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Program Profile: Display Fixtures for High-Loss Products in Retail Stores

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on February 04, 2019

Program Summary

The program is designed to reduce theft of high-loss products using protective display fixtures. By increasing the effort and time needed to execute a theft, this fixture increases potential offenders’ perceived risk of detection while reducing their perception of the potential rewards of stealing a product. This program is rated Promising. The program showed a statistically significant decrease in product loss in stores that used protective display fixtures compared with stores that did not.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Program Components
Protective display fixtures are used by retailers to prevent and deter the theft of high-loss or “hot products”. For example, premium razor blade replacement packs are considered high-loss products for some retailers because they are in high demand for regular personal use, are relatively expensive, are small and readily concealable, and can be converted into cash or drugs at flea markets, local stores, or over the Internet (Hayes et al. 2011). Protective display features allow retailers to display these products, rather than keeping them behind the counter (keeping products behind the counter could decrease retail sales). By increasing the effort and time needed to execute a theft, protective display fixtures increase potential offenders’ perceived risk of detection while reducing their perception of potential rewards of stealing a hot product.

The fixture requires an individual who attempts to access the high-risk item (such as premium razor blade replacement packs) to press a button, which emits an audio alert signal before the individual can open a small window to access the product. This process allows only one item to be dispensed slowly per retrieval, which helps to prevent multi-item theft. In addition, since two hands are required to operate the fixture, (one hand to hold the window open and one hand to retrieve the item), this hinders a commonly used method in which offenders use one hand to remove items while using the other to conceal the items.

Program Theory
The use of protective display fixtures to guard merchandise in retail stores is grounded in rational choice theory and in the principles of situational crime prevention, which are derived from routine activities theory. Rational choice theory suggests that behavior inside retail stores is rational in that individuals will likely calculate the risk, effort, and potential benefit of stealing merchandise (Cornish and Clarke 2003).

The situational theoretical framework maintains that crime can be prevented if offenders are less motivated and better controlled, targets are made less profitable or more difficult or risky to attack, and retail managers and others are more motivated to prevent crime (Felson and Boba 2009). The basic design of this protective display fixture (i.e., the audio alert requirement of using both hands to access the product, the inability to retrieve more than one item at a time, and the time-consuming nature of the retrieval process) follows the principles of situational crime prevention and rational choice theory by increasing offenders’ calculated theft effort and perceived risk of detection, while decreasing the potential rewards.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Product Loss (Shrinkage)
Hayes and colleagues (2012) looked at the effect of the protective display fixture on shrinkage, or unexplained product loss, on the premium razor blade replacement packs. The results showed less shrinkage in the experimental stores that used the protective display fixture, compared with the control stores. Specifically, there was a statistically significant decrease (56 percent) in shrinkage in the experimental stores, compared with the control stores.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Hayes and colleagues (2012) employed a randomized controlled trial to study the effectiveness of a protective display fixture on the loss and sales of premium razor blade replacement packs. The study was conducted in 57 northeastern U.S. drug stores over a 4-week pretest and 8-week posttest period. Initially, 80 stores were selected from a list of 565 stores from a national chain served by a single distribution center. Use of a single distribution center allowed the researchers to avoid adding a confounding variable from using multiple centers and accommodate the complex shipping component of the protective display feature. The selected 80 stores were then randomly assigned to one of three conditions using a random digit table: 1) special protective display fixtures, 2) special protective handling procedures, and 3) control (no treatment). Several locations were dropped from the study after the researchers discovered the protective treatments were added during the pretest phase. As a result, 47 stores were included in the analysis: 1) special protective display fixtures (n=23), 2) special protective handling procedures (n=15), and control (n=9). This CrimeSolutions.gov review focused on the special protective display fixtures.

Data was collected on the protective display fixture treatments in 23 stores to measure the influence of the treatment on sales and loss levels of five Gillette Mach 3 shaving blade products. Data was collected through biweekly in-store counts of the blades. Product loss levels were measured by comparing physically counted in-store quantities with reported item shipments to stores, item sales, vendor returns, and between-store transport.

The primary outcome was shrinkage (or product loss) of the razor pack units. Shrinkage was determined by adding the initial product count to the shipped product count, then deducting the amount of merchandise that should have been in stock. That figure was then subtracted from the actual in-stock count, and the result was divided by the expected in-stock total. A value of zero indicated proper balance across the count, ship, and sales data. A negative number indicated that merchandise was lost. The data was examined using chi-square values and odds ratios. No subgroup analysis was conducted.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Hayes, Read, Daniel M. Downs, and Robert Blackwood. 2012. “Anti-Theft Procedures and Fixtures: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Two Situational Crime Prevention Measures.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 8:1–15.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Cornish, Derek B., and Ronald V. Clarke. 2003. “Opportunities, Precipitators, and Criminal Decisions: A Reply to Wortley’s Critique of Situational Crime Prevention.” Prevention Studies 16:41–96.

Felson, Marcus K., and Rachel Boba. 2009. Crime and Everyday Life, Fourth Edition. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Hayes, Read, Tracey Johns, Mike Scicchitano, Daniel Downs, and Barbara Pietrawska. 2011. “Evaluating the Effects of Protective Keeper Boxes on ‘Hot Product’ Loss and Sales: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Security Journal 24(4):357–69.
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Program Snapshot

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Active