Retail is a hot topic right now and that's not surprising. The recession has delivered the industry a one-two punch — consumers are spending less, and in a down economy shoplifters and retail criminals are trying to steal more.
In 2008, retailers lost more than $36 billion to retail theft according to the National Retail Security Survey (NRSS), conducted annually by the University of Florida and sponsored by ADT. That marked the first rise in the rate of theft in six years. There has not only been an increase in shoplifting, but also a dramatic rise in organized retail crime where large quantities of merchandise are stolen and then resold online or at swap meets.
With this kind of assault on the bottom line, many retailers are looking for ways to fight back in the form of tightened security and anti-theft technologies. They are turning to anti-shoplifting devices such as electronic article surveillance (EAS), cameras, remote monitoring and analytic software.
From a security perspective, retail is one of the toughest environments out there. The public atmosphere, multiple access points and easily accessible merchandise make it different from most other commercial businesses. Installing security contractors need to know the retailer's business and the different challenges involved. Security for a busy mall or bustling convenience store is much different from security for a large law firm or manufacturing facility.
The more knowledge security professionals have of how a retail business works, the better they can help the retailer meet those challenges and provide security solutions.
Tag It, Before They Nab It
As with most security, deterrence is the name of the game in retail. The goal is to make thieves think twice about committing the crime. Stopping them before they steal is easier and more effective than trying to catch them in the act or after the fact. EAS systems do just that — the anti-theft tags, pedestals and alarms provide a visual and audible reminder that products and merchandise in the store are being monitored and protected.
Tags come in all shapes and sizes to guard a variety of merchandise. Some are large and obvious while others are small and subtle, such as labels sewn into the seams of clothing. And if thieves do ignore all of the signs of security, active EAS tags can alarm at the store doors, notifying retail security personnel and cameras can record the event for review later.
The variously sized and shaped electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags, while common in clothing stores, can be utilized in many other retail settings. One example is to use the devices to safeguard bottles of liquor.
More Merchants Using IP Cameras
Cameras are one of the most popular security tools that are becoming smaller, smarter and easier to install and upgrade. The biggest advancement is networked IP cameras. Video from IP cameras can be accessed directly from the Internet for monitoring and recording. IP camera systems are more versatile and scalable, so systems can easily grow with the constant changes in a retailer's needs and budget. They also can be more simply upgraded since software may be downloaded directly to the camera giving the technology longer life and making it less likely to become obsolete.
As the technology for IP cameras has gotten better, so has the resolution. Getting a high-quality image is vital and megapixel cameras are making it easier to do just that. More pixels also make it possible to zoom in on details without losing quality. As every loss prevention professional knows, some criminals are very good and very quick.
Being able to zoom in and freeze the frame at the exact point that the razor blade pack slips into the coat and out of sight can make a big difference and might be enough to help with successful litigation or at least an admission of guilt. These new cameras make it hard for criminals to argue with the evidence.
Digital Recording and the Network
Some local governments are mandating that all businesses over a certain size have a camera and recording system, and many cities have ordinances specifically for convenience stores. They are very specific about the system requirements and the VCR of yesterday is definitely no longer in the picture.
Cameras with enhanced resolution and pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) capabilities have improved image quality, but digital recording has really taken recording to a new level. It has not only improved quality, but more importantly has improved image retrieval.