As technology advances, there is an ever-increasing array of tools available to help you deter and detect theft at your retail operation. Understanding your options and making sure you’re using the solutions that make sense for your business is key to keeping up with the changes.
Hardware Retailing sat down with Laura Freeman, vice president at Watcher Total Protection, to get her perspective on the tools available to independent retailers and how they help prevent theft.
Hardware Retailing (HR): What are the trends you’re seeing today in the way retailers are addressing theft?
Laura Freeman (LF): Loss prevention concerns have been a hot button with the retailers at all the recent shows. Compared to several years ago, the majority of retailers are aware that they have a theft issue and are willing and ready to address it by adding loss prevention solutions. We encourage any new store owners to implement theft prevention before they open in order to deter and possibly prevent loss due to both employee and customer theft.
HR: Are retailers changing the way they deal with loss prevention? What are some new challenges they’re facing today versus five years ago?
LF: Over the past few years, it has become more difficult for retailers to recoup stolen product and have shoplifters successfully prosecuted. We are seeing more and more states raise the threshold for shoplifting prosecution, so deterring and stopping theft from occurring in the first place is vital.
HR: What are the latest technologies retailers can use as they fight shoplifting?
LF: There are many loss prevention options available to fit into any store budget.
- Surveillance. Keep an eye on all operations and key areas, even when not in the store, using remote viewing on phones and computers.
- Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS). Protect your high dollar products and provide a visual deterrent at your exit.
- Cash Handling. Keep track of cash by using a cash counting machine that can quickly count down a drawer within 60 seconds. Counterfeit detection can ensure that you don’t get stuck with any fake bills.
- Self-Alarming Tags. Protect demo products, such as power tools, from tampering or theft while still allowing customers to interact with products.
- GPS Tracking. Keep track of company vehicles and deliveries and know where they are at all times.
- Upgraded Surveillance Software Features. Take advantage of newer features such as real-time shoplifting detection, motion alerts, POS integration, facial recognition and license plate capture.
HR: What are the technologies that detect internal theft prevention?
LF: Most internal theft happens at point of sale. Fraudulent returns are the most common. Fortunately, surveillance software options have improved quite a bit over the last few years. There are now options that can push an immediate alert to key personnel phones and computers showing snapshots of returns, including a screenshot of the transaction plus a picture of activity at the register.
HR: What are some best practices for using technology in loss prevention efforts?
LF: For stores with no loss prevention solutions in place, we advise to start somewhere. Especially with surveillance, larger stores can implement a smaller, less expensive starting system covering key areas and add on as budget allows.
HR: Will AI have a future role to play in loss prevention? And what will that be?
LF: AI is already available and being used by retailers for loss prevention. After-hours motion alerts and real-time shoplifting and suspicious behavior detection and facial recognition is already available and affordable. We can set up surveillance system parameters to send immediate alerts to retailers when a vehicle or person is on store property after hours and if behavior indicative of shoplifting is detected, such as putting items in a backpack or into jacket pockets.
With a facial recognition camera, users can tag shoplifters and get an alert when they return to the store and are detected by the camera. AI features can really be a benefit to retailers who are already short staffed and don’t have the resources to hire security guards or have employees constantly monitoring the camera system.