Cold hard statistics* may indicate global retail loss costs US$123.4 billion annually but Google presents an even grimmer picture, offering a host of insight into how shoplifters are attempting to get away with their crime.
This month alone, retail loss stories on the web have extended from Walmart employees racking up $60,000 in stolen goods, to a police sweep in Wagga that caught 30 shoplifters in its net.
Here’s an insight into what’s occurring at the coalface of retail loss, how thieves are getting away with it, and what retailers can do to arm themselves against the threat.
Top loss stories from around the web
Hefty Wal-Mart Hit
Employees were the key element in a Walmart shoplifting spree that saw the retailer rack up $60,000 in loss. The six-person syndicate used staff to ring up false sales of electronics including televisions, iPads, games consoles, cellphones and computers.
Rather than scanning the item for sale, staff used the register to price check, deactivate the security tags, and then pretend to take payment.
A shopkeeper trying to keep his business afloat has been charged with selling stolen alcohol and illegal cigarettes in the UK. Police located £4000 worth of alcohol in the man’s possession, including bottles complete with supermarket security tags.
Back in the US again, Walmart customers and staff were lucky to avoid injury when a razorblade was found attached to the handle of a shopping trolley.
Walmart noted both the blade and magnet were likely to have been left by a shoplifter, who was probably attempting to steal by removing security tags.
Wagga shoplifting sting
Closer to home, the Daily Advertiser reports Wagga police arrested more than 30 people for shoplifting, during a three-day sting.
Those arrested ranged in age from 14 to 80, with police noting meat and cosmetic products were some of the most stolen items uncovered.
“Most people shove it down their pants or carry a backpack,” police said.
Two women in the US were charged with felony shoplifting after making off with $1225 worth of goods including TVs. Police also recovered a series of items with security tags removed.
On a different note, UK retailer Tesco is further implementing security tags, extending their deployment to shopping baskets. It comes after a spate of basket thefts at Hanley.
How these thefts are occurring
The above stories paint an intriguing picture of the mechanisms behind retail theft. In some cases, security tags are being removed using tools like razor blades and magnets.
In others, thieves are simply walking out with tagged items that have either been tampered with so they won’t set off an alarm or have been deliberately and fraudulently deactivated by staff.
And research indicates thieves have a host of tools at their disposal, with ready access to information about how to shoplift courtesy of the web.
Here are just a few of the most common scenarios that affect tag security:
- Poorly implemented RFID tags that are cut or sliced to render them useless.
- Low-strength magnetic tags that can be deactivated by magnets.
- Low-strength security tags that can be detached using illicit tag detachers.
- The use of boosting bags (foil-lined bags) to throw off EAS pedestals.
- Makeshift tools like hidden pockets to conceal stolen items.
- Under-ringing of items at self-serve registers (i.e) barcodes are switched or cheaper items are scanned.
- Under-ringing of items by fraudulent staff (as in the Walmart case highlighted above).
What retailers need to do
Loss prevention has always been and always will be an everchanging playing field that involves a multi-pronged approach. And retailers should be vigilant in ensuring their security tag systems and greater loss prevention strategies are kept up to date.
Key strategies include:
The right tag for the right job – There are different security tags available dependent on their intended use.
Some offer a high detection range if you have gaps in your EAS surveillance system, while others feature clamshell designs to thwart removal, and modern tags like the Neotag Z50 also boast virtually impenetrable multi-polar magnetic strength.
Meanwhile, tags can also be deployed as a visual deterrent to thieves, featuring obvious benefit denial assets like ink dye.
Staff screening and training – Staff continue to play a vital role in loss prevention. Training should include a focus on loss prevention that incorporates customer service.
Statistics show that in stores where staff meet and greet consumers, keep their eyes on the floor and are obviously available to assist, retail shrink is reduced.
Screening staff through reference checks at the time of employment is essential.
Store layout – Ideal store layout ensures all areas of the floor are visible to staff and security personnel, so there are no out-of-the-way areas for thieves to tamper with or conceal items.
Change room protection – By its nature, the change room provides a private area that’s out of view of staff, and this is a hotspot for theft to occur.
Purpose-designed technology like Fitting Room Guard is created to detect tag detachers within change rooms, allowing staff to be alerted when a would-be thief attempts the removal of EAS tags.
The system is RF and AM compatible and involves the simple installation of an antenna and a controller that can cover a number of changerooms.
Cabinets with smart locks – An effective strategy for high-value items in cabinets or drawers that feature smart locks.
Using programmed keys, smart locks allow staff to easily access items but keep them secured against the threat of theft. Meanwhile, the keys can be programmed to individual staff members, ensuring management knows exactly who accessed what display, when.
CCTV – CCTV offers the reassurance of monitoring exactly what’s going on across a store.
Visible CCTV can help prevent theft, while it can also be used to identify perpetrators or highlight areas in need of better security.
In the case of the $60,000 Walmart theft, it was CCTV that allowed the staff members to be brought to justice.
* Global Retail Theft Barometer Highlights 2014-2015