The Secure Store: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Article excerpt

One to show and one to go" is a maxim of merchandising. Materials management experts have developed the art of knowing just how much inventory to order to meet merchandising needs while holding down carrying costs.

Merchandising and security are often thought to be contradictory. But is it good business to have a dirty, cluttered store with poor visibility and dim lighting? Do high gondolas and shelves actually increase sales, or are they more for employee convenience? After all, constantly replenishing inventory is boring and tedious, and you have to store the inventory somewhere, so why not on the sales floor?

Unfortunately, many fundamentals of business and merchandising go unchallenged. No one wants customers to be frisked every time they come in to buy a gallon of milk - or a fur coat. Many retailers worry that armed guards and extensive security measures will turn customers away, and they are probably right.

Fortunately, people-environment relations is giving conventional approaches to merchandising and security a challenge. The concept of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is grabbing attention, especially where businesspeople are concerned - in their wallets.

One Texas-based convenience store company has introduced a multiple-side store design. The design separates different customer groups and increases visibility into the store. Interior layouts are open, aisles are spacious, and shelves are kept low to increase convenience and natural surveillance.

These stores reportedly have increased sales by as much as 30 percent and reduced losses by as much as 50 percent. Employees became more involved in stocking and in-store management; that involvement increased their proprietary regard for the space.

CPTED is based on the theory that the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime and an improvement in the quality of life. Years of experiments and field applications have demonstrated that CPTED works in all environments - that is, it applies to commercial, residential, transportation, recreational, and institutional environments.

It has worked on scales as small as a single room and as large as an entire community. Its commercial and industrial uses have repeatedly supported the notion that the better one manages human and physical resources, the greater the profit and lesser the losses. In other words, a store that does its primary job well generally has fewer security problems.

A store that is attractive, well lighted, and open is appealing to customers, especially in the convenience industry, which thrives on impulse shopping and buying. A store that is profitable for a long time depends on the enthusiastic support of its staff.

Pride in one's work and environment stimulates extended territorial concern. Honest customers and employees feel safer and more visible in, to quote Hemingway, a "clean, well-lighted place." They also feel the presence and controlling behaviors of others.

Conversely, a dirty, poorly managed store engenders little pride on the part of the honest employee, thus reducing territorial or proprietary concern, and promotes avoidance behaviors.

Such a store also introduces the possibility of civil negligence. Proprietors' failure to establish reasonable measures to protect their products, employees, and customers can be used against them in court as well as in out-of-court settlements. Poor inventory control and accounting may even suggest liability in cases of product tampering. A clean, well-lighted store whose proprietor and customers actively exhibit controlling behaviors tells others that only accepted behaviors will be tolerated.

CPTED is only a small part of loss prevention, but it's important because it integrates security concepts into what has to be done anyway, before additional funds are spent on security officers or security devices. …