What to look for in clothing security tags?

in clothing security tags

When it comes to retail security tags, apparel stores have a wealth of choices at their fingertips. But what’s the best option that will meet a store’s loss prevention needs? Here’s a breakdown of the common technology, optional extras and a guide to what to look for in tags to reduce stock loss.


The technology

Most clothing security tags all work in a similar fashion with two components: a plastic tag that houses a pin locking system, EAS transmitter, and a pin component that passes through the garment into the tag. Recent developments have seen all in one tags with three components combined into one part – Croctag.

Tag types can be broadly broken down into two major categories which are defined by the type of locking system used and how they are detached. Magnetic tags were the first to hit the market in around the 1970s and today remain a popular option. Meanwhile the 1980s saw the development of mechanical tags which soon experienced a rapid rise.

Main changes over the years have been a decrease in size of tags and improvements in the pin locking mechanism and tamper resistance.


Magnetic tags

Detached using high powered magnets, magnetic tags are available in a series of strengths. Over the years they’ve been engineered to be harder and harder to detach illegally, with the latest technology boasting almost impenetrable security.

They fall into the following classes:

  • Standard – Featuring a standard strength magnet, this option remains very popular with legacy systems but has the greatest potential to be circumvented by thieves.
  • SuperLock – Using a high powered magnet often more than double the strength of standard magnets, tags of this grade provide increased resistance against illicit removal.
  • HyperLock – Boasting a combination of multiple high-powered magnets arranged into a single detacher body. HyperLock detachers are difficult for would-be criminals to manufacture, source and carry around, this evolution of magnetic technology resulted from a need for increased security and is available in ranges such as the BossTag range. HyperLock detachers can release all lower strength tags.
  • Multipolar Is the latest proprietary technology that requires sophisticated bi-directional magnets to release a tag. Multipolar tags cannot be released by any other magnet detacher no matter how powerful. NeoTag Multipolar tags are the result of years of development and represent the pinnacle of magnet release tag technology.

Sadly, however, the take-up of increased security has not necessarily been reflected in the retail realm. Many retailers still employ standard magnetic lock tags, leaving themselves open to in-store tag removal that renders EAS theft detection useless. A false economy particularly when considering a Multipolar or Hyperlock tag costs less than a dollar and will protect thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise during its usable life.

Mechanical tags

Arriving later on the tag scene than the magnetic option, mechanical tags experienced a heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s and are still used today. Mechanical tags cannot be removed by magnetic detachers and initially offered a higher level of theft deterrence. They usually require a handheld or powered mechanical detacher.

Today mechanical release tags are not as readily used as magnetic release tags. The higher cost of ownership and ongoing maintenance compared to magnetic tags is often seen as a negative. Another reason for the decline is the ease of which small low-cost defeat mechanisms can be sourced on the internet. That’s not to say tag innovators have been idle. With a new generation of high security mechanical lock tags being launched in recent years.

Pins heads and why size matters

In addition to different release mechanisms, tags also feature different sizes and styles accommodating the pin component of the structure and these variations can also impact how easy the pin is to defeat.

Traditional styles include:

  • Pencil or square tags that require a standard small pin not much bigger than a thumbtack.
  • Clam shell tags that are circular in shape. Usually the tag body and pin head are the same size.

Statistics indicate that pencil or square tags are more readily circumvented by shoplifters who have more leverage to attack the pin and or bypass the locking mechanisms by forcing it open, while clam shell tags have less leverage points due to their circular uniform tag and pin design.

It’s also worth noting the size of the pin head can impact how likely a tag is to be targeted by thieves. A common albeit messy method of tag removal is to tear and force a garment over the pin head. As tags with larger pin heads like clam shell tags cause more damage during this forced removal, they are less likely to be removed in this way.

Options and extras

In addition to the two technologies of release mechanisms, clothing tags can also be configured with a series of additional measures to further protect apparel from theft.

These include:

  • InkThis additional level of security also often acts as a visual deterrent for shoplifters looking for an easy target. Classed as a benefit denial loss prevention method, ink ampoules can either be built into a tag at manufacture or pins containing ink can be added later. Ink offers an extremely high level of visual deterrence and can stain the clothing item if the tag is not removed correctly.
  • RFID – Able to pinpoint the exact location of an item with incredible accuracy, RFID chips not only assist in loss prevention but also aid retailers with handling inventory.
  • Lanyards – Wire lanyards allow clothing tags to be attached to fashion accessories like handbags and shoes.

What to look for

The best security tags will include multiple lines of defense, so may incorporate a strong magnetic or mechanical mechanism, large pin head along with a benefit denial strategy like ink, or an RFID chip to allow for constant tracking.

In today’s market with informed shoplifters retailers as a minimum should consider ensuring their security tags include a large pin head and either HyperLock or Multi-polar tag locking mechanisms.

The final word

The security tags that business implements will always come down to a series of factors, not least of which is cost. But as thieves become increasingly savvy in a world where information about how to thwart tags can be as simple as an internet search, the initial cost of tags needs to be carefully weighed against the ongoing cost or benefit of their effectiveness.