Loss Prevention Essentials: Electronic Article Surveillance Technology Helps Enhance Sales and Protect Profits

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Electronic article surveillance, or EAS, systems have long been a staple in the battle to curb shoplifting. Retailers over the years have collectively spent millions of dollars to protect their merchandise from shoplifters and, in some cases, their own employees. Like many major expenses, when the technology is first purchased and installed a concentrated effort is made by the loss prevention teams to train store associates on the proper processes and procedures that need to be performed in order to realize the most benefits that the technologies deliver. But like other big purchases one makes, time and in-attention to details takes their toll. Liken to the shining new toy that you got as a child for Christmas long ago, as time goes on and the allure of the toy begins to diminish, it all too often starts to be ignored. Technology investments like EAS often suffer the same situation, exit alarms start are dismissed without action, proper tag placement on merchandise begins to stray and even the simple process of testing the systems to ensure they are working are overlooked.

While electronic article surveillance has proven to be a highly productive means to help protect retail merchandise, it is critically important to understand that this technology is designed to deter incidents of theft, and not prevent incidents of theft. Any tool is only as effective as the hands that use it; and the EAS system is no exception. The following provides a list of essential tips to effectively manage an electronic article surveillance system and deter continue to deter theft in your locations:

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  1. Customer service is always the first step in protecting retail merchandise, and there is no more important resource available to the retail location. Acknowledging customers with a smile, a greeting, and the opportunity for assistance should always be our first option.
  2. EAS pedestals and other devices should be inspected on a regular and consistent basis to ensure that the product is damage-free and in proper working order. Shoplifters will often test EAS systems in order to determine the effectiveness of the device and whether the system is active. An inspection schedule should be established and audited regularly.
  3. Damaged EAS systems should be repaired immediately, and damaged tags should be documented and destroyed or disposed of in accordance with established policies. Professional shoplifters in particular are quick to exploit broken systems and relaxed standards.
  4. Employees must be properly trained on all aspects of the EAS process to ensure that awareness is heightened and merchandise is effectively protected.
  5. Employees must be properly trained on company-approved policies and practices on how to respond in the event of an EAS alarm activation. An alarm activation is not an indication of dishonest behavior, and should be treated as a customer service opportunity. This keeps our merchandise protected and our customers and employees safe.
  6. Deactivators and Detachers must be secured at all times. Ensuring the appropriate use and accountability for any portable detaching devices used to help manage product in back rooms or on the selling floor is vital to protection efforts. Such devices should never be left unattended or unaccounted for.
  7. Shoplifters often attempt to hide defeated tags in remote areas of the store, the pockets of other clothing, in fitting room stalls, or other locations to conceal evidence of their criminal efforts. Documenting when and where such tags are found and keeping the selling floor teams aware of high-risk locations within the store will help deter additional incidents.
  8. While a simple concept, ensuring that EAS tags are properly secured to the merchandise is a very important aspect of electronic article surveillance and is a basic aspect of product protection.
  9. Retailers should establish merchandise protection standards which specify how and where tags should be applied to the merchandise. These standards hold many different purposes to include mitigating product display concerns, optimizing security, and the ability to secure the merchandise in a consistent manner so that the tags are easy to find and remove by a sales associate at the time of purchase.
  • While it’s important that the tags are fairly conspicuous so that they will not be missed by the sales associate upon purchase, it is also important that the tags are placed on the merchandise in a manner that does not detract from our merchandising and visual presentation efforts.
  • Retailers will determine what specific products must be protected based upon the type of merchandise, price points, the likelihood that the item will be targeted for theft, and other criteria.
  • Retailers should ensure that the correct type of EAS tag is used. Tags used should be appropriate for the type of merchandise, the size of the merchandise, the method of display, and the application necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the device. Using the wrong EAS tag can limit its effectiveness and many even damage the merchandise.
  • Solution providers should be able to assist with establishing merchandise protection standards and the appropriate placement and application of the EAS solution. If they do not, you may want to consider a different solution provider.

EAS source tagging eliminates labor expenses needed to apply the tags and reduces the time necessary to prepare the product for sale on the selling floor. This also can improve packaging aesthetics associated with product tagging and thus maintain product presentation standards.

While these general guidelines will remain consistent across different retail environments, the specific EAS requirements remain unique for each company. There are many variables that will help determine how the EAS program will be managed, to include the types of products carried, the layout of the store, the way products are displayed, store staffing, and other factors that reflect the specific needs of the store. But effective loss prevention solutions require a balance of quality products, effective training, efficient implementation and management, and quality employees to execute the plan. This is where the relationship between the store teams, the loss prevention department, and the solution provider becomes critically important.

Cooperative partnerships and strong communication will drive the success of the program and the results of the store. It is often said that “what gets measured…gets done,” and an EAS program definitely falls into this category.

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