Shoplifting is often referred to as a "petty crime." But with the average cost of a shoplifting incident nearing $800, the harm to retailers is hardly "petty." New developments in retail security can help store owners fight back.
Lately, discussions surrounding retail security tend to focus on the cyber theft of customer information from retail stores. Attention to the problem of physical inventory losses has taken a back seat to this issue. Unfortunately, the long-standing problem of inventory loss continues to be a serious issue.
Inventory Shrinkage is a Growing Problem
The loss of inventory from shoplifting and employee theft cost the industry $48.9 billion in 2016. This is according to the National Retail Federation trade group's annual National Retail Security Survey.
This inventory shrinkage (the term for missing inventory resulting from shoplifting, theft by employees, administrative errors, vendor fraud and other losses) is an increase of 1.44 percent from a year earlier.
The biggest source of loss (36.5 percent) was due to shoplifting by outside customers. The second biggest source was theft by employees, at 30 percent. Administrative errors and vendor fraud made up most of the remaining 30 percent.
The problem is almost impossible to get rid of altogether. But new retail security measures are being developed to help reduce losses. Here are some of the latest trends to emerge in 2018.
Technological Advances in Retail Security
As it is in most areas of business, technology is playing a key role in improvements. These advances are making more effective and targeted loss prevention possible.
Some technological approaches, such as RFID tags, are gaining popularity. But others, such as GPS trackers, are still in the early stages of use.
Some retailers first began using RFID tags (which stands for radio frequency identification) as a way to track inventory. But they discovered it had an added benefit of reducing employee theft.
The tags work along the same lines as RF (or radio-frequency) tags. They set off alarms if anyone attempts to leave the store without paying for an item.
The difference is RFID tags provide detailed information about each item. Retailers can see exactly which items are missing, where they are in the supply chain, and when an item disappears.
This suite of information is especially useful for deterring employee theft. The ability to identify when an item went missing helps to pinpoint the source of the theft. Knowing that inventory is able to be so closely monitored discourages stealing by employees.
Another development in RFID technology is the creation of thread-sized microelectronic tags. These washable electronic barcodes can be woven directly into a garment by the manufacturer, which makes them almost impossible to remove. They can also provide information about the entire lifecycle of the garment, such as the date of manufacture and where it was purchased.
Developed by Advanced E-Textiles, the use of this technology is in its early stages. But it has attracted the interest of luxury fashion companies.
Facial Recognition Security Cameras
Many stores use CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras as a retail security measure. They can offer 24-hour surveillance and are very good at preventing both employee and shopper theft. In cases where items are stolen, you have video footage of the shoplifter to help identify the thief and aid in prosecution.
A new feature has emerged in the use of CCTVs to boost their loss prevention abilities. Facial recognition technology can help stores identify known shoplifters as soon as they enter the store.
How does it work? Images of known shoplifters are entered into a database. Cameras scan the face of every person that enters the store. If a previous shoplifter walks in, the system can match their facial image to the database and alert the store's security.
The security personnel can find the person in the store and either approach them or observe them. If the store has previously barred the individual from entering the store, they can ask them to leave.
The use of facial recognition security cameras is not without controversy. Some object to the potential loss of privacy associated with stores collecting information on shoppers. Also, the technology is not fool-proof, and there is the potential for a misidentification.
Another technological retail security trend is the use of GPS trackers. Because of their high costs, this method works best with high-ticket items. They help prevent theft by both employees and shoppers.
Trackers can be placed inside the packaging of certain goods. The items can be monitored during shipment all the way to placement on the shelves. This monitoring can prevent theft by employees during transit.
If an item is removed from the store without being paid for, the GPS trackers can alert store security. Shoplifters can be tracked and apprehended and the merchandise quickly recovered.
While not widely employed by retail stores, there are examples of it being used successfully. A Saks Fifth Avenue store in a Tampa, Florida outlet mall used GPS trackers to apprehend shoplifters. They were able to recover $1,500 worth of stolen clothing.
Non-Scan POS Detection
Thefts can often occur at the point-of-sale (POS) during the checkout process. If an item goes through checkout without being scanned and is immediately bagged, it can be difficult to detect.
Improper scanning can take different forms. For example, an item may simply fail to be scanned either by accident or deliberately by the checker. Or the improper number of items could be manually entered into the register.
The system works by using special software that works in tandem with a store's existing security cameras. A detection system is employed where an alert is sent to the store's security personnel when video cameras detect a non-scanned item. This allows the incident to be flagged right away and corrected.
Explore Our Range of Anti-Theft Solutions
The world of retail security can be complex and overwhelming. New technological innovations are always in development. But the most cost-effective and successful systems use a multi-faceted strategy.
Check out our Loss-Prevention Guide for an overview of an effective anti-shoplifting system. We offer a wide range of products to allow you to confidently display your merchandise and deter the loss of inventory to theft.