By Steve Sell, Checkpoint Systems
We’re all familiar with the “beep” heard when someone walks through a retail store exit, which could indicate a theft attempt or cashier error. While the beep is an audible indication that a theft could be in progress, today’s integrated loss prevention systems can do much more than beep. So with rising theft rates of both small and large items, the expansion of organized retail crime gangs and mostly ineffective shoplifting laws, many retailers are now asking, “What lies beyond the beep?”
In reality, the challenge of guarding the front door and driving down shrink is about better visibility long before we ever hear a beep. In fact, if all you have is a beep, that sound is probably heard a little too late. Instead, retailers should consider that EAS beep a required cost of entry in a security system, a last line of defense. The new essential is the data. What happens before the beep, and after the beep, is what matters most. Even how the beep is triggered will make a big difference.
Before the Beep
Taking a range of actions before the beep will make it far more useful. For example, source tagging ensures that each item is properly protected before it reaches the store. Items can be covertly tagged inside packaging at the point of manufacture, in such a way that packaging/branding aren’t affected, and tags can’t be removed or damaged by shoppers or thieves. Source tagging is a prime example of a best-practice “before-the-beep” action.
Another important action is to link your EAS system to other in-house systems such as surveillance cameras, which enable you to conduct faster and more comprehensive investigations that can link the beep to video footage of a thief leaving the store with your goods. Using this combination, retailers have been able to more quickly identify and prosecute shoplifters and dishonest employees.
Still another strategy is to employ high-theft protection devices, such as Keepers and Spider Wraps, which provide a different audible beep to distinguish higher risk or higher value items. This enables staff to prioritize investigations once they hear a beep. Some of these specialized devices even provide three separate alarms: one if the items are tampered with, another if they exit the store without being properly deactivated and a third that blasts for up to 30 minutes after leaving the store.
After the Beep
If you only have a beep, then all you know is that an event has occurred. But by capturing data around events, EAS systems can help reduce future shrink. For example, integrating EAS systems with newer technologies can help track reasons for why an alarm occurred – be it actual theft, improper tag deactivation, or another reason. EAS systems can also help track the number of people coming into and out of a store, by day or even time of day. Compiling this data can help security directors determine staffing requirements for high-traffic periods, show conversion rates for marketing purposes and help merchandisers plan the most effective use of displays for high-traffic areas.
How the Beep Is Triggered
Today, RF-based tags are generally used to trigger alarms. In the not-so-distant future, RFID technology will offer additional benefits. For example, once adopted at the item level, RFID tags will not only beep, but will tell retailers exactly which product triggered the beep. This means retailers can approach departing customers knowing exactly which item is leaving the store. When integrated with video systems, a stock photo of the beeping item could automatically be sent to monitors or hand-held devices so a retail associate would know exactly what to look for when approaching a departing customer. Additionally, by gaining real-time visibility into stolen items - which aren’t accounted for at the POS counter - retailers will be able to order additional inventory so shelves remain properly stocked, thus avoiding additional damage from lost sales due to out-of-stock merchandise and customers going elsewhere to find the items they are seeking.
Beeps will always provide a basic level of security. But the key to garnering more value from EAS systems is integrating them with other technologies to provide better protection as well as new insight and visibility into what inventory is being lost. In this way, retailers can focus more on predictive loss prevention, thereby reducing shrink and enhancing their LP operations.
Steve Sell is vice president of marketing for Checkpoint Systems, a leader in shrink management, merchandise visibility and apparel labeling solutions.