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5 Tips Wireless Stores Can Use to Prevent Retail Theft

Theft: It often happens like this. Two or more people enter a wireless store. One person distracts the clerk with billing questions or requests for technical help while the others identify weak security areas and quickly grab mobile phones, watches, tablets, and more. Countertop displays that are not part of the table or furniture are the easiest mark.

But thieves also bring tools to dislodge mounted devices from more permanent structures. They're in and out in a matter of seconds, and even though they're caught on camera, oftentimes with nothing to conceal their identity, hoods and hats make it difficult to identify them from a video, especially in low-light conditions. The results? The wireless store loses thousands of dollars of merchandise, has rattled staff, upset customers, and a reputation for being an easy mark. 

When you combine higher value devices (e.g., watches, tablets, headphones, phones, cases) with the consumer's appetite for touching and testing devices before buying, a delicate balance between consumer interaction and proprietary security comes into play. In Team IDD's two decades of working with Sprint (now T-Mobile), we've observed just about every way thieves can rob a wireless store. With that knowledge, we've designed a wide range of displays, store furniture, freestanding point-of-purchase (POP) configurations, and lighting solutions to combat loss from theft. Check out our five tips to help prevent theft of wireless merchandise.

Tip #1: Use a queue

When an employee stands near the door ready to intercept and direct customers based on their needs, it's not only great customer service; it acts as a theft deterrent. When potential thieves are asked questions and are watched closely, they are more likely to leave before taking unpaid merchandise. The queue gives the store two opportunities to identify possible theft situations—coming in and going out. 

Tip #2: Move high dollar merchandise away from the door

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This may seem obvious, but having phones, tablets, and watches within a few feet of the door makes it easier for thieves to grab and go. This YouTube video shows robbers taking 12 seconds to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise from tables positioned within a few feet of the door at an Apple store in San Francisco. Potential thieves are less likely to target stores that have high-dollar merchandise deeper in the store.

Tip #3: Use a Z-pattern to manage the flow of traffic from the door to merchandise

In addition to increasing the distance from the door to the most valuable merchandise, changing the flow pattern from a straight line to a Z pattern makes it more difficult for potential thieves to get in and out easily. This configuration also gives security cameras several different angles to capture images of the potential offenders. Z-patterns can be created by strategically placing displays within the retail environment to direct traffic as well as present merchandise.

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Tip #4: Add lighting to all camera angles

Converting corners and unusual architecture spaces—that once only held lifestyle graphics, informational materials, seating, and non-revenue items—into areas that display and promote revenue-generating merchandise to maximize the square footage has become a trend in wireless store design. However, corners and transition areas typically are less well-lit than the rest of the store. Even if cameras and employees can see the area, low light inhibits identifying potential thieves by video and sight. Adding lighting based on camera angles isn't just a theft deterrent though, it also improves the customer's ability to see and interact with the wireless merchandise.

Tip #5: Design displays with theft prevention in mind

All too often, Team IDD has seen evidence of thieves quickly and easily breaking $4 brackets that secure $1,000 phones. However, it's possible to make merchandise more difficult to steal while also allowing customers the opportunity to touch and feel a wireless product. Displays can inhibit theft by

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 incorporating anti-theft recoilers, electronic sound alarm security tethers, and retractable security tethers, which come in many shapes, forms, and cable thicknesses and lengths. 

In recent years, IDD has built displays using three forms of security in almost every POP situation, often-times without any impediment to the consumer or store personnel interaction. 

  1. Mechanically attach the POP unit to the tabletop or shelf area. 
  2. Fabricate the device or accessory housing to limit the scope of movement on the display itself. 
  3. Connect an alarm to either the product or the display, sometimes both, to bring a sound element into theft prevention. If either the product or display is removed, the sound alarm automatically activates, bringing unwanted attention to the offender. 

The need to balance mobile device security with customer experience is a key challenge facing wireless retailers. However, investing in well designed displays made with secure construction practices and materials can help prevent losses from theft and enhance the shopping experience for customers. 

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