stolen goods to the garden area, tosses them over the fence and leaves the store,” she said. “Either the thief retrieves the merchandise later or an accomplice is waiting on the other side to catch it.”

Electronics store Best Buy’s practice of placing cameras, iPods and other electronic products on counters with flexible cords allows customers to touch and test the products without walking away with them, Cardone said. ‘”The best displays are able to both protect and market the product,” she said.

Few studies examine how a store interior design affects shoplifting despite the crime’s high toll, which in 2004 totaled an estimated $10 billion in losses, Cardone said. “Retailers have tried everything to minimize shoplifting – stringent apprehension policies, high-tech protection devices and increased security measures – but none have solved the problem,” she said.

Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham, England, praised Cardone’s research. “This kind of thorough research into the ways retailers can cut losses by thinking carefully about their stores’ layout and design is exactly the type of study corporations need to help combat the menace of shop crime,” he said.

Source: University of Florida

Explore further: How myths and tabloids feed on anomalies in science

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sensor network tracks down illegal bomb-making

16 minutes ago

Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Not always do security forces succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down ...

What happens when good genes get lost?

28 minutes ago

Scientifically speaking, there is no bad DNA, though we like to blame it for unruly hair, klutziness or poor gardening skills. There is, however, junk DNA.

Miniature camera may reduce accidents

30 minutes ago

Measuring only a few cubic millimeters, a new type of camera module might soon be integrated into future driver assistance systems to help car drivers facing critical situations. The little gadget can be ...

Video: Alleged meteor caught on Russian dash cam (again)

36 minutes ago

Thanks to the ubiquity of dashboard-mounted video cameras in Russia yet another bright object has been spotted lighting up the sky over Siberia, this time a "meteor-like object" seen on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 27.

More efficient transformer materials

6 minutes ago

Almost every electronic device contains a transformer. An important material used in their construction is electrical steel. Researchers have found a way to improve the performance of electrical steel and ...

Recommended for you

How myths and tabloids feed on anomalies in science

2 hours ago

There are many misconceptions about science, including how science advances. One half-truth is that unexpected research findings produce crises, leading to new theories that overturn previous scientific knowledge.

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

A simulation game to help people prep for court

Sep 25, 2014

Preparing for court and appearing before a judge can be a daunting experience, particularly for people who are representing themselves because they can't afford a lawyer or simply don't know all the ropes ...

User comments : 0