Retailers across the nation are feeling the strain and profit loss attributed to a rise in external theft hitting their stores. According to the 2021 National Retail Federation (NRF) Retail Security Survey, over 60 percent of respondents reported that organized retail crime (ORC) has increased over the past five years, with the number of apprehensions, prosecutions, and civil demands all experiencing a sizable decrease from 2019 to 2020 alone. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of the retailers surveyed by the NRF said that violence associated with store thefts has risen, led by organized gangs that resell the goods they steal.
Other contributing factors for the increase in theft include:
- Expansion of places and platforms in which to sell stolen merchandise.
- Online marketplaces make it easy to sell stolen merchandise with low risk of getting caught.
- In some states, thieves are facing fewer consequences due to the higher threshold set for a theft to constitute a felony.
According to consultancy firm Strategic Resource Group, the firm surveyed a number of retailers across America who say shoplifting is now 2 to 3 percent of their total sales. That’s up from 0.7 to 1 percent pre-pandemic. So, what can retailers do about it?
There are several solutions that can help retailers secure the entrances and critical areas of their stores and help deter shoplifting and aggressive theft.
Security gate systems’ designs are customizable to adapt to any style retail location, helping reduce theft by encouraging customer movement in predefined directions, preventing unwanted traffic paths from store to return counters, and reducing the risk of shopping cart walkouts with unpaid or stolen merchandise. All security gates are ADA-compliant devices that are both manual and automated and are connected to fire alarm panels for automated control to avoid egress obstructions in case of emergencies. Security gates can also be integrated into video surveillance systems and with electronic article surveillance (EAS) solutions.
Security gates promote subtle but impactful shopper behavior modifications like the following:
- Help encourage customer movement in predefined directions like entrance flow to the return desk or service counters.
- Reduce unwanted traffic paths, fraudulent returns by separating the returns desk from the rest of the store.
- Help manage occupancy compliance by controlling entry and exit traffic and help provide a safer environment for customers and associates.
- Reduce shopping cart walkouts with unpaid or stolen merchandise.
Electronic Article Surveillance
EAS systems have a long history of helping retailers curtail theft in their locations while maintaining an open-sell environment. Over the years, the technology has evolved to include network capabilities, remote tuning, diagnostics, and expanded sensor portfolios to cover a wide range of products.
EAS systems can be integrated with video cameras, so that when an incident occurs, the system alarms trigger cameras to start recording the event for visual documentation. Additionally, just the presence of EAS tags and pedestals can act as a deterrent for opportunistic theft.
The main components of EAS systems consist of the following:
- Detection devices located at the entrances and exits of the store. These come in a variety of formats including pedestals, concealed floor systems, or overhead antennas.
- Hard tags for the protection of soft goods and detaching devices for removal of tags.
- Specialty tags for hard-to-protect items, such as ink tags, lanyard tags, bottle tags, shoe tags, and tags to protect boxed items.
- Disposable labels for hard good items and devices to deactivate labels.
Video Analytics and Artificial Intelligence
Stores are increasingly leveraging the power of video analytics to gather comprehensive business intelligence data about activity and traffic in their stores. Analytics software built into many newer security cameras and other devices can detect and document many areas of loss, helping retailers to better understand and pinpoint each source of loss so it can be addressed.
Video analytics systems use the valuable data that is recorded by existing camera networks. Video footage is processed and analyzed to identify and classify objects—such as people, vehicles, and other items—then indexes them to enable easy and quick video search and quantifiable, actionable analysis.
Store layout is also an important factor in ensuring a safe, pleasant, and efficient customer experience. Preventing crowding not only contributes to a much more comfortable retail experience, but also diminishes the risk of crowds amassing in advance of a smash-and-grab theft event or flash mob. Video that is aggregated over time can help retailers uncover where and why crowds form and make intelligent decisions to prevent future crowding. Crowds—especially long queues—are detrimental to the customer experience and, sometimes, compromise safety. It is important for operations and security managers to be aware of when, where, and how often crowds and queues form, so they can make staffing decisions based on crowding hotspots and traffic peaks and develop contingency plans for crowding in real time. Video analytics systems can be configured to trigger alerts based on proximity and people counting filters. For instance, when predefined count and proximity thresholds are violated, operators can be notified that an unsafe number of people are occupying a certain area and investigate the quantity and density of the crowd formation.
Additionally, video systems can be mounted over point-of-sale (POS) stations and self-checkouts and integrated with POS systems to capture and document theft events like mis-scans, “left in cart,” sweetheart detection, and product switches. These checkout intelligence solutions leverage video, analytics, and system integration for another line of defense against loss for retailers.
Public View Monitors (PVMs)
PVM solutions are an outgrowth of the conventional use of public view monitors. PVMs fundamentally consist of an integrated camera and display monitor that typically showcases the live camera view and occasionally displays other messages. These systems were initially placed at store entrances, so that shoppers could see themselves as they entered the store, instinctively look up at the PVM, and retailers could obtain a recorded image of most shoppers’ faces. This could then be used to correlate with evidence of any crimes committed in the store, while simultaneously acting as a theft deterrent.
In addition to entrances, retailers are ramping up their strategy to include adding PVMs near high-value items. The message to a would-be thief is simple: “We have a camera on you, are likely recording, and possibly actively viewing you in real time.”
With PVMs placed around the store, focused on high-value merchandise and product locations, retailers can satisfy a number of security objectives, including the ability to:
- Alert store personnel when the product is taken or approached,
- Obtain tagged recorded video of events around the product for evidence, and
- Heighten awareness to the potential thief that they are being recorded and surveilled.
A Coordinated Effort
While no one solution or even combination of solutions will completely eradicate shoplifting from our society, taking an active role in layering technology and updating policies and procedures can help retailers stem the flow of activity and risk. Active prevention methods, such as signage, visible camera technologies, and public view monitors, along with solutions designed to modify consumer behavior, can have an impact on deterring crime across the retail industry.
Shoplifting, ORC, and social media-driven theft impacts everyone—from the consumer to the retailer and the communities where they operate—so a coordinated effort between retailers, their security partners, and law enforcement is essential.
Contact ADT Commercial to start a conversation about these and other retail solutions. Visit adtcommercial.com.