Sensormatic Safers are super at protecting your merchandise from theft. In a sense they can even help make a store safer from criminals who are attracted to stores where shoplifting runs rampant. Where one type of crime is out of control you will often find that other crime and fraud is taking place. In some instances it is your customers who are the victims of those predators. Prevent shoplifting and you can make an impact on other crime. Retail anti-theft devices from Sensormatic can make merchandise that is popular with thieves hard to steal. As shoplifting is reduced the shoplifters look for other stores to steal from and other criminal activity tends to decline as well.
A perfect example of this took place not long ago in the store where I work. An older customer came in and said they needed to purchase an unusual number of re-loadable giftcards. I wasn’t too surprised at first since we do cater to a lot of small businesses and sometimes we receive unusual requests. I was thinking that perhaps the patron was going to put $20 on each and give them as incentives to their employees. It turned out the customer wanted $500 on each card. This got my attention and I immediately called for the store manager to assist with the purchase, it smelled of fraud to me and I was afraid the customer was the victim. Both the manager and I asked the customer several times if they were sure who they were giving the giftcards to. It was explained that this is frequently a method used to defraud older citizens. The concern was heightened as the patron pulled out cash to pay for this transaction. The customer insisted everything was legitimate and they had contacted their attorney. My manager and I finished the transaction and as soon as the customer left my manager contacted his manager. Well, about an hour later the customer returned and apparently did get in contact with their attorney and was told this was a scam. My manager was able to put a stop on the giftcards and the customer would get their money back some time in the near future.
This was a big save but not every one of your customers can avoid being the victim of fraud or theft. As I mentioned, Sensormatic Safers and electronic article surveillance prevent shoplifting they don’t prevent return fraud, crimes against persons or property crimes against your patrons. I have investigated property crimes when customers have had purses and wallets stolen from their shopping carts. I have had to help those victims trace their steps, contact their banks and speak to police. I have assisted a customer when their car was broken into and valuables were stolen. Review of video, looking for suspects it was interesting from an investigator’s perspective it was disappointing that the incident took place on our property and for the loss the victim experienced.
I have had panhandlers and shady characters hang around the store and harass people trying to walk in and out of the building. No, it may not have been illegal but it was intimidating and concerning. Most people don’t want a stranger approaching them in a parking lot because you can never be sure what their intention or motive is. In some cases a person is trying to be nice and starts to reach into a purse or wallet and it is snatched from them and the criminal flees.
These personal and property crimes will happen anywhere. They happened at the stores where I worked and we controlled our shoplifting. The problem is the growth of this activity when store managers and owners don’t make an effort to prevent shoplifting. Don’t allow your store to become a repository for all types of crime. Your customers need to feel safe otherwise they will shop somewhere else. Using Sensormatic Safers and tags to protect your merchandise will be a good starting place to begin cleaning up other crime. It will make your store more profitable by lowering shrink and helping to increase sales through a growth in customer traffic.
Get more information on how to prevent shoplifting, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547 today.
Apparel retailers are constantly struggling with clothing security issues due to theft. We all are aware that shoplifters are getting their hands on merchandise and creating shortage. This also entails the problems associated with theft such as reduced merchandise available to sell. What may not be as clear to retailers, especially small storeowners is the impact of Organized Retail Crime (ORC) activity on their store. According to the National Retail Federation 2017 Organized Retail Crime Survey, two of the top categories for theft for these groups is designer clothing and denim jeans (pg. 8). The report also indicates that 94.6% of retailers surveyed believe their stores have been the victims of ORC activity (pg. 5). So what are ORC groups and why are the items they are taking hot commodities. Organized Retail Crime organizations are theft rings that work together to shoplift. They are distinct from the regular or casual shoplifter because they plan their activities and have specific merchandise they target. The merchandise they set their sights on are normally able to be resold quickly either in a brick and mortar “Mom and Pop” shop or via online stores. Merchandise may also be returnable so that giftcards or cash may be obtained for the items that were taken. Aside from outstanding customer service the best method for preventing such theft is with the use of electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags on merchandise.
Combating retail crime is no easy task. Large, national chain stores devote money to Loss Prevention teams and anti-theft devices. They also spend a lot of money on closed circuit television, cameras and recording equipment. The small retail owner may not be able to afford all of this equipment. What they can afford is to purchase an electronic article surveillance system (EAS) for the store. With EAS towers at the front entrance and clothing security tags attached to softlines goods, products are well protected. If a mule working for an Organized Retail Crime group tries to waltz out with designer jeans stuffed in a backpack or purse and the jeans have EAS tags on them they will set off the tower alarms. If the mule decides to try to forcibly remove the tags they merchandise will be damaged, there’s no getting around it. Damaged goods don’t sell and the organization makes no money.
ORC groups also do not seek out attention. Being identified means a group will have a more difficult time stealing from the same retailer and that is an impediment to their business. EAS system alarms ensures a store is receiving an exceptional level of clothing security even if that store can’t afford other security measures. I would be remiss if I failed to point out that according the survey retailers are reporting an uptick in ORC gang aggression and violence (pg. 10). This is not to say employees should not respond to EAS alarms when they do occur. What is important is that employees are trained to de-escalate situations and approach situations in a non-aggressive, non-accusatory manner. Kill ‘em with kindness is a motto that served my teams well when I was a Loss Prevention Supervisor.
Another problem that has arisen due to ORC theft is an increase in return fraud. This has caused many retailers rethink their return policies. On page 11 of the 2017 Organized Retail Crime Survey 36.8 % of retailers reported making changes to their point-of-sale return policies. Many stores have already done away with cash for non-receipted returns issuing merchant gift cards instead. Unfortunately, even gift cards are now being sold to pawn shops. Some alternatives are a requirement to exchange for exact merchandise only taking away the incentive to try to get a lower cost item and cash in the transaction. Other retailers are putting a stop to potential criminal activity by requiring a government issued ID to be scanned for non-receipted returns and refunds over a certain dollar amount. These retailers then cut off all non-receipted returns after a set number of transactions, usually somewhere from three to five at the most. Attempted returns of garments with clothing security tags still attached are also rejected, especially when the attempt is without a receipt.
Organized Retail Crime is a growing problem and it isn’t only a concern for big name retailers. Loss Prevention Systems Inc. CEO Bill Bregar wants smaller retailers to know that they aren’t alone in the fight against these groups. You may not have the resources of the big box stores but you can get help from Loss Prevention Systems Inc. from advice on EAS tags to training on how to stop shoplifting in your stores. Stop ORC before it gets a foot in your door.
For more information about EAS tags contact us or call 1.770.426.0547
Balance, how do you achieve it as a retailer especially when it comes to return fraud? You have to keep your customers happy and coming back to shop but you also have to make sure you aren’t taking a financial drubbing in the process. Recently I purchased some clothing for my wife as a gift and as I am prone to doing I made several errors. First, I forgot that clothing sizes do not always agree from one brand to another. Apparently you have to unfold and look at the items individually. Who knew? Oh, stretchy rayon fabric, another no-no as the sizes are very deceptive. Scoop neck, V-neck, T-neck, three-quarter length sleeves, material is too thin you can see through it, cowl neck, the list of what I can and can’t buy is too long to remember. Perhaps a gift card is in fact my safest choice. On the other hand I did avoid my usual error in clothing purchases. “Honey, you got me two blue shirts and you gave me the same thing last year.” Nope, no duplicate clothing this time, just the wrong fabric and sizes. I do confess, I try but to be fair my wife has pointed out to me what to look for and I just simply forget. Which brings me to my point, I forget and she has to take the items back and exchange them or get a gift card. I DO remember to keep my receipts and all of the tags I have learned that in my retail work over the past 25+ years. We return the items and my wife finds what she really wants. Honest returns with receipts and tags. Guess what? There are those who commit return fraud and also have all of their receipts and tags and they engage in what is called wardrobing.
Wardrobing may sound innocuous and non-criminal unlike return fraud but the hard reality is it can be worse than regular fraud. Often fraud involves no-receipt returns, merchandise that does not match what is on a receipt, the wrong tags on an item someone is trying to slip past the customer service employee or multiple exchanges in an attempt to get cash back. When someone is wardrobing they are buying clothing with the intent of returning them after using the garments one or twice. It is sort of like renting an item without ever paying anything because the clothes are worn and then returned with the tags attached and the patron has the receipt. This person appears to be following store return policies so in their mind they are not doing anything wrong. The problem is that the “customer” never intended to make the purchase permanent. Store personnel may have wasted a significant amount of time assisting this person. If someone works on commission they lose that commission with the return of the merchandise. Sometimes the items have to be cleaned upon return due to odors or stains. Even when cleaned sometimes garments have to be marked down or possibly tossed out and the item marked out of stock. Both situations cost the store money. Is there a way to balance returns from honest customers like me and those who would intentionally abuse store return policies? What if I were to lose a receipt would you want to refuse MY return? Wardrobing tags on your products can resolve the issue.
Bill Bregar is the Chief Executive Officer of Loss Prevention Systems Inc. and he gets it. He knows you can’t ostracize one loyal group due to the return fraud committed through the act of wardrobing by a small percentage of people. In order to maintain a balance that will keep your customers happy and send fraudulent customers elsewhere, Bill and the folks at LPSI suggest using wardrobing tags on all of your clothes. These are one-time use only, bright red tags that are pinned to clothing where they would be visible if someone wore the item out somewhere. The tags are removed by the customer after the purchase and it is determined they want to keep the item. They still allow clothing to be tried on but no one would wear the item in public with the tag on it. If the item needs to be returned, the tag has to be attached and all receipts and labels brought with it.
Return Fraud is fraud and nothing else. It isn’t harmless and it could be costing your store a bundle of money each year. Your good customers deserve your respect and trust. Balance the good against the bad with wardrobing tags and stop losing money to fraud.
Return Fraud is important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 and let’s talk.
Two things that I have learned over the 28 years I have been in retail that are essential for a store to remain profitable is to stop shoplifting and prevent fraud. They may sound like they go hand in hand but that isn’t necessarily the case. Both do have something in common I have found and a recent encounter my daughter had reminded me of this. Often someone who is trying to commit fraud or theft is a loudmouth and will try to intimidate people. When I was a Manager on Duty and especially as a Loss Prevention Manager it seemed I encountered it almost daily. I will tell the story of my daughter’s boisterous bully in a moment. Before I tell the story, it is important that I remind everyone that the use of electronic article surveillance (EAS) hard tags is a good way to deter theft and as a consequence, some types of fraud.
Shoplifters tend to steal merchandise based on the ease of concealment, high value, ability to resell it or if it is low or high risk. By risk, I mean the chance of being caught in the act of ripping off a store. Some anti-theft devices can impair the ease of concealment for example when an a Keeper Box is used for a perfume bottle. Merchandise becomes high risk when EAS hard tags are used to stop shoplifting. Say for example using a Mini Hard Tag when to protect clothing. Crooks will take untagged clothing into a fitting room hide them in a purse or put them on under their clothes. When it is time for them to leave the store the stolen items go out with them. On the other hand, if the merchandise has a tag attached to it the bad guys know it is going to set off the electronic article surveillance alarm towers. They can’t remove it because forcing a tag off takes a LOT of effort and it also ruins the clothing. EAS tags add risk to attempted shoplifting. Take these two factors away and the final class of thieves tend to be fewer and far between. They too can be thwarted with retail anti-theft devices but employees have to be responsive to alarm activations and tagging has to be aggressive.
The loudmouths are often those people who are trying to steal or commit fraud as I mentioned earlier. When one of these clowns sets off an electronic article surveillance tower they may raise their voice immediately. They will pretend to be embarrassed and in a loud voice let everyone know that they shop here all of the time (it makes no difference if they do or don’t). They may also announce that they have a receipt and paid for everything or claim they have nothing at all. If an employee asks for a receipt they will often make a public display of pulling out a receipt and carefully keeping a thumb over the date stamp. A glaring look frequently accompanies the loud voice that is intended to get the employee to do a cursory receipt check and send the crook on their way just to get rid of them.
The person committing fraud will act in the same fashion. With return fraud they will huff and puff and put on great theatrics to convince a manager that all is in order and if it isn’t it is in no way their fault. If the merchandise is being returned with EAS hard tags still on them and no receipt it has most likely been stolen. If there is no receipt but there is damage to the merchandise it is quite probable a tag was forced off at home. Having a clear return policy and sticking to that policy makes it far easier to deal with these patrons than when managers start to cave into them.
In my daughter’s case she was dealing with a patron trying to pay for merchandise with a lot of $20 bills that were not being accepted through a counterfeit bill reader. When she told him she could not accept his money he attempted to puff up and raise his voice and complain that there was nothing wrong with his money. Fortunately my daughter stuck to her guns and the patron pulled out two bills that passed muster. The point is that criminals try to use intimidation to get away with their crimes.
EAS hard tags may not prevent all types of fraud but they do stop shoplifting and certain forms of return fraud. Stop the theft and you can reduce you and your manager’s exposure to bullying browbeaters and blowhards. You will also keep your store a happier place to work and shop.
Get more information on EAS hard tags, contact us or call 1.770.426.0547 today
Sometimes we need facts and statistics to help us understand why something needs to be treated with importance and clothing security is no different. If you are a retail owner selling any type of clothing lines you should find the following statistics from the 2017 National Retail Federation’s National Retail Security Survey interesting and disturbing:
• Inventory shrink for the apparel sector grew from 1.2% in 2016 to 1.36% in 2017 (pg.8)
• 15 of 26 apparel respondents to the survey said shrink had grown in their stores (pg.8)
• In apparel, both shoplifting (41%) and employee theft (35.5%) were higher than the overall average for retailers (pg. 8)
• In apparel only 4 of 22 respondents expect to have a higher LP budget in 2017 while 9 expect flat budgets and 2 expect lower budgets (pg. 9)
• Apparel had an average loss of $1,132 per dishonest employee (pg. 14)
• The average shoplifting incident in apparel was $974.37 (pg. 15)
• In apparel the average cost of return fraud was $968.81 (pg. 16)
Apparel retailers appear to be getting hammered from all sides when the numbers are examined. Inventory shrink is growing, shoplifting and employee theft are both increasing and it appears Loss Prevention budgets are staying flat or decreasing. The survey was taken using retail LP professionals, which means these were stores that are large enough to have an LP department of some type. Loss Prevention Systems Inc. founder and CEO Bill Bregar is concerned by theft in all retail locations but his company especially focuses on providing services to the small retail businesses. The national apparel chain stores are struggling with clothing security. How much more is the little guy which cannot afford a security staff? Bill suggests ALL retailers use clothing tags on the clothes they sell, including the little guy.
Clothing tags and Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) pedestals are part of a larger system designed to discourage shoplifting and employee theft. The tags pin to the garment and can only be removed with a special detachment tool controlled by the store. Tags have integrated coils that continuously send out radio frequency (rf) waves. Merchandise that is tagged is picked up by the pedestals acting as rf receivers. Walk out with goods protected by a tag and the pedestal alarm blasts out an alert that can be heard throughout the largest stores. Shoplifters enter a store with a pedestal and they become much more cautious knowing they may set off an alarm if they steal. The thief looks at merchandise and sees everything has a hard tag and they usually make the choice to leave the store alone. For the foolhardy criminal who chooses to test the system, they set off the alarm when they walk up with tagged products. Often the result is dropped merchandise but when it isn’t, a quick response from trained employees is enough to conduct receipt checks and merchandise is retrieved. Though I have referenced shoplifters, employees who may consider stealing face the same obstacles if they make a decision to take something without paying. EAS makes no distinction between a crooked employee and a crooked customer.
So you may be wondering if a store that has an EAS system must also have security staff to answer alarms. The answer is no. I was a Loss Prevention Manager for a company that had numerous changes to our security teams. Sometimes I had a budget that allowed me ample people to staff the front of the store and to walk the floor seeking out shoplifters. At other times, I had little or no budget for a person to staff the front end. I always had to train store employees, usually cashiers and front-end supervisors to be prepared to respond to alarms. They were not apprehending anyone they were just trained to conduct thorough receipt and package checks. They resolved alarm activations caused by clothing security tags or other retail anti-theft devices. With training, employees who are not Loss Prevention Specialists are quite capable of handling an alarm and recovering unpaid merchandise. You don’t have to have an Loss Prevention staff to have an effective EAS System.
Shoplifting and employee theft do not seem to be going away. Retail shrink, especially in the apparel sector continues to climb at a higher rate than that of other retail markets. If national chain stores continue to experience such losses then you can be sure your business will be impacted as well. Use clothing tags on your clothing goods and add EAS towers at your entry and exit doors and you will dramatically reduce theft in your store. The result will be declining shortage and that means more profit for your business.
Clothing security is important and we can help you with it. Call 1.770.426.0547 and let’s talk.