What are some of the ways shoplifters steal clothes from your store(s)? It may sound like a silly question, but clothing security is an important matter. In the United States merchandise shrinkage totaled $36.79 BILLION dollars (2014-2015 Global Retail Theft Barometer pg. 20). Globally, apparel specialist retailers experienced a 1.8% shortage rate among all respondents to the survey (2014-2015 GRTB pg. 23). The only retail category to experience higher shrinkage was the pharmacies/drugstores at 1.99%. Knowing how criminals are stealing from your store(s) and how to protect your products from theft will keep your business profitable.
Before I discuss how shoplifters are stealing, I would like to talk about how to protect clothing with Checkpoint tags. Based on my years of experience as a Loss Prevention Associate and a Loss Prevention Manager, I have seen the best and worst merchandise protection strategies. Doing nothing and wishing a problem away is obviously the worst option and yes, I have seen it happen. The best protection is to use clothing security for merchandise. The Gen 2 and Gen 3 Checkpoint tags for clothes are outstanding choices for preventing theft. They are anti-theft devices with electronic article surveillance (EAS) capability. Built with radio frequency (rf) technology, they are designed to cause an EAS antenna to activate alarms when a tag is carried into the sensor field of the antenna. Employees responding to alarms conduct receipt checks and recover merchandise that has not been paid for or the alarm causes a shoplifter to drop the clothes they were trying to steal. Clothing security tags also have deterrence value by simply being attached to garments. Shoplifters tend to leave merchandise alone when they see a tag knowing that the tags are difficult to remove without a Checkpoint detachment key. Attempts to force a tag off will likely damage product and shoplifters know this as well. Clothing security tags deter theft and actively detect attempts at theft making them the best means of shrinkage control.
That brings me to my point about how thieves are stealing clothes from stores. The methods most people are familiar with are when thieves take clothes to a fitting room, and wear them under their own clothes. Another way the shoplifter steals is as simple as hiding it in a handbag, or backpack and walking out with the merchandise concealed from employees. There are other means of stealing garments that store owners should be training employees to look for and these are not as common as the methods I have mentioned.
- Box Stuffing – Shoplifters will look for large boxed merchandise, remove the product and fill the box with clothes. They reseal the box and take the box to the register where they may try to be “helpful” and hold the box or tip it so the cashier can scan a UPC barcode. I have seen this done with infant strollers, shop vacs, and diaper disposal units. Employees should be alert for unboxed merchandise sitting out and cashiers should be handling all merchandise. If a box feels too heavy, it should be opened.
- Comforter Stuffing – This is similar to box stuffing, but clothes are stuffed into the folds of a comforter so they can’t be seen. Checkpoint tags may be used to pin the two zippers of a case together or if there is only a single zipper, pinning the zipper to the comforter case itself. If the zippers are tampered with when the comforter gets to the register, it is a good sign there may be merchandise inside.
- Hiding clothing in a baby stroller. As distasteful as it may seem, that cooing baby held by mom as she shops may be in her arms so she or a partner can fill the stroller with clothes and cover them with a blanket in the carriage. I have even seen clothes hidden UNDER the baby and covered by a blanket.
- Piecing together items on a hanger. Some items are sold as sets, a suit jack, vest and slacks, or shirt and tie. Shoplifters will try to be clever and bring an item to the register and it appears to be a set, when in reality they have put the ensemble together themselves. Using clothing security tags on all pieces of individual items will prevent shoplifters from being able to use this tactic. Cahiers will know that if brought a “set” and Checkpoint tags are on each piece, the customer has manipulated the clothing to try to steal a piece.
By using clothing security tags, even if merchandise is concealed, the tags will activate EAS antennas.
Clothing security is necessary to protect profits and doing nothing only invites more theft. Use clothing security tags to deter criminals and keep shrinkage low.
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