Store design plays key role in reducing shoplifting

Sunday, January 21, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla.--Video surveillance, loss prevention personnel and exception reporting are various tactics retailers use to mitigate shrink. And now, according to new research from the University of Florida, interior design is another tool LP departments can work with to further reduce the chances of theft inside stores.
Caroline Cardone's master thesis for UF's interior design department takes an in-depth look at how a store's interior layout can influence a shoplifter's decision to steal.
Common patterns emerged in Cardone's research process -- criminals searching out crowded stores or those with overpacked aisles. Shoplifters also frequently looked for "blind spots" hidden from camera and employee views where they would take products they had picked up in other parts of the store and stuff them into a sock or pocket. Some of these findings stemmed from analyzing data from the Loss Prevention Research Council and its interviews with 20 apprehended shoplifters.
Cardone said the biggest finding was in regards to visibility -- shoplifters who agreed to be interviewed by the LPRC said that being seen was related to whether they would hit a certain store.
"Some of the offenders said clutter and chaos provided a camouflage, while some of them thought too much hustle and bustle was distracting," she said. "But an individual's ability to see and be seen was unanimous across the board. If there are opportunities to go into a space in the store that is hidden -- that maybe has high shelves and no cameras -- then those are the places they seek out actually perform that act of shoplifting."
Wide, clear aisles, a clear, well-maintained interior and a logical design make it less likely for thieves to penetrate a store, Cardone noted. But designing a clean facility, is not the only step.
"Design it is an ongoing process -- it will not end when the store has its grand opening," Cardone said. "It has to be integrated from the get go from the highest level of a corporation and filter down through each department."
She said in addition to design and LP departments working in conjunction, marketing and sales departments have to be integrated with the process as well. For example, simple sales focused decisions such as special displays can hinder security elements, like a camera's view.
During the research process, Cardone said she found that some stores are finding ways to use design elements to catch shoplifters, such as are intentionally creating spaces in stores with the physical characteristics an offender looks for and installing very low profile cameras.
"That is a really great use of store design," she said.