Technology to control and regulate shoplifting has been changing from time to time depending upon its success rate. During the initial days, the retailers installed video cameras in their stores in order to keep an eye on the customers. Slowly evolved a number of different other strategies for reducing shoplifting including storing small, expensive items in locked glass cases; chaining or otherwise attaching items to shelves or cloth racks; attaching magnetic or radio sensors or dye packs to items; installing curved mirrors mounted above shelves or video cameras and video monitors; hiring plainclothes ‘store detectives’ and security guards; and banning the bringing in of backpacks or other bags.
However, strategies like glass doors and attaching items to the shelves most of the times led to unsatisfied customer experience as they are not able to touch and feel the product, resulting in heavy sales loss. Thereafter with a lot of experimentation in technology evolved the electronic article surveillance (EAS) system which has been a global success.
The Global Electronic Article Surveillance market valued at US $ 974.7 million in 2020 and is expected to reach US $ 1,190.9 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of 3.60 per cent, over the forecasted period. According to National Retail Federation, organised retail crime (ORC) costs the retail industry around US $ 30 billion every year. The National Retail Security Survey (NRRS) confirms that the major cause of shrinkage in retail business is shoplifting. All these instances have forced the retailers to implement a solution that can prevent theft, thereby driving the demand for EAS.
Electronic Article Surveillance System
The most effective anti-shoplifting tool that came in use was the CCTV and the tag and alarm system, better known as Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) system. Separately, these are good options but when used together, experts say, they’re almost unbeatable. EAS technology identifies the article as it passes through a gated area in a store. This identification is used to alert the unauthorised removal of article. EAS systems started being used almost everywhere as they did not have any restriction for item of any size. Using these EAS systems enabled the retailers to display popular items on the floor, where they can be seen and touched, rather than putting them in locked cases or behind the counter. EAS technology basically uses Electronic Antenna, Deactivator or Detacher, Electronic Tag.
Special tags and labels are fixed to merchandise. These tags or labels are removed or ‘deactivated’ by the clerks at POS either after billing or before billing. The deactivation is done either using a ‘Label Deactivator’ (cashier uses a ‘Detacher’ which releases the pin) or by passing each product label across the ‘Deactivation Pad’ after the deactivation of label or a tag customer can then pass by the antenna without any alarm.
If the tags are not removed, a detection system at the exit of the store sounds an alarm when it senses active tags are passing by. There are two commonly used EAS types – radio frequency (RF) and acousto magnetic (AM), and the difference between them is the frequency at which they operate. Acousto Magnetic systems operate at 58 KHz, which means a signal is sent out in pulses or bursts between 50 and 90 times a second while Radio Frequency or RF operates at 8.2 MHz.
One of the solution providers for the same is Sensormatic, based in Switzerland, which helps retailers deliver frictionless personalised experiences to their customers. The company offers a wide range of solutions for loss prevention including detection system, sensors, deactivators and detachers and an analytic platform. There are three types of detection systems that the company provides: Pedestal systems that are installed at the door and exist; Concealed systems which are attached to the wall or door-frame mounted antennas and recessed systems and Surveillance zones which is an effective surveillance at exits and/or checkout lanes.
RFID labels with item-level tracking system
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the wireless transfer of digital ID and additional data between a RFID tag and a reader by means of electromagnetic waves.
Avery Dennison, the provider of adhesive and supply chain labelling solution, is one of the leading RFID solution providers. The company offers AD-362r6-P inlays, a unique dual-technology design that incorporates a UHF RFID inlay and an Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tag in a single die-cut label. The solution combines item level tracking capabilities for a wide range of retail apparel products and secondary loss prevention functionality. The solution is specifically designed for the apparel and fashion industry.
The other company offering the solution is Zebra Technologies, based in USA, which provides software, services, analytics and solutions to intelligently connect people, assets and data. One of the different technologies that the company is providing leverages the use of Prescriptive Analytics which makes use of machine learning to help businesses decide a course of action based on a computer program’s predictions. The solution automatically analyses data for any behaviour that can potentially indicate ORC-type behaviour and then alert a retailer about the ‘opportunity’ for resolution.
Facial Recognition technology for a checkout-free store
Facial Recognition technology has a vast database of documented shoplifters, organised retail crime associates, disgruntled ex-employees and other individuals that pose a risk. The shoplifters, if entering a store, can be traced from video footage or following an apprehension. As soon as the shoplifter returns to the store, the camera enabled with face recognition algorithm can match that individual’s face against the database of images on file.
When the system recognises any potential match, the store security professionals can be alerted instantly. The technology therefore allows to observe the suspected individuals and reduce the number of shoplifting instances.
In case any individual successfully gets away with committing a crime, face recognition can add tremendous value. An image of the retail criminal can be taken from store CCTV or VMS systems and enrolled in the system. You might not have a clue who the person is, but your security team will know the moment they return to a store.
One of the tech providers for such technology is Cognitec System based in Germany. It uses facial images, deep learning, computer vision and pattern recognition technologies for making the accurate decisions.
Asia-Pacific – A potential growing market for EAS
The increasing number of retail stores in the apparel, supermarket and mass merchandise sector are anticipated to create a significant demand for EAS systems in the Asia-Pacific region. According to a study conducted by the China Commerce Association for General Merchandise (CCAGM) in 2020, 84.4 per cent of China’s 90 major department store operators planned to explore O2O (Online-to-Offline) integration. EAS demand saw a distinct surge,leading to its market’s expansion.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in India has reached a deal with five major convenience stores, including Seven-Eleven Japan, FamilyMart, Lawson, Ministop and New Days, to implement electronic tags for all products sold in their stores by 2025, which comes to a total of 100 billion products. All these development are expected to boost the market growth in the region.