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Shoplifting during the global pandemic

By Partner


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The ongoing global pandemic has heavily impacted the retail industry. Following months of lockdown measures, social-distancing rules and new working regulations, many retailers continue to struggle to come to terms with the "new normal." Several studies have predicted that the effect of COVID-19 on the retail industry will be worse than the Great Recession as countries around the globe fall into recession. In the UK, bricks and mortar retailers have already felt the brunt of the economic downturn, with retailers from Debenhams to John Lewis and M&S axing thousands of roles and closing stores to try and maintain revenue streams. The current weak retail environment only highlights the extra stresses retailers will face in addition to the normal challenges brought on by the upcoming holiday season.

A pivotal sales moment for retailers, COVID-19 continues to affect market conditions in the run-up to the "golden quarter." New outbreaks have led to regional or national lockdown measures that disrupt supply chains and cause footfall unpredictability, making it more difficult than ever to foresee what trading conditions will be like this Christmas on the high street. Although many high street retailers will be relying on critical sales moments, like Black Friday, to bolster profits, current circumstances will bring a host of new worries. Next to social distancing rules, hygiene regulations and safety rules, all which deter consumers from physically shopping, recent data also indicate that shoplifting is on the rise.

Even though shoplifting dramatically declined following the first weeks of lockdown according to a study from National Center for Biotechnology Information, this is because most retail (non-grocery) shops and stores closed down, heavily reducing the opportunities for shoplifting. As retail stores reopened their doors this June, many likely saw an increase in shoplifting, fuelled by the start of the recession. Shoplifting surged to record levels in the UK following the previous recession in 2008, increasing 20% to £4.88bn in the year to June, according to the Centre for Retail Research. At the time, more 'middle-class' consumers turned to theft to help maintain their standard of living and to sustain themselves.

Recent research shows that the UK retail sector faces at least 1000 shoplifting incidents per day, with over half of them remaining unpunished. An analysis of police data by Checkpoint Systems found that UK retailers recorded 359,156 cases of shoplifting in 2019, equal to nearly 1000 incidents per day. However, the actual number of shoplifting cases is likely to be 15 to 21 times higher, as shoplifters are not always caught. In addition, retailers do not always report shoplifting to the police unless the offender is dangerous. The British Retail Consortium 2020 Retail Crime Survey found there were over 400 incidents of violence and abuse against retail staff every day - despite retailers spending £1.2 billion on crime prevention to the year April 2019. Losses hit over £1 billion, including over £770 million from shoplifting. Common triggers for violence and abuse against retail staff include challenging shoplifters, enforcing age-restricted sales and implementing social distancing, as well as other COVID-19

One way retailers can help combat shoplifting during the 'golden quarter' is by investing in a trustworthy RFID solution. Using electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags which are attached to products at the point of manufacture, a reliable RFID solution will help improve merchandise visibility and inventory accuracy, making it easier for retailers to know the quantity and location of stock in store. Simply put, RFID technology lets retailers see exactly which products have been removed from a store and through which exit. Applicable to everything from apparel to footwear and watches, RFID can track inventory, asset movement and identity as well as prevent shoplifting.

Retailers can use an RFID solution to monitor products in-store as well. For example, if a suspicious amount of products are removed simultaneously from a store shelf, the activity can be captured by an RFID reader and brought to the attention of the retailer immediately. Security cameras in the area can be activated to monitor and track the event, making it harder for shoplifters to steal successfully. Rapidly becoming one of the most popular tools to mitigate risk, prevent theft and gain insight into stock levels, the apparel industry is among the first to heavily rely on this technology. Leading retailers in the UK such as C&A, Inditex and LLP use RFID technology for their inventory planning, allocation and product visibility as well.

Next to using RFID, anti-theft solutions are also key for retailers to protect themselves against shoplifting. However, many traditional loss prevention systems can look outdated and hamper a consumer's experience when shopping in-store. To ensure that consumers are not further deterred from visiting brick and mortar stores, many retailers are choosing to invest in anti-theft products which are a part of their retail concept or interior design. “What you can see is that loss prevention products are now increasingly forming part of the interior and retail concept which fashion brands are choosing to introduce,” says Fran Zanier, European Marketing Director at Checkpoint Systems. “This includes an antenna in the shape of a lipstick for a beauty chain or a version with the latest model of sneakers for a sports store. By creating fully personalised antennas, retailers can promote different products, make seasonal promotions all while enhancing brand awareness. Functional devices are thereby turned into real eye-catchers. It’s all about realising the right balance between design, concept and, last but not least, how the product works.”

Checkpoint Systems offers innovative state-of-the-art anti-theft and security solutions which have been specifically designed to reduce theft, maximise merchandise availability and increasing return-on-investment. Through Alpha, they offer retailers a layered approach, whereby they can add increasing levels of security to specific items or types of merchandise, letting them implement security measures where needed. This gives retailers the freedom to add extra security to high-ticket products, such as leather jackets, fine jewellery or cosmetics, making it all the more difficult for shoplifters to carry out their work. At the same time, these loss prevention and anti-theft products do not hamper the retailers' overall vision, but rather add to them and help create an all-round unique shopping experience - what consumers look for while out shopping.

About Checkpoint Systems

Checkpoint Systems is a global leader in loss prevention for the retail industry. The company offers smart solutions which will guarantee clarity and efficiency, always and everywhere. These solutions are the direct result of fifty years of expertise in radio frequency technology, innovative theft and loss prevention systems, leading software, RFID hardware and comprehensive label solutions for identifying, securing and following up items from the source to the store.


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