Supermarkets go high-tech to combat shoplifters

Cheese theft is on the rise, but razor blades, confectionary and oysters are still the top shoplifting targets. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Supermarkets are introducing electronic tags on items popular with shoplifters and other thieves.

The Source Tagging Alliance, set up by leading retailers, is encouraging suppliers to use radio frequency identification (RFID) and source tagging on grocery product packaging at the point of manufacture.

Retailer Association chief executive John Albertson told the Howick and Pakuranga Times that supermarket chains were introducing electronic source tagging for goods deemed “hot” for shoplifting.

Such goods were usually small and expensive, and Mr Albertson said that over the next 18 months some would be secretly tagged, so they triggered exit alarms without giving any clues to would-be thieves.

National retail theft losses amount to $650 million a year, or $1.8m a day, he said. As supermarkets accounted for about 20 per cent of the retail spend, they carried a large share of the losses.

Progressive Enterprises has a tagging programme for its 150 supermarkets in the Woolworths and Countdown chains, national security manager Ian Seed told the Dominion Post.There had been a marked increase in shoplifting, particularly of meat products, he said.

“We’re having a number of problems in all supermarkets at the moment,”said Foodstuffs’ Pak’n Save group manager Robert Kent.

In the small Manawatu town of Foxton, the local New World had installed the high-tech security after problems with people stealing meat.

“It seems to have worked, but what tends to happen is the thieves go down the road and start stealing from another market,” Mr Kent said.

Napier Pak ‘n Save head of security Mike Ralph said there had been a big increase in the number of blocks of cheese stolen in the past year, but the most commonly stolen items were razor blades, confectionery, hair creams and seafood – especially oysters.

Overseas, supermarkets are moving rapidly to adopt RFID, partly because it is also see as a cheap way of tracking the carbon-footprint of goods, and providing traceability for food safety.

The world’s biggest supermarket chain, Wal-Mart, has demanded that all its suppliers have the technology in place by next year. Britain’s Tesco is trialing the electronic chips and Germany’s Metro chain has an entire store researching uses of the tags.

Saturday August 30, 2008

Source: The New Zealand Herald

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