Globally, shrinkage or pilferage as it is known, ranges between 0.5% to 2% of the total turnover of a retail business. The % varies from retail store fronts to formats to warehouses, manned counters to crowded supermarkets, etc. In an effort to draw consumer attention, Retailers pile up small items, and create interesting displays. These are popularly known as “Impulse Counters” and include chocolates, candies, cigarettes, condoms to many other small items which can easily filled in to a palm (or a handbag or a trouser pocket). This is where trouble begins.
In a pre-covid era, it would be practically impossible to monitor every customer’s movements within a store, especially in the Food and Grocery Retail business. Apparel retailers (in India and many countries) have a plastic tag with a sensor which is usually removed by the cashier at the time of billing, lest it would be “beep” due to the sensormatic panels which are placed at the store exit. These tags cost between Rs. 80 – Rs. 200 per piece and come with minimalistic tech all the way to location finding sensors. Grocery Retailers are not that lucky.
The small tags that go on packed food packets cost between Rs.0.30 to Rs. 0.90 on an average and could even cost much more. The retailers, who already print a barcode sticker which costs Rs.0.10 – Rs.0.15 (approximately) do not prefer to incur further costs on surveillance due to low operating business margins, instead skip the sensor tags. Rather, they prefer to “manually” monitor customers and staff as well as overtly depend on CCTv cameras. Ideally, CCTV surveillance systems are considered a deterrent to commit crime but in today’s times, even these do not give much heed to those who want to loot, small or big.
This is where companies like Live Eye have taken a lead, by not just offering CCTv surveillance but also a “third-eye” of sorts. The company, with offices in India and USA, has a remotely managed team which acts as a third eye and keeps a physical surveillance on the shop or hotel or a fuel station or any other location where the cameras are located. When the person monitoring the camera finds something amiss like in the video above, he or she actually sends a voice communication addressed to the staff to take immediate corrective action. Take a look at the below video. For many such self-serve stores, it may make more business sense to appoint a “third-eye” than to employ more staff members at the store.
While this could sound eerie and strange to say the least – that someone is not just watching you over the camera but also sends a voice note as and when, the technology also keeps a tab on the store staff and their customers. Recently, a local ruling in a few states in the US made it an offence to criminalise poverty, thereby allowing petty thefts acceptable to the society. California’s Prop. 47 amended the California penal code, Section 490.2, to lower penalties for certain thefts. It now reads that theft of property valued at less than $950 is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail. Walgreens, a popular grocery retail chain has shut 17 stores over the past few months due to mounting losses and inaction by the authorities. Over 100 occurrences of petty theft at stores have been reported of which only 4 warrants have been issued and 2 serial shoplifters have been arrested.
The image above shows how the chain has fared with regard to various expenses incurred towards store surveillance, security management costs, etc. Clearly, it makes no sense to run these stores (this is just a sample) especially since Law is not by your side (in this case). However, globally it has been proven that store staff are complicit to many shoplifting acts, and thus the technology such as the one being offered could deter employees to be consciously involved in shoplifting.