Over many years, cabinets have presented themselves as physical barriers to customers wishing to interact with high-value items. Locking merchandise away in a secure display case was seen as good for reducing shrink, but it could also run the risk of sales reduction because customers wanted the “touchy-feely” engagement experience with items such as cameras or electronics.
This is part of a broader retail store revolution triggered in part by the meteoric growth in online sales. Many stores today have responded by removing any obstacles that prevent customers coming into stores or could be construed as representing a form of “barrier culture.” Removing cabinets and counters, for example, effectively blurs the lines between customers and store personnel with a view to getting the buyer closer to the merchandise and the ultimate shopping experience. It also speeds up the sale by removing the potential disconnect that interrupts the smoother sale and results in an abandoned transaction.
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Breaking Down Barriers with a New Kind of Secure Display Case
By replacing the traditional display units with more contemporary cabinets, CeX (Complete Entertainment Exchange), the UK-based market leader in pre-owned electronic goods, has completely altered the look and feel of its stores and solved not one, but two major challenges for what is now a globally recognized brand with more than 500 stores in eleven countries.
Traditionally, CeX’s display cabinets had to be accessed behind the main counter by staff, which contributed additional minutes to the potential transaction as employees wrestled with large sets of keys, the sight of which could also be off-putting.
By altering the store layout with new bespoke units and locks, CeX has been able to enhance service levels in the finely choreographed interaction between the customer, the product, and the member of staff while at the same time improving sales and transaction times and enhancing security.
The nature of the merchandise on offer—pre-owned, nearly new electronics, including smartphones and tablets—means it is even more critical to engage with the product to make the customer journey as straightforward as possible in a world of constant product interaction.
The business has come a long way since it opened its first store on London’s West End “electronics mile”—Tottenham Court Road—in 1992.
Founded in the UK, CeX has developed an international empire of stores in Spain, the United States, Ireland, India, Australia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Mexico, Poland, and the Gran Canaria, all* of which are successfully buying, selling, and exchanging a range of technology and entertainment products, including mobile phones, video games, DVDs and Blu-ray movies, computers, digital electronics, TVs and monitors, and CDs.
But this is only the start of the journey. Sam Millen, head of loss prevention and health and safety at CeX, takes up the story.
“We wanted to get away from conventional customer barriers and front-opening cabinets in our retail stores. We also wanted to move our colleagues away from the till points where transactions have traditionally had to take place. We wanted a new, bespoke kind of cabinet with locking devices that were discreet, could be concealed on the glass, and did not rely upon members of staff trying to find bulky key sets.
“We interact with customers 100 percent of the time because we are showing them merchandise at the counter. So whatever solution we put in place had to be robust, fit for purpose, and be able to offer security and ease of access because we are dealing with live products—not dummies—that are high in value.
“We now have a solution through PS Locks that is secure and from a customer-service point of view is good because it facilitates a smoother journey with no disruptions. It also helps us reduce our shrinkage.”
Closer to Customers
The new secure display case styles and locks have been extensively tested with the view to roll them out across the UK estate and into Europe.
Paul Newbury of PS Locks UK said, “CeX has been looking at ways of improving the store experience for customer interaction with the product with the view to ultimately making the process smoother and therefore improve the sales process.
“Historically, the display fixtures showcasing the products were unlocked by a staff member from behind a desk, which of course slows down the process and is often, for some customers, very off-putting.
“The CeX team were looking for a way to secure the merchandise while at the same time moving the staff to the front of the fixture to interact with customers on the sales floor. This of course presented a problem of security as well as aesthetics – traditional glass cabinet anti-theft locks are not the most attractive.”
CeX looked at a number of options before arriving at the PS Locks solution.
Newbury added, “After trialling PS Locks at their Braintree store, the design team agreed that the RFID Solo Lock was the best solution for their needs, as it required no wiring; it is battery powered with a guaranteed operating time of 20,000 operations.
“Designed to be invisible on solid materials and unobtrusive on glass, the Solo Locks do not detract from the merchandise but keep everything secure whilst using access cards or fobs. There is no need for PC programming, which also makes it desirable for staff looking for a simpler way to display the merchandise and speeds up the sales process.”
PS Locks UK has continued to work with the CeX design team and shop fitters to make further enhancements to the functionality of the lock to suit specific requirements. One such modification includes the inclusion of an alarm. The technology was then introduced into five stores ahead of a larger roll-out.
Sam Millen’s ambition is clear. “We want to be able to interact with the customer 100 percent of the time, but not from behind the counter. By using such technology, we are on our way to fundamentally improving our sales and customer service as well as conversion rates.”
As cabinet reshuffles go, this one has been a root and branch reappraisal of the business for CeX as it looked to change the locks in order to both promote and protect the stock and keep pace with the ever-changing customer experience or, put another way, lock, stock, and smoother business transactions.
*Editor’s Note: CeX has ceased sales in the United States as of 2018. The original article (“Cabinet Reshuffle Delivers CeX Appeal“) was originally published in LP Magazine Europe in 2017. This excerpt was updated July 5, 2018.