With the holiday shopping season underway, American Fork’s eLearning Brothers have developed virtual reality training to help train retail stores and employees on possible theft risk factors.

The startup started in 2009 when co-founder Shawn Scivally started making e-learning games and template designs while working from home. He would then sell them online with his brother, Andrew Scivally, helping at night and on the weekends.

Andrew joined the company full-time in 2010, and since then, the company has worked toward developing engaging and inspiring content to help people enhance their e-learning courses.

The company has now grown from two brothers to 50 employees with no end in sight.

With its CenarioVR tool, people can build courses in virtual reality using videos or 360-degree photos. While some may think of virtual reality as being advanced technology, CenarioVR has made it possible for people to create VR courses using commonly held knowledge.

One of the retail stores that has put the course to work and seen success is Fendi.

Fendi’s sales associates take the course directly on their phone, learning how to prevent in-store thefts.

“For Fendi, because the price point is so high for specific merchandise they sell, preventing even one sweater from being stolen is actually a big deal,” said Christie Calahan, director of marketing for eLearning Brothers. “In the course, employees learn how to navigate through these 360 degree photos, circle areas that are risk factors, and they learn how to spot it so when they are in their environment in store, they can know what to look for.”

Virtual reality courses allow for a much more immersive and realistic experience, allowing employees to see around a room through photographs and acknowledge the risk factors present.

Through the training, Fendi reduced the amount of thefts by several hundred instances — a 55% total reduction that resulted in a 400% return on investment. This was measured based on the six months prior to training and the six months after.

While Fendi may be a luxury retail store, Calahan added the trainings could prove useful to more traditional retail stores, as well.

“Even if you have a larger store, it is still lost revenue,” Calahan said. “If you have more space, depending on how tightly the merchandise is packed, stores can still make dents the same way. Even with a Lululemon, if it’s $400 worth of merchandise stolen a couple times a day, the numbers would be close. You may not get as dramatic of a percentage, but I still think it’s significant.”

The courses are easy to create and produce while being affordable, according to Calahan. She said the training could have an impact in almost any retail environment.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, Calahan said the biggest key to preventing theft is well-trained employees. She suggested retail stores get staff up to speed for the unusual holiday season.

While there may not be as much in-store shopping this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of theft always looms over retail stores.