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Program Profile: Special Protective Handling Procedures 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 and accidental loss of high-loss products by both increasing attention paid to the product and reducing general access to the product. This program is rated Promising. The program showed a statistically significant decrease in product loss in stores that used special protective handling procedures 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
Retailers have a special interest in preventing and deterring theft of high-loss or “hot” products by shoplifters. For example, premium razor blade replacement packs are considered high-loss items 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). One method for protecting hot products is to have employees frequently account for and carefully handle these items using special protective handling procedures.

Special protective handling procedures for employees in retail stores are designed to reduce theft and accidental loss of hot products by both increasing attention paid to the high-loss product (to increase offenders’ perceived risk of detection), and reducing general access to the product (to hinder an offender’s ability to quickly access desirable items).  
The special protective handling procedures for loss prevention include the following:
  1. Appointing a leader and co-leader to protect high-loss items to increase long-term process execution likelihood.
  2. Displaying a special protective process instructional poster in the employee break area that visually and textually describes the program’s importance and steps.
  3. Shipping all tested hot products (such as razor blade packs) to stores in specially secured shipping totes to reduce intentional and accidental loss.
  4. Quickly moving the high-loss products to the sales floor display shelf after back door store receipt, rather than storing them in back rooms, to reduce backroom theft and unintentional misplacement.
  5. Keeping in-store, on-shelf product quantities low and stocked to the normal store sales rate to reduce intentional and accidental loss vulnerability (as opposed to stocking large quantities on display peg hooks).
  6. Counting the product on the shelf each week to ensure ongoing asset surveillance and to keep track of items to prevent misplacement while quickly detecting item outages and problems (Hayes et al. 2012).

Program Theory
This program 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). Employees who increase their attentiveness to and carefully handle desirable merchandise are therefore motivated to prevent product loss.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Product Loss (Shrinkage)
Hayes and colleagues (2012) looked at the effect of the special protective handling procedures 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 special protective handling procedures, compared with the control stores. Specifically, there was a statistically significant decrease (58 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 special protective handling procedures 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 to 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 3) control (n=9). This review focused on the special protective handling procedures.

Data was collected on the special protective handling procedures treatment in 15 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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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 8:1–5.
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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: Vocational/Job Training, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Active