We recently reported that a pair of eyes posted above a coffee machine kept everybody honest. Now it turns out that store design can help prevent shop lifting, which in 2004 totaled an estimated $10 billion in losses.

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 store?s interior layout often influences shoplifters about whether or not to steal there. When researcher Caroline Cardone interviewed 20 apprehended shoplifters in Florida and Chicago to find out what made them choose a certain store, some common patterns emerged. The criminals looked for stores with chaotic, overpacked aisles or crowded, cramped spaces because they offered good camouflage. Cardone says, “Shoplifters enter a store, scan the space and quickly judge whether it?s unprotected, understaffed or offers a quick escape. Once they recognize a store’s vulnerability, they’ll take advantage of it again and again.”

Thieves avoided stores that they perceived to be “orderly and well-monitored,” according to Cardone. Instead, they looked for stores with “blind spots,” hidden from the view of employees and closed-circuit cameras, where they would take products they had picked up in other parts of the store and stuff them into a sock or pocket. 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.

Sometimes simply having a “greeter” at the door or someone manning a table at the end of an aisle, demonstrating cosmetics or giving out food samples, is enough to deter thieves (did you think those Wal-Mart greeters were just there to make you feel good?)

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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