Unlike in India, in the US and UK and other global destinations, a customer is not required to submit his handbag / shopping bag at the entrance. It would be unimaginable for any store in the UK to go to the extent of using a fastener for a customer’s handbag the way it is done in a few supermarket stores in India. Besides infringing on the customer’s basic right of having his / handbag open for him/ her to use, this would be considered as an insult to the customer walking in the store. When we look at some of the global chains present in the India like H&M and Zara, a similar policy is adopted where the customer is not required to submit his hand / shopping bag at the baggage counter. Loss prevention is a subject dealt differently by different countries where a majority of them would rather trust their customers and respect their rights rather than having their bags checked or fastened without any provocation.
A consumer, Abhay Singh recounts how his bag was checked by the guards while he was exiting a popular bookstore at Kemps Corner in Mumbai. “I had been to the store with my child. We did not pick anything up and after a short stroll at the store we decided to move out. It came as a shock when I was stopped at the exit by the security guard who demanded that I open my bag for her to check. I was taken aback but she insisted that she was only doing ‘her duty’. I had to oblige but I decided never to visit the store again. If you cannot trust your customer, it is better not to have a physical store for them to visit you. It is the day and age of online shopping. One might as well just have an online presence. What is the point of humiliating your customer this way?”
This incident puts into context how loss prevention methods in India stand starkly different than the ones adopted globally in international countries. Most common amongst the methods used would be using RFID that retailers like Sephora, Target, Levi Straus and Lululemon use. According to leading retailers, the RFID technology deployment not only helps deter thefts but also provides better inventory accuracy.
CASE STUDY: MYER
Australian super chain Myer has adopted the method of having store detective to ‘battle a steep jump in shoplifting’.
Myer’s Chief Financial Officer, Nigel Chandwick was quoted by a leading Australian daily as saying: “We have been doing a lot of work in this area. It’s too early to say how many physically will be brought into the company but the payback will be many times what they cost.”
The retailer in the past had a trial of this with plain clothes store detectives and taking a lead from its success, they would now hire permanent store detectives. Apart from store detectives, Myer also plans to use other measures including more tagging of products and better checks of stocks arriving at warehouse and stores.
CASE STUDY: WALMART
Jumping on the bandwagon of retailers using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for its innumerous advantages, Walmart makes use of AI to catch checkout cheats. The use of AI has been helping the chain spot people who plan to take the items out of the store without scanning them at the tills.
According to a report in the BBC, Walmart has been using image recognition cameras powered by AI to narrow down on customers would skip paying for items by avoiding the scanning part.
According to the report, the company has invested over half a billion dollars in an effort to prevent, reduce and deter crime in their stores and parking lots. One of these loss prevention methods is the “Missed Scan Detection” cameras, which focus on items rather than people and if they spot an item in a bag that has not been scanned, they send an alert to the staff , which then carries out further investigations.
CASE STUDY: TESCO EXTRA IN CENTRAL HULL UK
At this particular store, the store manager has played an active role to keep theft / loss at bay. With the means adopted, he was able to bring down the shrinkage from £1.1 million to around £600,000.
He ensured that tagging is done right where the tags were visible to the customers (according to him this deters a lot of opportunistic thieves). He altered the store layout to help prevent shoplifting. He dubbed this ‘reducing shrink by design’. The open space allows the staff a clearer view of the store and more valuable or easy to shoplift products were put up at prominent positions.
Apart from this, the security manager of the store holds a monthly meeting with the police and other security staff from the town. The local security is also invited to the store to use staff facilities like having a cup of coffee. Their uniformed presence too helps deter potential shoplifting activities.
CASE STUDY: SAINSBURY’S
The second largest chain of supermarket in the UK, Saindbury’s has installed CCTV cameras and mirrors above the self-checkouts in 300 of its stores. This helps customers become vary of leaving the store without scanning the items purchased.
Other security measures include, staff headsets for them to have instant communication with their central security team, having security guards, additional training and ‘hi-tech CCTV’.
CASE STUDY: ASDA
UK’s Asda uses body worn cameras by Edesix to catch hold of any person shoplifting items from the stores. To quote, Richie McBride, Managing Director – Edsix, “These cameras act as a confrontation preventor and greatly speed up the handling of incidents.”
A robust CCTV spread including the ones at the till to having RFID tags and a very alert and highly trained staff, loss prevention at the store level can well be controlled. Having bags checked during entry and exit simply isn’t the best solution. Internationally the practice isn’t practiced and with time, hopefully Indian retailers too will beef up their internal security system rather than putting the onus of all the customers walking into their stores.