Successful asset protection is an integral building block in the success of any retail operation. However, controlling loss and theft continues to challenge retailers worldwide, with merchandise losses averaging close to $40 billion per year (Hollinger).
Today, theft and loss pose several multidimensional threats for retailers including increasing and costlier losses, the inability to easily pass on or absorb these financial losses, increasing legal risk for inept crime/loss control efforts and an unending supply of savvy, adaptive criminals. Additionally, numerous alternative shopping formats, such as e-commerce, mail-order catalogs and home shopping networks are vying for consumers’ attention, thus challenging the traditional retail store format to remain relevant and profitable in this technological age.
In an increasingly aggressive retail market, protecting assets and ensuring a safe, comfortable consumer experience is more imperative than ever for maintaining profits and a competitive edge. With this, it is no surprise that retailers continue to invest in loss prevention technologies. However, despite this heavy investment and the broad arsenal of security products available in the market, industry-wide loss levels have remained relatively consistent over the last decade (Global Retail Theft Barometer). Consequently, companies aiming to mitigate the risk of retail crime and improve their bottom line must maximize their security technology return on investment (ROI).
Looking at Security as a Team Sport
As any leader, coach, manager or trainer knows, a team approach is stronger than that of an individual. The team-based approach to loss prevention (LP) is a growing trend in retail operations, and for good reason. Forward-thinking retailers understand successful companywide LP is predicated on a comprehensive program that integrates deterrent, detection and documentation capacity. Similarly, sound asset protection combines individual store efforts, security technologies, employee awareness and training, strict policies, ongoing monitoring and measurement, focused investigations and support from the topmost tiers of the corporation. Just as a well-integrated LP program benefits the corporation overall, a well-integrated security system benefits and simplifies the LP program.
Innovations in today’s LP technology are giving retailers increasingly effective tools to reduce loss prevention and increase ROI. However, the most innovative loss control approach is based on a relatively simple idea – integration.
Moving Beyond Basic Security Technology
The ongoing development of enhanced protective procedures and technologies helps retailers continuously improve their LP strategies. A host of technological innovations such as pattern recognition software to profile point of sales; organized retail crime investigative software; radio frequency identification tags and readers; unique inks, dyes, isotopes, holographics and biocodes; enhanced global positioning system and cell-satellite tracking; computerized and Web-based store and truck locking and sealing systems; and evolving closed caption television (CCTV) analytics software are all available to help retailers create a unique and tailored LP strategy.
However, to be most effective, these new technologies must be tied into intelligence, investigations, R&D efforts and law-enforcement facilities – again reiterating the need for sophisticated integration within the retail security systems.
In a retail facility, several types of alarmed detection systems assist security professionals with minimizing theft and loss. Intrusion detection systems sense, report, record and pattern all entries, break-ins and burglaries. Theft detection systems handle illegitimate removal of merchandise during operating hours, and fraud detection systems (usually in the form of software or procedures) handle fraudulent receipts, returns and internal theft.
Most retailers routinely use prevention systems to reduce theft, such as sophisticated video surveillance platforms, coupled with CCTV, to combat shoplifting. Video surveillance now has vastly improved capabilities due in large part to video analytics – intelligence that uses pattern recognition and algorithms to recognize unusual activities in a store. For example, these systems can lock in on moving merchandise and track it across multiple cameras in real-time, allowing retailers to prevent theft before it occurs. Advanced video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) technology can also convert video files into data assets that can be searched, analyzed, annotated, stored and used for criminal investigations and to improve security and business performance.
Benefits of Integration
Integration is undoubtedly the most fruitful of today’s technological innovations in reducing retail shrinkage and improving ROI. Integration of asset control, detection and video surveillance allows individual security systems to work together to yield greater results than would otherwise be possible.
Cross-referencing one system’s intelligence with the other systems improves LP program efficiency. For example, integration allows multiple systems to be managed on a single-seat interface, enabling just one person to be trained on several systems. In addition, by assimilating multiple interfaces into one, data from multiple sources is streamlined into one system and can be reviewed by a minimal amount of employees in a shorter timeframe.
Other benefits of an integrated security model include:
- Administration, service and maintenance of security technologies become simpler and easier.
- Security systems and management systems can be easily linked, allowing reciprocal information exchange.
- Remote monitoring is made easier, as different groups within an organization are able to access security data from any location, sorting and categorizing it to suit individual needs. “Anywhere, anytime” remote access monitoring also reduces travel expense and inefficiencies.
- System components previously used for a single purpose are made capable of performing multiple functions. For example, cameras that simply recorded activity are now able to also control other systems, like lighting.
- Retailers are able to select preferred vendors for each individual security system, as integration provides a way to assimilate technologies from multiple vendors.
- Integrated systems build off of existing security systems, allowing retailers to leverage existing technologies as they upgrade.
In essence, integration of retail security systems is a wise choice for any retailer aiming to reduce the expense and man-hours associated with oversight of an LP program. Each technology within the program is improved via its interconnection with other systems, and overall management of LP functions within the retail store can be accomplished through one simplified system. These systems can also be extended beyond the realm of security to improve efficiency in overall store management, including environmental control such as lighting and temperature, and employee building-access control such as swipe cards and identity-based access systems. Incorporating intelligent, integrated security systems into an overall intelligent, integrated retail enterprise management system makes sense as efficiency is improved on an even greater scale.
Creating an Unavoidable Security Model with ROI
All retail security systems – asset control, detection systems and video surveillance/analytics – are designed to reduce crime and protect assets, therefore increasing sales and margin. Each system is stronger when supported by the others, and by interconnecting all three, LP professionals can create a web of security systems that thieves, fraudsters and dishonest employees will find impossible to avoid.
In addition to improving security and minimizing shrinkage, integrated security systems are an economical way to upgrade LP technologies, because integration builds from existing devices in the store. These existing technologies are assimilated under the umbrella of one streamlined system, and retailers are able to realize a quick, direct ROI as the time and personnel necessary to operate multiple systems is reduced dramatically.
Retail shrinkage is an enormous and multi-faceted problem—one that is best combated with a comprehensive, holistic LP program. Today’s offenders are savvy criminals who know all too well how to manipulate traditional security systems to their own advantage. Therefore to stay ahead in the perpetual struggle between criminal and retailer, LP programs must strengthen these systems with the newest and most innovative capabilities. Integration provides an efficient way to do just that, systematically targeting illicit activity in the store and protecting assets, employees and consumers alike.
Hollinger, Richard. National Retail Security Survey. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, National Retail Federation, 2011. Published Survey.
The Global Retail Theft Barometer 2011. Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, UK: Center for Retail Research, 2011. Published Survey.