Thieves say design helps them

Retail designers could be unwittingly aiding thieves, according to two former professional shoplifters speaking at last week’s Retail Innovations Conference.

The two, identified only as Alistair and Keith, told delegates at the Business Design Centre in London, that “nooks and crannies” in many shops make crime sprees easier.

One identified Marks & Spencer stores as soft targets, saying that designers rearrange the internal layout so often that security staff cannot adjust to their new environment quickly enough.

The confusion caused by blindspots – areas not directly visible for staff – enables organised thieves to make off with goods without being seen, claims Alistair.

Both describe security devices such as electronic tagging systems and cameras as “a nuisance” rather than any sort of formidable deterrent. One boasted of setting himself an earnings target of 1000 per day, which he maintained for two days a week over a ten year period. The shoplifter was apprehended only twice, and received small fines on both occasions. He once stole a dozen boxed television sets from a showroom, making three trips to his car before it was full.

Retail designer John Herbert concedes that although designers take security into consideration, modern design and merchandising practice could hamper efforts to stop crime, as making products more accessible to shoppers generally increases sales.

“It’s all about the fun and theatre [of retailing], but that can make it easier to steal,” according to Herbert.

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