Walgreens has redesigned a Chicago store to put most of the products behind counters, and it could help cut down on theft

The Walgreens store at State and Randolph Streets in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Walgreens' newly designed store has just two low-rise aisles stocking low-cost essentials.Chicago Tribune / Getty Images
  • Walgreens renovated a store in Chicago and moved most of the products off the shop floor.

  • Customers have to order non-essential items from a kiosk and then collect them from a staffed counter.

  • This could help the company cut down on theft amid a rise in organized retail crime.

Walgreens has redesigned a store in downtown Chicago and put most of the products behind counters, which could help the company cut down on theft amid a rise in organized retail crime.

The converted store, which is located in the city's South Loop area, has just two low-rise aisles with low-cost essentials such as groceries, bandages, soap, and cosmetics. CWB Chicago reported that the shelves are no taller than five feet – meaning that staff are able to watch customers shopping.

CWB's photos of the new-look store show shoplifting sensors at the entrance of this section of the store. Customers can buy these items at self-checkout stations.

To get anything else, customers have to order it using an in-store tablet – accompanied by a sign saying: "Let us do the shopping." The customer will then pick these items up from a member of staff at the counter. This is the same for both retail items and pharmacy prescriptions, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The company told the Sun-Times that the redesigned store in South Loop had more staff than the average store.

Some customers told local news site Block Club Chicago that they felt the store had been redesigned to cut down on theft. Walgreens did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, made outside of normal working hours, on whether the new store design was specifically intended to reduce shoplifting.

A company spokesperson told Insider that Walgreens is "testing a new experience at this store with new concepts, technologies, and practices to enhance the experiences of our customers and team members." They said that the store would still offer the same services, "just with a new look and feel that focuses on shopping digitally for convenience."

Walgreens execs spoke out in January 2022 about a rise in organized retail crime, which the company said had led to a jump in shrink – the amount of inventory lost to fraud, theft, and damage.

"This is not petty theft," CFO James Kehoe told investors. "It's not somebody who can't afford to eat tomorrow. These are gangs that actually go in and empty our stores of beauty products. And it's a real issue."

In response, Walgreens added more security to its stores and began to lock up more items to prevent theft.

But the security companies it hired ended up being "largely ineffective," Kehoe said at the company's earnings call this January, and Walgreens is turning to more law enforcement in its stores instead.

Moreover, Kehoe said that theft isn't as much of a problem at Walgreens stores as it was. "Maybe we cried too much last year," he told investors. "We're quite happy with where we are."

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