To compete with online competition, consumer electronics retailers and others are engaging customers by offering greater “hands on” interaction with products in-store such as smartphones, laptops, or power tools that customers want to touch or evaluate in person.
Whether customers want to open apps on the latest smartphone or feel the balance of a power tool in hand, the in-store interaction with the product can be essential to making the sale.
However, retailers also cannot allow thieves to walk off with expensive merchandise. As such, anti-theft devices must allow customers to interact with products while providing adequate protection against sophisticated criminals willing to cut through security/alarm cables, steal attached batteries or even carry out consumer fraud by placing overlay skimmers over credit card readers.
This challenge becomes even more difficult when new technologies are displayed – take, for example the latest virtual reality glasses, drones and smart home devices – or there are issues with limited merchandising space or the store’s layout.
When this occurs, many retailers require more customized anti-theft solutions to stay ahead of the customer – and also the thieves. This can include mechanical modifications to accommodate the size and number of items protected, varying security cord lengths and retractability, and variations to sensors, consoles, power supply and alarm options.
In fact, anti-theft device modifications, when done in partnership with consumer electronics retailers can even help with adapting to market changes, says John Mangiameli, Executive Vice President at Se-Kure Controls, a Franklin Park, Illinois-based manufacturer of retail product security devices.
For example, when evolving technology forced changes in how electronic devices connect to the Internet, the company has helped retailers to adapt as well. This has involved making changes in how retailers connect functional display units, such as PCs and laptops, to electronic alarm systems designed to deter theft.
“As computer manufacturers got rid of modem ports, we created sensors for Ethernet ports that alarm when the cord is cut or unplugged,” says Mangiameli. “As laptops get thinner and Ethernet ports disappear, we’ve created USB port sensors.”
Mangiameli notes that once the Ethernet or USB cords are plugged into the electronic device and the alarm system, the sensors will trigger an alarm when a change of state, such as an unplugged or cut cord, is detected.
As another example of such customization, a growing number of retailers are turning to electronic merchandise display security systems like the Vantage II by Se-Kure Controls. While most systems require separate wires for security and charging the electronic device it protects, this system utilizes a single wire to provide both security and power.
“One of the things that drew us to our display security system is how nice, clean and modern it looked to have the one cord,” says Kevin Lasky, project manager for Arch Telecom, a wireless retailer with 140 locations in 13 states. “There is no separate cable running up the side of the pedestal or coming out of the display to charge the phone. That was important to us.”
The system also offers an option for dual sensors to prevent theft of the device, as well as detachable accessories of value such as lithium batteries or a removable camera lens for digital cameras.
To facilitate customer-product interaction in stores, retailers can pair each smartphone with a retractable cord so it can be pulled off its pedestal and easily viewed at a distance several feet away. When the shopper returns the phone to the pedestal, the cord retracts and a magnet enables ideal product positioning.
Customization also extends to modification of anti-theft equipment to facilitate customer interaction at the point of sale.
“Customization is often required to successfully deter theft,” says Robert Hirnikl, Corporate Manager of Asset Protection at Joann, the nation’s largest specialty retailer of fabrics and crafts, with over 860 stores. “There will always be new products, new challenges, and new technologies, so we need to work with a partner with the flexibility to adapt to the inevitable changes.”
When the retailer sought help with a challenge for which there was no immediately apparent solution on the market – deterring thieves from placing inconspicuous devices called overlay skimmers on the store’s credit card readers – it turned to Se-Kure Controls.
In many retail settings, thieves attempt to place overlay skimmers on point of sale (POS) systems or ATMs, where credit and debit cards are swiped for payment. When fit over the card reader slot of such devices, thieves can capture the data and “clone” the customer’s card, which is then used in fraudulent transactions.
“We didn’t want to work with a vendor who would just throw generic equipment at us and say, ‘Try this,’” says Hirnikl. “So we challenged them to create a device for us that would prevent an overlay from being put on top of our credit card readers.”
According to Hirnikl, the security device manufacturer took their input and the dimensions of their card readers to come up with a device in the price range sought.
“We try not to turn down any idea at the outset,” says Mangiameli. “Retailers know their unique requirements better than anyone, so we aim to help them find a solution.”
The metal anti-skimming device fits over the top and side of card readers to prevent an overlay from being placed on them, while allowing full functionality. It comes with a special security tool for fastening so thieves cannot use regular tools to tamper with it.
“The anti-skimming device fit securely over our credit card reader, which would prevent the overlay skimmers from being placed on the unit,” says Hirnikl.
According to Mangiameli, when it comes to retail theft deterrence, device modifications can often be done quickly and inexpensively to suit retailers needs. Changes can be as simple as lengthening a security cable, or modifying security attachments. They may also be a little more complex, such as customizing sensors or electronic alarms for specific circumstances.
For example, Warehouse Storage & Planning (WSP), a Southern CA based partner and integrator for retail showroom and warehouse fixtures and equipment, had a need to customize security cables for a national hardware retailer.
“The retailer wanted more pegboard real estate to display high margin drill bits, saw blades, and tool accessories,” says Marty Stevens, a WSP project manager.
According to Stevens, the retailer’s gondola system is relatively short with a height of 60". Retailers classically display hand held items at about 36" so customers can easily lift and hold displays in their hands. The items being displayed were power tools that come in all shapes and sizes. With a display shelf height of 36" and the power tools above the shelf, little room remained on the pegboard to display the higher margin accessories and disposables on the pegboard behind the power tools.
To address the space issue, the power tool display shelf was lowered to about 12". The lowering of the tool display shelf freed up another 24" of pegboard to display the accessory items.
Standard catalog security cables are more often designed to secure items at elevations where people stand while shopping. By lowering the display shelf, the standard catalog lengths of the security cables lacked the length for customer to lift a tool and stand up straight.
The challenge was to develop a longer cable that would continue to provide a theft deterrent and keep the tools near the POP signage. A longer cable would also allow customers to stand up straight.
To address the challenge, WSP turned to the retail security device manufacturer.
“Se-Kure Controls provided options that were off catalog and allowed for a substantially longer security cable,” says Stevens. “The longer cable allowed the retailer to lower its tool display shelf level and gain more premium pegboard space for high margin accessories. As the retailer rolled this out nationwide, it has helped to drive sales and greater profits."
As changes in the consumer technology marketplace push retailers to modify product display and theft deterrence, partnering with a security device manufacturer willing to customize can significantly help the bottom line.
“Whether a simple modification or something brand new, retailers will find that customizing anti-theft devices to their specific circumstances can reduce theft, labor, and improve the customer’s buying experience,” concludes Mangiameli.
John Mangiameli is Executive Vice President at Se-Kure Controls (www.se-kure.com), a Franklin Park, Illinois-based manufacturer of retail product security devices. In addition to his 20 years of retail security expertise, John also has previous experience as a State Farm Insurance agent, Johnson & Johnson regional manager, and President of Medline Healthcare Co.