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Testing the effectiveness of anti-theft wraps across product types in retail environments: a randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Objective

Anti-theft wire-wraps were tested on three high-theft product categories (cordless electric drills, weight loss supplements, and skincare products) in retail stores to estimate protective effects across product categories.

Methods

This study sampled 56 retail locations, stratified into high, medium, and low-inventory loss (also referred to as shrink or shrinkage) stores. Treatment was assigned randomly within strata to retail locations. Each retail location contained anywhere from 9 to 11 different product lines, categorized into three general product categories. The unit of analysis used in this study was the individual product type nested within individual stores (product type per store) and retailer category. A nested mixed effects model design for repeated measures was used to identify the effects of the treatment on retail loss. Four models were fitted: one for overall retail loss, and one for retail loss for each of the three product categories (i.e., cordless electric drills, weight loss supplements, and skincare products).

Results

The interaction effects between treatment and time were only significant at p < .05 for cordless electric drills, but nonsignificant for the other product categories used in this study, and for overall retail loss. Our results demonstrate the effects of anti-theft wraps on in-store retail loss vary by product category.

Conclusion

The tested treatment was conditionally efficacious. While experimental research designs have successfully tested the effectiveness of anti-theft technology in retail environments, these results may not always be generalizable across product types. Further research exploring variable anti-theft treatment effectiveness and mechanisms of action across asset types is necessary to more efficiently reduce theft events.

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Correspondence to Read Hayes.

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Conflict of interest

Read Hayes, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Florida, is also the Director of the industry group Loss Prevention Research Council, Inc. that provides research services to retail members. The retailers included in this study, as well as Alpha/Checkpoint, Inc. (the maker of the product protection technologies tested), were annual paid members of the Loss Prevention Research Council at the time of the study. Alpha/Checkpoint, Inc. also provided an unrestricted grant to facilitate necessary travel and expenses. Stuart Strome, Ph.D., is a current Gartner, though was not an employee at the time of the study. The results of this study were not modified or influenced in any way by the retail company participants or Alpha/Checkpoint, Inc.

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Hayes, R., Strome, S., Johns, T. et al. Testing the effectiveness of anti-theft wraps across product types in retail environments: a randomized controlled trial. J Exp Criminol 15, 703–718 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-019-09365-2

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