Article | October 15, 2009

Stop Pushout Theft

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

By Erin Harris, Editor, Retail Solutions Online/Integrated Solutions For Retailers magazine

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than $13B worth of goods are stolen from retailers each year. Savvy shoplifters to organized crime rings have found that with the use of shopping carts, they can look less conspicuous and retrieve more items in one swoop, rolling large volumes of unpaid goods right out the door. Offenders committing cart-based theft, or "pushout theft," can be difficult to stop, as most LP technologies are not designed to physically stop carts or the people trying to leave the store with them. For instance, to catch or retrieve all items before they are taken out the door, video surveillance, a very effective loss prevention tool, requires additional personnel to constantly monitor footage. And EAS (electronic article surveillance) tags, another effective tool at preventing theft, will not prevent offenders from sprinting from your store with the stolen merchandise. James Estes, director of safety and LP (loss prevention) at The Markets, LLC, needed a solution that stopped pushout theft and achieved rapid payback.

The Markets, a Bellingham, WA-based supermarket chain with 21 locations, experienced major loss issues attributed to shoplifting and theft in a handful of its locations. Estes noticed that in particular stores, an excessive amount of loss had occurred, particularly in the meat and variety (e.g. shampoo, razors) departments. "Labor is tight in this economy, and we don't have an excess of employees wandering around the store floor," says Estes. "Customer service is high on our priority list, but thieves know to hit the store when it's busy. For instance, between 3 and 5 pm, they've loaded a cart with $400 worth of merchandise in less than 6 minutes and walked right out the door with it."

The grocer's LP methods, such as CCTV (closed circuit television) and EAS were not minimizing the loss. For example, Estes reports the grocer sells 6,000 to 8,000 meat products a day across the chain. The grocer doesn't put an EAS tag on every meat tray, only on expensive cuts, which accounts for about 4,000 trays. When a meat tray comes across the register, the tag is deactivated. The EAS promise is that 99% of the tags are deactivated. "When 1% of 4,000 EAS tags are not deactivated, that alarm is going off all day long, and cashiers start to ignore it," says Estes. "The EAS system works well and exactly as advertised, but our employees were ignoring it."

Catch Shoplifters With A Transparent LP Solution
In order to keep inventory where it belongs and stop pushout theft, Estes chose purchek solution from Gatekeeper Systems. The purchek solution uses Gatekeeper's self-locking wheel to prevent shoplifters from pushing carts out of the store. The self-locking wheel will lock at the store's exit if a shoplifter attempts to push a cart out of the store without paying, disabling the cart, and triggering an audible and visible alarm. The wheel also locks at the perimeter of the store's parking lot to ensure the grocer does not lose carts.

Grocers do not need to purchase special carts to use purchek. Gatekeeper replaces one wheel on each cart and replaces it with the self-locking wheel. Prior to installation, a Gatekeeper representative met with Estes to develop a blueprint of the store for alarm placement. Because The Markets store locations do not have the same shrink challenge, Estes did not implement purchek in every store. He based his decision on demographics — stores in challenging neighborhoods with a high shrink record received the purchek system.

Enhance Customer-Friendly Shopping Experience With Unobtrusive Alarm
Gatekeeper Systems spent one night at each store installing the system after the store closed. The vendor sawed thin slits into the floor in front of each register and installed a reader wire there, which deactivates the self-locking wheel. The self-locking wheel is deactivated only after the customer has completed the transaction at the register. A Gatekeeper representative stayed at store for three days after the installation was complete to train employees on how to react to alarm activation. "The alarm is not obtrusive — it doesn't alert the entire store," says Estes. "The alarm beeps for 10 seconds and a small green strobe light goes off. If you're more than 100 feet away, you probably won't see the light or hear the alarm." Estes states the purchek system thwarted the first pushout theft attempt just hours after one of the locations opened.

Since implementing Gatekeeper Systems purchek, The Markets has reaped numerous benefits. Estes projected an 18-month ROI but achieved payback in 21 weeks due to recovered merchandise. Also, The Markets used to experience an average of five pushout thefts per week. The incidents have been reduced to one theft attempt every 2 weeks. Estes reports the grocer has experienced a decrease in the meat and variety department's shrink. During the initial test phase of the Gatekeeper Purcheck system, over $1200 in product was recovered within the first nine days.

"Thieves don't realize they aren't going to leave with the cart until it's too late," says Estes. "We don't catch a lot of people, but we're not in the shoplifter apprehension business — we're here to sell groceries. I'm trying to keep shoplifters out of our stores, and this system does this. Once shoplifters learn that they can't leave with a cart, they don't come back."

SOURCE: Innovative Retail Technologies