Display Plays A Role In Preventing Theft

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Sure, your store display looks nice, but can it deter shoplifters? According to Jack L. Hayes International, a consulting firm that specializes in retail theft surveys, retail losses from shoplifting in 2005 totaled more than $37.5 billion, and the average shoplifter steals about $50 worth of merchandise per store visit. It would be hard for any shoplifter to walk out of a showroom with a motorcycle or ATV, but small items like parts and accessories can seamlessly be slipped into a thief's pocket, purse or backpack when backs are turned.

"It's a lot of money lost, but it doesn't surprise me," says Crystal Ashby of the statistics. Ashby is a representative of Chaparral Racing in San Bernardino, Calif., a 160,000 sq. ft. destination dealership that's had its share of shoplifters.

"Our staff just happened to notice that some girls had left the dressing room, and in the room there were about 10 or 15 Sensormatic tags on the floor," Ashby explains. "The girls had entered with a purse, and left the room with a really full purse. The manager asked if they had stolen anything, and they admitted to it."

Though staff monitoring the sales floor and dressing rooms can help in catching would-be thieves, you can better monitor and keep your merchandise safe by changing your store's layout frequently and making smart decisions about your displays. Here are some helpful hints from Jeff Grant, owner and president of San Diego, Calif.-based Trio Display:

  • Build walls in front of windows. Having a wall in front of a window can help deter smash-and-grabs. According to Grant, many thefts occur at night, with robbers driving through and smashing windows. "People break windows, grab everything they can, and then away they go," Grant says. Even with a security system, it will take police some time to arrive at the scene, and by that time, your merchandise will be gone. By placing a wall by the window, you have an added barrier from outside theft. You also can display your more expensive items away from windows to make them harder to get to by thieves. "You really want to keep things that have value in a place that's hard to get into, further into the store, or behind glass," Grant says.
  • Tether your expensive goods. Things like leather goods and high-end sunglasses don't need to be behind glass to keep them safe. Locking them to displays keeps them safe, and doesn't intrude so much on the customer experience. "If [an item] is tethered to something, people can still touch it and feel it," Grant says. Tethered items can be unlocked for customers by dealership staff. For smaller items like parts and accessories, use displays that have lockable tag hooks.
  • Use psychological deterrents. Security cameras and security tags work against theft in more ways than you might think. Along with helping to catch thieves red-handed, they also act as psychological deterrents, making thieves think twice about stealing the items because of the amount of work involved in stealing them. "I'm pretty strong on psychological deterrents," Grant says. "What you want to do is...let people know they are under surveillance."
  • Use lots of lighting. "Dark areas are not going to help you," Grant says. Survey your store and check for dark corners or dimly lit areas that might make it easy for a thief to duck into.
  • Arrange hangers on a rack in an alternating fashion. Grant writes in his blog that "by alternating the way your clothing hangers face on a rack, it will be harder for a shoplifter to grab an armful of clothing and run out the door."
  • Don't go overboard. There's a fine line between keeping your merchandise safe, and keeping them so safe that you scare off your customers. Dealers need to invest some time in creating a happy medium.

"It's not worth it to piss off really good customers to be overly aggressive," Grant says. "You don't want to be to obtrusive, but at the same time you don't want to get ripped [off]." — Cynthia Furey