Shops Shun Shrink

SSI targets retailers with digital loss prevention efforts

Any football fan will tell you that the best defense is a good offense. If the offense is on top of things there is little need for extreme defensive measures.

That’s just the message for integrators who are trying to help retail customers avoid loss. This is especially true in high-value departments but also for preventing employee theft and providing perimeter protection.

“Be proactive versus reactive,” said Todd Flowers, president of Surveillance Systems Integration (SSI), Roseville, Calif.

Too many times, retailers working with extremely hard-to-prevent losses are overwhelmed with responsibility of managing multiple locations, especially in this economy, commented Flowers. SSI specializes in working with a host of retailers, from large, national department store chains to small, local operations. In almost every case, the retailer has to do more with less.

“They must leverage technology to make up for the personnel deficit,” Flowers said. Using central management software to view multiple surveillance locations is one technique SSI uses.


Moving up from analog

Many, if not most, retail stores still are on basic analog video surveillance systems. The move, however, is to upgrade to something with better image resolution and more interoperability.

Kellie Vogel, national accounts manager/retail for SSI, noted that fine jewelry and high-end purse departments—areas with high shrink rates—are among the first places a store will install megapixel surveillance.

“The retail sector has been rather slow to migrate over to megapixel/IP,” she said. “When they see the ROI (return on investment) from solving a major case, then they are on board with the new technologies.

Retailers currently have a considerable investment in analog. “A remedy that protects their analog investment, while future-proofing for megapixel/IP conversions, combines UTP products and Cat5e cable,” Vogel said. Cat5e cable is more cost-effective as well, compared to the ever-fluctuating cost of copper with standard coaxial cable. Moreover, as the megapixel/IP market continues to improve technology, reliability, and relevance in the retail sector, the costs are becoming much more attractive for retailers budgets.

“They are getting all of their wiring infrastructure in place and using UTP with video baluns for their analog products,” Vogel continued. “Once those analog products reach end-of-life, they are able to migrate IP cameras easily.”

Still, even the giant chains are reluctant to take the full plunge into an all-digital, high-resolution system. “Cost is a huge factor,” Vogel said.

With the number of POS (point of sale) systems that already have gone digital, there is precedent in the store. While POS stays separate, there is more flexibility. The software switch is less intrusive as hardware is phased out.

A couple of years ago, most IT and security departments worked independently. Vogel said they are becoming more of a team. “Their departments can work together better since they can control bandwidth and run parallel networks,” she noted. With the advent of compression like H.264, IT is more willing to store files, creating thumbnail files, rather than streaming huge blocks of data.

While individuals still steal, today’s retailers face a different kind of shoplifter. “Booster” teams—five or six people working together on heists—are common.

Integrators find retailers typically want to protect the smaller take-off products: fine jewelry, handbags, perfumes. However, boosters will hit a men’s wear department and layer on several fine Italian suits before leaving.


Digital systems get the job done

Digital systems help here. Retailers can put cameras where losses occur and change those locations as shoplifters’ targets change. If the cabling infrastructure is in place, the retailer can pop in a camera into a targeted area and let security take over. “A digital camera is cheap compared to the loss of a few suits,” Vogel said.

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