In parallel with Risk UK’s September 2015 print edition carrying a Vertical Focus Supplement on security solutions for the retail sector, David Ivins discusses the history of Electronic Article Surveillance, what the future holds for the technology and how retailers can inform other areas of their business through dedicated loss prevention solutions.
The other day I was remarking about the changes in our industry and began to reflect on what Peter Stern, one of the original inventors of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS), might think of the direction this technology is now taking. I wondered if back then, sitting in a library in Philadelphia, Peter ever imagined that EAS would become more than just a pair of detector pedestals and some ‘dumb’ tags?
When I first joined the EAS industry more than 20 years ago, the phase of EAS chain-wide adoption by the big retailers around the world was just starting. Back then, the deterrent effect was delivered in large part by the mere fact that few stores had installed EAS and the shoplifters would then target those that didn’t have it.
In those early days, ceiling-mounted EAS detectors at the exits would pick up half the store’s tagged items, depending on the weather of course! Now, RFID-enabled, ceiling-mounted EAS detectors at the exits can ignore anything that isn’t moving through the exit. They can even help the retailer track and trace their inventory to precise locations within the entire store.
Today, accurate real-time location tracking of tagged merchandise offers store staff the opportunity to engage with the shopper, helping to lead towards a possible sale while also preventing potential theft.
EAS detection systems now include highly useful technologies such as people counters telling you how many visitors have entered your store and allowing other retail departments to take advantage of the loss prevention team’s investment. The obvious benefits to the operational side of the retail store for counting traffic are well known, but they can also give a great insight for loss prevention specialists around possible risks such as when the shopper dwell time is high.
New data-centric EAS systems can now provide those loss prevention specialists with data analytics about shopper habits which they can then share with their retail partners to help them understand how their advertising and marketing investments – among other solutions – impact the store and the business. That’s EAS 2.0.
People and processes are key
Without doubt, retail anti-theft solutions are key to fighting external shrinkage. They always have been and always will be but, for a pain killer to work, you have to swallow the pill and for that you need data to understand how EAS is impacting your stores. You also need to ensure store staff compliance at all times.
That compliance is about more than just responding to EAS antenna alarms in store. It extends to the cashiers correctly deactivating a product and removing a hard tag, or store colleagues remembering to apply an EAS label to the newly-delivered merchandise in store or protecting it with a keeper.
In EAS 2.0, people and processes are key, as the diligent work of the ECR Shrink and On-Shelf Availability Group and Professor Adrian Beck has duly highlighted on numerous occasions.
Compliance is about taking ownership and having initiatives driven by the loss prevention experts with the support and involvement of Human Resources, the supply chain, purchasing and marketing departments. A good EAS programme should be about engaging staff, but also ensuring that the shoppers’ experience is preserved and not spoiled by unnecessary alarms at the exit doors.
In that respect, many retailers are now turning towards technology such as RFID to reduce the numbers of false EAS alarms in store. Indeed, it’s this ‘Evolution in EAS’ that brings more value to the retail sector as a whole.
The EAS 2.0 strategy explained
The EAS 2.0 strategy is about selling more and losing less, with the emphasis on the selling more. What was once considered an anti-theft investment is fast becoming an additional way to measure consumer habits, while at the same time improving stock availability and shopper engagement. This leads to improved sales.
That last point has never been more important for the UK’s major supermarkets as the competition for market share heightens following the rapid rise of today’s discount operations.
EAS 2.0 is about making smart decisions in store to gain time and be more efficient. Once you’ve identified where it hurts, you’ll readily spot the key challenges you’re facing both internally and externally and then take the most appropriate actions.
Managing enterprise level reporting is a key component of EAS 2.0. It allows loss prevention teams to increase visibility in terms of what’s happening with their loss prevention systems right across their stores. They can identify what’s working and what isn’t and use that information to make informed decisions on the improvements needed.
To my mind, the future of EAS is about stronger collaboration between loss prevention teams and store managers in order to deliver improved shopper experiences which ensure that stores are welcoming to the honest shoppers and protected from the less honest.
In conclusion, EAS is most definitely not as we knew it because the technology has evolved to become an all-encompassing solution that benefits the entire business. Welcome to EAS 2.0.
David Ivins is Global Product Manager at Checkpoint Systems