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8 Effective Strategies to Prevent Shoplifting of Retail Consumer Electronics

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Date: Feb 21 2024
Read Time: 9 minutes
How to stop shoplifting: your guide to preventing theft for modern consumer electronics retailers

It’s no secret that retailers are losing billions of dollars each year to retail theft, but are some retailers affected more than others? The short answer is: yes. Consumer electronics retailers, in particular, find themselves disproportionately affected due to the small, easily concealable packaging of electronics coupled with their high value, rendering them prime targets for theft. Despite the convenience and ubiquity of online shopping, over 80% of consumers will purchase electronics in-store. Successfully protecting assets without alienating customers presents an ongoing and formidable challenge. Learn how to walk the delicate tightrope between customer experience and retail security with necessary tips for securing high-value electronics. 

If recent headlines about retail theft and organized crime rings have left you concerned, gaining insight into current market trends first can provide invaluable context for later. Once armed with a comprehensive understanding, you’ll be better equipped to create a robust anti-theft game plan for your retail space. 

Trends and patterns in retail theft  

COVID-19 had us all shuttered inside for nearly two years, leaving retail theft at all-time lows. Since then, it has begun to rebound towards pre-pandemic level, but with a shift towards violence that’s been playing out in the media. The ubiquitous “smash and grab” videos have been flooding news feeds and social media platforms for the past two years with valid cause for concern. According to the Council on Criminal Justice, violent shoplifting incidents rose by 9% between 2019 and 2021. Major cities especially, like Los Angeles and Dallas have really been feeling the squeeze. 

The prevalence of smash-and-grab videos serves as a stark indicator of the distinction between routine and organized retail theft, a phenomenon that has been rapidly proliferating worldwide. Organized retail crime is characterized by meticulous planning, often orchestrated by multiple individuals targeting chains of retail stores with the intention of later selling the stolen merchandise for profit. Regrettably, more than 70% of retailers report witnessing a surge in organized theft since 2019. 

The range of items being targeted is extensive, encompassing clothing, luxury goods such as handbags, baby formula, laundry detergent, cosmetics, and, unsurprisingly, electronics – including smartphones, smartwatches, headphones, laptops, charging cables, and even small and large appliances. Given that smartphones and watches are considered essential by most people, there will always be the incentive to hock these items. 

Do any of these recent trends in retail theft apply to you? With motivations and trends, you can compare it to what you’ve been experiencing in your business to implement the best loss prevention strategy possible for protecting your merchandise. 

8 Effective Strategies to Prevent Shoplifting of Retail Consumer Electronics 

The current challenges faced by loss prevention departments require a multifaceted approach to combat theft. Effective asset protection requires an emphasis on mixing approaches that not only protect product displays and sell-thru merchandise but also enhance the customer experience. Here are 8 effective strategies you can tailor to protect high-value consumer electronics. 

1. Maintain an organized store layout 

There’s a reason most cash registers are placed at the front of stores near the exit. Full visibility is tantamount to developing and maintaining a store layout that limits retail theft. Open layouts with minimal blind spots and adequate lighting eliminate spaces potential thieves can hide. Try not to overcrowd your store with merchandise, and place high-value or high-selling phones and laptops near the register, or where there will be ample associate assistance within gazing distance.  

Placing newly release electronics like game consoles or the latest iPhones front and center not only make for quick access for shoppers, but associates and security as well. Leveraging InVue’s OnePOD for smartphones, tablets, and watches empowers you to utilize integrated software that provides invaluable insights into customer behavior within your store. With just a few taps on your mobile device, you gain visibility into product placement and customer interaction patterns, enabling you to make informed decisions when optimizing your store planogram. 

2. Utilize effective inventory management

Managing inventory is an around-the-clock job that can be tedious. The days of having employees count items by hand before opening and after close should be long gone. In the era of technology, there are plenty of applications that can offer robust inventory management and auditing capabilities such as identifying items that are low in stock, out of stock, automatically ordering replacements, and even keeping track of trends over time to help you make vital business decisions. 

Make sure your team is conducting daily checks on popular items and consider showcasing only a select few high-value products that require customer assistance for purchase. Limited space isn’t the only reason why top-notch UHD TVs might not be on display. When restocking during business hours, avoid leaving merchandise boxes unattended on the sales floor. If you’re in search of better inventory management solutions, upgrading to a new POS system like our compact and powerful NE150 tablet stand can be a game-changer, offering not only improved inventory control but also enhanced asset protection. 

3. Identify and secure items at risk

In the realm of consumer electronics, the latest releases often top the list of items prone to theft, but truthfully, any unsecured merchandise is vulnerable. Implementing precise inventory management practices can help distinguish between best-selling items and those frequently disappearing, enabling you to strategize on how best to secure them. For instance, products such as smartphones, smartwatches, cameras, and laptops are often sought after for hands-on interaction before deciding to buy, so keeping them behind a glass case and key wouldn’t be the best solution. 

If you find yourself facing staffing and security constraints, securing merchandise within cases using our Smart Lock devices can prove immensely advantageous. These products can seamlessly retrofit onto existing cases and drawers without causing downtime or requiring extensive maintenance. Unlike traditional cases and locks, any case can be accessed using a single key speeding up customer transactions. This approach is particularly effective for smaller electronics like packaged AirPods, other compact earbuds, and charging cables. For those seeking a balance between security and customer interaction, our Zips solution offers tethered and alarmed security, allowing for some degree of freedom while keeping select items on display. 

4. Display clear anti-theft signage

Anti-theft signs can be a deterrent for some would-be criminals, but there is a formula to make sure they’re effective. A blank piece of paper written in Sharpie likely won’t deter anyone. Signs should look professional, be posted in visible areas like at the entrance or near high-risk goods, and they should indicate any consequences faced or if there are other surveillance measures in place. Criminals can easily spot a “fake” and call your bluff if they deem the sign to hold empty threats. When paired with technology like the latest surveillance cameras, EAS systems, RFID, or smart locks, they’re even more effective. A study at UNC revealed that 2 of 3 criminals admitted to finding more easily accessible merchandise to steal when they spotted anti-theft signage. 

5. Install reliable cameras and mirrors

Having armed security in every corner may not be the most cost-effective or customer-friendly strategy, but installing cameras and mirrors is often a baseline practice for many retailers. Cameras can be quite discreet, and convex mirrors allow employees to see around corners that aren’t easily visible. Wide-angle, domed cameras are best as they are typically smaller, more discreet, can be positioned in many places, and capture more of your store. Although it can be costly, it’s best to invest in the best image quality your budget allows to not only identify when theft is happening, but ultimately get a clear view of who is committing it. 

6. Implement advanced anti-theft tools and devices 

Loss prevention in retail can stem from both external and internal sources. To effectively mitigate theft from all angles, incorporating sophisticated anti-theft measures is crucial. Advanced tools such as RFID and electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems, along with single-key security solutions, provide an additional layer of inventory control. InVue’s OneKEY stands out as the sole single-key security solution available on the market. It not only regulates access to products by employees but also maintains a comprehensive audit trail. With keys that cannot be swapped or shared, and the convenience of one key working for any lock in the store, this system offers scalability and cost-effectiveness, making it a smart investment for any retailer. 

7. Build an aware and responsive team

Your loss prevention team is only as good as their training. Sitting behind a desk watching cameras all day will do you no good if they can’t identify crime in action. Make sure associates know the cues to look for when identifying shoplifting, and once identified what is the proper protocol to address it. Do you have a “non-engagement” policy, or should you approach the criminal and get law enforcement involved immediately? Are there incentives for employees who notify loss prevention teams of suspicious activity? Some common practices include having at least 2 people present at open and close to hold each other accountable, only keeping a certain number of it items on the sales floor, or not more than a set amount of cash in the register at any given moment.

8. Use customer engagement as a deterrent

Top-notch customer service is what separates okay businesses from exceptional ones. Anything from shipping errors to double charges can be easily forgiven with customer service that goes above and beyond. Customers typically like to browse aisles in peace but do appreciate it when an associate is readily available to answer questions or get that new gaming laptop they’ve been looking for. Treating paying customers like potential criminals is a quick way to break trust and have them running to their favorite online marketplaces. 

Best Buy has reported that they’ve kept theft at bay by having an abundance of well-trained associates, security at the exit and entrance, and fully-staffed checkout lanes as opposed to self-checkout stations. That may not be an option for smaller retailers, but best practices include greeting shoppers when they walk in, so they know that you see them even if they don’t see you and making yourself readily available for any inquiries.  

Prevent Shoplifting with InVue’s State-of-the-Art Solutions 

The best defense is a great offense. Implementing all or even some of these security measures is sure to help recoup revenue lost to theft that could’ve easily been prevented. With this guide and the help of InVue’s state-of-the-art security products for display and sell-thru merchandise you’ll already be two steps ahead of potential thieves. Our focus on quality and customer experience ensure we craft modern and future-proof security devices that easily scale to fit your business needs. Contact us to find your perfect product and start putting that loss prevention plan into practice.

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