Shoppers across the US are increasingly forced to make an uncomfortable choice when they want to buy something — say, a vibrator — at their local drugstore: ring a bell to summon an overworked retail employee, or walk away. More stores are locking away merchandise amid rising concerns about retail theft.

Retailers reported an estimated $94.5 billion in total inventory shrink that was largely driven by theft in 2021, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. And in December 2022, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon warned that rising theft could have consequences, saying “stores will close” unless it is abated.

But a solution that’s designed to help companies’ bottom lines — placing more and more products under lock and key — may be pushing away customers who don’t want to wait for store employees to help them get locked-away products.


Retailers typically will see a 15% to 25% drop in sales when they put products in locked displays, according to Joe Budano, CEO of the security-device maker Indyme.

Budano’s company is hoping to make a splash with a product called the Freedom Case, which allows retailers to keep products safe while mitigating some of customers’ shopping headaches.

Indyme says the Freedom Case is being tested at some Lowe’s, Kroger, Safeway, and Family Dollar locations. In an interview with Forbes last year, Budano said the company was conducting 20 trials. Companies typically roll out new loss-prevention measures after analyzing specific conditions at local stores.

Indyme’s smart lock assumes that a private exchange of personal information is preferable to a storewide announcement that help is needed. The company says that customers wait an average of a minute and 45 seconds for locked merchandise to be retrieved, and that nearly a third will just turn to Amazon to get it instead.

At locations with a Freedom Case installed, customers can sign up with their mobile number to receive a custom PIN to access a locked shelf — or they can ask a store associate for help as before. (SOURCE)


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