As retail theft has soared in stores throughout the country, one company is testing out a new approach that can only be classified as novel.
Walgreens will be testing out a redesigned concept at one of its stores in Chicago that will only allow customers to shop through two aisles filled with products. They’ll only be able to do so after they go through machines that are meant to detect theft.
The retail location in Chicago’s South Loop will have almost all of the store’s merchandise located behind counters that will be manned by staff. In order to get those products, customers will have to browse through kiosks that are set up in the store.
A spokesperson for Walgreens issued a statement to Fox News this week that read:
“We are testing a new experience at this store with new concepts, technologies and practices to enhance the experiences of our customers and team members. It continues to offer retail products and pharmacy services, just with a new look and feel that focuses on shopping digitally for convenience.
“Inside the store, customers will find an area where they can pick up orders, digital kiosks for placing an order, as well as an area to shop for essential items.”
A report from Block Club Chicago says that signs are posted in the store that instructs all shoppers to “place your order and relax” as Walgreens staff members pull the items that are requested from the shelves that are behind the counters. The sign also adds, “Let us do the shopping.”
Last year, Walgreens said that retail theft at their chain of drugstores was through the roof. Yet, the Walgreens Boots Alliance said earlier this year that they might have overblown those concerns, and were pulling back on the number of private security guards they had hired.
Last year, Walgreens recorded a shrinkage of sales of 3.5%, though that has dropped down about a full percentage point this year thus far. Shrinkage is the term that describes inventory loss that is because of theft and other factors.
It’s used to describe the difference on a company’s balance sheet between its recorded inventory and the actual inventory it ended up having.
During an earnings call earlier this year, the company’s CFO James Kehoe said:
“Maybe we cried too much last year. We’re quite happy with where we are. It’s around 2.5% to 2.6%. So, that’s well below the prior year levels.
“We’ve put in incremental security in the stores in the first quarter. Actually, probably we put in too much, and we might step back a little bit from that.”
It’s not that Walgreens won’t have security at their stores. It’s that the security will no longer come from private companies. As Kehoe explained:
“The security companies are proven to be largely ineffective. We’re putting in more law enforcement as opposed to security companies.”
Many retail chains have reported an uptick in theft over the last few years, fueled by many factors including higher prices of goods, ongoing economic struggles and even a move toward more self-check-out lanes.