I read a story recently about a shoplifting ring that bypassed store clothing security efforts and in the process got away with over 20 million dollars of clothing. The article discussed how the group’s reached extended across the entire nation hitting a variety of retail establishments. The members of this group are accused of having stolen more than $3,000 of merchandise in one store in a single day and more than $4,000 from a Victoria’s Secret on another occasion. Consumerist.com “Feds Break Up $20M Shoplifting Ring that Stole Clothing From Coast To Coast”, 9/7/17 by Chris Morran. https://consumerist.com/2017/09/07/feds-break-up-20m-shoplifting-ring-that-stole-clothing-from-coast-to-coast/. The writer goes into detail on how the group operated but I was especially interested in the methods the group used to defeat clothing security tags and other efforts to stop shoplifting by the stores that were victimized.
Clothing security tags, for readers who may not be familiar with them, are tags that can be pinned to clothing and have electronic article surveillance technology embedded in them. The electronic article surveillance or EAS is a radio wave that the tags send out and if picked up by a receiver known as an EAS tower an alarm is set off. The tower alarm serves as a warning to store employees that merchandise with a security tag on it is about to leave the store. Staff members trained on how to respond to an alarm go to the doors and conduct receipt checks and either get a person to buy merchandise or turn it over to them. In many instances a would-be shoplifter is scared off and will drop the items they intended to steal. So a reader is not confused, the tags used for clothing security are not the same or even similar to manufacturer hang tags. The devices I am referring to are made of an extremely hard plastic material. They are durable enough to withstand years of use. One side of the tag has a pin that is inserted through the material and the other piece is a clip that covers the exposed pin on the other side of the garment. The seal is tight and prevents someone from trying to remove the device without tearing into the clothing. In order to remove a tag without damaging to product a store associate must use a removal tool designed to do this.
Getting back to the story I was telling you about, as a Loss Prevention Manager with nearly 17 years of Retail Loss Prevention experience, I was interested in the tactics used by the group. I know first-hand that clothing security when done properly can defeat even Organized Retail Crime Organizations such as the one in the article. One of the methods described was that the group would scout a store in advance to see if Loss Prevention Officers or police were present. It did not say of these stores were avoided only that they wanted to know If they were utilized. Not all stores can afford Loss Prevention or police but that does not mean a store cannot protect merchandise. Training employees on providing great customer service and how to recognize signs of potential shoplifters can be almost as effective. Then I noted that the story went on to say that the group would use “blockers”. I have encountered this trick and it can be countered but store teams have to understand how they work. Blockers are usually not the actual shoplifters. The job of a blocker is to distract employees, prevent them from seeing the actual thief or in extreme cases block an employee from following a shoplifter.
To identify if this ploy is being used store employees must be in contact with one another preferably by radio. If it seems there are multiple shopliftings or suspicious people in the store at the same time they may be “blockers” and trying to spread out the employees. This can be effective if a store has a small staff since they can’t be at the registers and covering all areas of the floor. If a small or medium sized store has an EAS system and is using clothing security tags the best method to combat these groups is to pull two or three staff members to the doors where the EAS towers are located. Before the shoplifter can exit, tagged merchandise will set off the tower alarm and receipt checks can be conducted.
In Part 2, I will review other means used by the group in the article and discuss how your store can avoid being a victim. It is important to remember that your first priority in clothing security is to get an EAS system. The best protection programs revolve around that.
Clothing security is important and we can help you with it. Call1.866.914.2567 and let’s talk.