The cost of shrinkage for UK retailers in 2019 (pre-pandemic) was just over £5.5B and this number is set to increase by 40% in 2025.
What Types of Anti Theft Devices Can Retail Stores Use?
Whatever type of retail business you run, from food to clothing, shoes to jewellery, gadgets to tools, you've probably suffered from theft. Luckily there's a lot you can do to minimise retail theft or even stop it altogether, and that's good news for your bottom line, your customers, and your future.
In a world where rampant retail theft means losing a lot of money, our guide to anti-theft devices for shops reveals the anti-theft devices available today and which is most likely to meet your needs. If stock has been mysteriously disappearing from your shelves and you want to stop retail theft in its tracks, read on.
UK retail crime statistics
Let's set the stage. The UK's retail crime statistics are shocking. The Centre for Retail Research has harnessed several surveys of retail crime in the UK, including the Home Office's Crime Against Business 2018 report and the Association of Convenience Stores’ The Crime Report 2019. They all come with slightly different methodology and were created for different purposes, but whichever report you look at, the story remains the same. Retail theft is rife, thanks to theft by employees, suppliers and partners, and customers.
According to one analysis, 2019's UK shoplifting losses amounted to £1993 million and internal theft by staff fell not far short at £1305 million for the year. Losses caused by suppliers and warehouse crime amounted to £915 million. Another report claims UK customer theft through 2019 totalled £1471 million, while organised crime and gangs accounted for a loss of £562 million. Staff theft came in at £1305 million and supplier and warehouse crime at £915 million. Cybercrime-led theft came in at £414 million for 2019.
Whichever of the many studies you look at, the numbers are astonishingly high. In many cases, theft makes life hard for retailers. In some, it might even lead to the business closing down.
Retail Anti Theft Device Types
There are many challenges involved in protecting against shoplifting across the many different kinds of retail environments and the products they sell. Imagine everything you sell is small – perhaps you run an accessory shop with stacks of earrings and necklaces, gloves and handbags. It's relatively easy for someone to slip items into their pocket or bag.
When you sell bigger goods, sometimes all it takes is a confident thief to get away with stealing an expensive product. When someone who looks official picks up a widescreen TV and walks through the shop door with it, they can look perfectly legitimate unless you know what to look out for. Then there's the fact that employees don't always feel comfortable tackling potential thieves face to face in-store.
Maybe your retail premises comes with one or more blind spots, places where theft can take place without anyone noticing. Perhaps you sell particularly appealing products like mobile phones and other desirable tech. Maybe you run a newsagents and while the value of each individual theft is low, when you add them all together it's a potential business killer. Things become even more tricky around the challenge presented by high-value merchandise, where you have to let people touch, handle and test expensive goods like mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Whatever your circumstances, it's likely you'll need to think about retail anti-theft products and procedures, merchandise security and loss prevention systems.
Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)
Electronic Article Surveillance or EAS prevents shoplifting by tagging items. It uses Sensor Tags or Sensor Labels, attached to merchandise and only taken off or inactivated when the product has been bought and paid for. Systems like this include detection tech at the exits and entrances of a premises, which set off an alarm when an active tag hasn't been taken off or inactivated.
There are several kinds of Security Tags, Security Labels, Tag Removers, Label Deactivaters and Detection methods available, all of which operate using different Acousto-Magnetic frequencies, Radio Frequencies, acoustic and microwave-based systems that send a signal from the tag itself to an EAS antenna. EAS was first used in clothing and fashion retail, tagging clothes to prevent theft. These days the tech is also used in warehouses, libraries and office buildings.
Physical (Mechanical) Security
Physical or mechanical retail security involves things like tethering, anchoring, and physically locking goods in place. If you've been in a phone shop or camera retailer you'll know the score. You can pick an item up and examine it, but you can't walk away with it because it's physically attached to a desk or display unit. The goods are attached using something called recoilers, also called retractors, pull boxes, tethers and even 'retracting aircraft cables'. Whatever name you use, they're designed to keep products on display and out of thieves' hands, and they're very effective.
Secure Product Displays
Secure product displays work too much the same principle. They let customers handle products like mobile phones and tablets while keeping them secure. And many are designed specially with a particular product in mind, for example, a recoiler attached to a mobile phone or a tablet that's cleverly locked into a specially-designed display mount. The idea is to give the consumer the freedom they need to make good buying decisions without the risk of losing expensive stock through theft.
There are several kinds of product security label, many of which include information about the product being secured in the form of a barcode. Soft tags are re-usable, light and flexible, used with special guns, lock clutches or retainers. The clutch lock retainer comes in two parts that clip shut over a product, used to attach pins, soft tags and ink pins. The 58 Khz AM DR label is a disposable solution, as are a variety of disposable self adhesive barcode labels. You can buy plastic dome pins and cone steel pins that close over the product to keep it safe, and clip and pin tech that's perfect for the kind of hard tags you can feed a pin through, for example on handbags, shoes and tools. All these form an essential element of an EAS retail security system.
Security cameras are an incredibly popular retail anti-theft solution that works in more than one way. First, the simple fact that your store features a number of highly visible cameras acts as a powerful deterrent that stops theft in the first place. Second, if someone steals from the store the camera footage is valuable in identifying the thief and can also be used as evidence in court. Some retailers fit false cameras because, for them, that's enough of a deterrent to minimise theft to a level they can accept.
Retail Employee Theft Prevention
As you've seen from the stats at the start of this article, staff theft is a big issue. This means you need to not only protect against theft from external sources but also prevent employee theft.
Employee thefts include product theft, simply because a staff member knows how the land lies and is better able to get away with it. Gift card theft might seem low-key enough but it soon mounts up. And 'sweethearting’ is also a considerable problem, where employees let their friends and family get away without paying. Then there's skimming, where a worker either skims cash off a purchase before the sale is rung through the till or fails to report a cash transaction altogether so it never appears on the system.
Inventory Management System
Used together, EAS plus effective inventory management software can easily keep track of stock inventory and help prevent staff theft. In fact, a modern inventory management and POS system can provide daily reports designed to highlight discrepancies, which means you can catch thieves early and nip ongoing stealing in the bud.
Random Stop and Search
Controversially, some stores implement a random stop and search policy where employees' bags might or might not be searched when they leave work. It certainly acts as a powerful deterrent, but at the same time the Big Brother element of this kind of security measure can breed resentment.
It's important to know that humans are notoriously bad at randomness. As talented pattern seekers, we can't help creating regular patterns. Making truly random selections is extremely challenging for security staff, if not impossible in the longer run, but luckily clever devices called random search selectors to ensure there's no bias. Combine one of these with truly random stop and search, and explain how the system chooses people to search without bias, and staff tend to accept this kind of deterrent more readily.
Random search selector tech is used in all sorts of circumstances, from the randomised search of employees to selecting vehicles for detailed inspection, baggage to search in airports, and products for testing and quality control.
Security Cameras at Checkouts
Security cameras in-store help reduce customer theft, and cameras fitted above checkouts help discourage employee theft. When everyone knows they're on camera, thefts like sweethearting and other cash theft and checkout crimes are almost impossible to get away with.
There are many different security challenges in retail environments. Luckily at KFP, we have all the experience and expertise in retail security you need to create a secure environment where theft is vanishingly rare. If you'd like to explore the potential with a pro, please contact us.