Is the fear of thefts affecting your store layout and displays?

As the Christmas products are taking over the stores, I found myself thinking about layouts and seasonal displays. As a store manager or visual merchandiser, do you put nearest to the entrance the items you think will attract the most customers, and potentially have the highest value, or the products you do not care that much about (and customer either?) but they are a safe pick in case of shoplifters?

It is a well-known fact that you need to change displays regularly in order to catch customers’ interest and give them a fresh experience every time they enter your store. Seasonal displays are a great way to both give customers the “something new” but also give them the opportunity to buy easily the things they might have actually come in for. Is there anything more frustrating than not finding the stylish and scary Halloween outfits you know the store should have when

  • you should be already somewhere else and
  • you thought it was going to the easiest part on your shopping list.

Oh, there they are, hidden in the corner, just next to the cashier…

As puts it, “a well-planned retail store layout allows a retailer to maximize the sales for each square foot of the allocated selling space within the store”. I agree. However, I also came across some other tips for merchandising that would help in deterring theft.

Fill the empty spaces.

When a shoplifter opens a package and takes the merchandise, he/she generally discards the packaging in the first available empty space. Filling those spaces during our store recovery will add a few more seconds to the shoplifter’s act and hopefully give the employee more time to catch the thief.

What if a store has a wide and open layout? Gorgeous handbags and jewelry on one luxurious display and amazing pair of boots on another. There is no packaging because you want your customers to be able to touch the beautiful leather the bag is made of, and hold it in front of the mirror. You would notice easily the boots missing from the display, but was there a clutch next to the other handbag? Feels like the game you played as a kid “what´s missing”.

The silent salesperson in your store is its visual merchandising.


The more products customers see, the more they buy.

Maybe it is the Nordic minimalist in me, but I cannot agree with that statement. I think less is more. I truly do. Even though my wardrobe might tell otherwise…

Another article on suggested some low tech tips for shoplift prevention. While they might be effective, I say they are limiting the visual merchandising a lot. Placing your checkout by the exit might feel like a good idea but it is also taking space from your entrance, assuming that it would be the same door. That is the primary display area with which you attract your customers to step into your store in the first place. Having the checkout further away will make your customers wonder through the store even if the item they came in for was just beside the entrance. More time for their eyes to catch something else interesting (the Ikea effect). This goes both ways, they also need to return to the doors after checkout and see again your well-thought displays and make them take mental notes on items they might have not seen on the first round but might want to come back in for. Ka-ching!

The article also suggests installing mirrors and making sure there is a good lighting in all areas. I think it should not happen only in order to eliminate any blind spots in corners that shoplifters could be using for hiding, but both should be given factors at any store! There are some corners that could be also used for nice sofas for your shopping mate to relax or placing the items with reduced price for instance. Just because it is a corner, it should not be seen as a threat.

Keeping displays low for increased visibility is not a bad idea, especially if you like open space, like I do. But what if you could get a gigantic handbag as the centerpiece of your store, would you say “no” because of creating a hiding space for shoplifters? I would never say no to an enormous purse. I am thinking of covering my house in a way Louis Vuitton covered their construction site, with an apartment building size luggage. Just kidding. Or could it be done…?

One tip that irritated me probably the most was keeping the small or expensive items in locked cabinets. I recognize the fact that the tips were for low-tech, but this is definitely an example of where one should let technology do their job. I want to feel and touch the products and dream about owning them if my account balance is keeping me away of buying them. I understand that shoplifters might not remain simply dreaming about them but as said, loss prevention technology can help.

The final suggestion is well-known dressing room game with giving out tabs to customers and limiting the number of items they can try on at one time. I have only once taken more items with me and actually switched the already-tried-on items with yet-to-be-tried-on with the sales associate. It was horrible. Not counting that one time, I always try to keep the number of items in my basket at maximum 6 or once at the entrance of the dressing room, picking up the maximum number of items from my basket by selecting the ones I like the most. My bank account balance is grateful for the limitation, store manager or the chief revenue officer might not.

Now that I have let it all out, I am hoping to see beautiful crystal balls and silk pajama gift sets followed by some soft cashmere blankets at the entrance of every store. Or I can just wake up from my daydream and face the fact that it will be all candles and maybe some slippers, as always.

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