In Part 1 of this series on clothing security I challenged retailers to begin looking at the problem of shoplifting as more than a local issue. I referenced an article I found on an international Organized Retail Crime (ORC) group that was caught in Australia. The international flavor to the story was that this group was based out of Chile and one member had been caught in a police raid on a hotel room in the Los Angeles, California area in 2018. One store that was specifically mentioned in the article that had been targeted by these people was Victoria’s Secret. I have more to say on that in a bit. What I am concerned about is whether or not retailers are looking at their merchandise shortage and assuming that they are just being targeted by opportunists? Are retailers using Sensormatic tags and systems to protect clothes from theft? Are all possible steps being taken to stop this activity?
National chain store Loss Prevention Departments already know about Organized Retail Theft gangs and how they get away with their activity. Smaller, independent store owners may not be familiar with these gangs. Managers may not recognize that missing merchandise can be more than just shoplifting by people looking for kicks it may be something more ominous. Now I can’t be of much assistance to the national chain stores as they have their Loss Prevention Departments and most have decided on what their model of theft prevention is going to be. I CAN help those of you who own your own stores. I will tell you that if you don’t use Sensormatic tags and electronic article surveillance pedestals you are being hurt by shoplifters. They are emptying your shelves and keeping real patrons from being able to purchase those items. I can also tell you as I mentioned in Part 1 that there are layers to a strong anti-theft culture. It starts with customer service from the time a customer enters the store until the time they leave. I am not talking about haranguing someone but just greeting people, offering assistance being observant and being available.
The next layer to an anti-theft culture is the use of clothing security tags on merchandise. The security devices used in your store should be Sensormatic tags. Professional shoplifters, as mentioned in the news article in Part 1, use “booster bags”. These are bags lined with tin foil with the purpose of interfering with electronic article surveillance systems. Acousto-magnetic Sensormatic tags are immune to these bags so theft attempts are thwarted at the towers as a shoplifter approaches. Other brands of security tags will set off pedestals but a booster bag will prevent them from working correctly. I will also say that other brands are not as reliable as those manufactured by Sensormatic, especially if they are made by an unknown manufacturer.
I pointed out that Victoria’s Secret was specifically mentioned as a victim by this international criminal theft ring. It would appear from the research I was able to do on this retailer that this chain uses for clothing security. If that is true then there is something going on that is not working properly in their protection strategy. I do know that in searching articles on shoplifting this store pops up a lot. Many of those news items indicated the theft incidents were in the thousands of dollars. After finding out about a national organized retail crime organization stealing from there, I wondered how many similar theft activities might also be international in scope. Here are some examples of what I mean:
• Gwinnet Daily Post, Jan 2, 2019 by Isabel Hughes – “Shoplifters steal over $300,000 from Gwinnett Victoria’s Secret stores”
• Myrtlebeachonline.com, Dec 5, 2018 by Hannah Strong – “’Professional Shoplifters?’ Thieves stuff clothes in bags at Victoria’s Secret, cops say”. The story reports three people stole around $3,800 in clothes.
• Greenvilleonline.com, Oct 9, 2018 by Teddy Kumala – “Men in bonnets shoplift thousands from Spartanburg Victoria’s Secret store”
• Abc7chicago.com, March 13, 2018, “Women arrested for trying to steal 11Kworth of Victoria’s Secret bras”
I want to say that I am not being critical of Victoria’s Secret as they are the victim of these criminals. I am saying there is something that is going on that is creating these kinds of headlines. It is also making them a target of extremely significant shoplifting activity.
The final layer in a strong anti-theft culture involves the training of store managers and personnel. In Part 3 of this series I will discuss the importance of manager training to prevent shoplifting and employee theft and how it relates to clothing security.
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