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Caught red handed: How tags with exploding ink are the ultimate theft deterrent

For all the benefits of the summer months, there is one big drawback for retailers: As the temperatures increase, so do shoplifting incidents. As loss prevention professionals know, crime tends to surge in the summer, and shoplifting is no exception to this trend. Kids are on summer break, people are out of their homes and merchandise is displayed at storefronts everywhere. These factors add up to a ripe season for shoplifting.

But they also add up to a great season for sales. Since retailers are necessarily focused on running the business and keeping customers happy, they don’t want to have to be preoccupied with shoplifters all the time. But losses from theft add up fast, and threaten to put a huge dent in profits. No business wants to find itself in this situation. Solving the problem calls for more than careful surveillance monitoring – it requires on-the-ground action.

Understanding – and undermining – the shoplifter mindset
According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, there are around 27 million active shoplifters in the country. And these shoplifters often come out in larger numbers during the summer.

Given that roughly one in every 11 people is a shoplifter, it’s no surprise that there’s not a typical profile of this kind of criminal. As an industry professional, you know merchandise swindlers are young and old, male and female. Some of them are professional criminals, but many are not.

“By denying thieves the possibility of benefiting from their theft, they can take away their incentive to steal in the first place.”

Yet despite these differences, shoplifters are united by a common trait: the desire to benefit from what they’re stealing. When a thief steals a pair of jeans, for example, it’s because he or she wants to put them to use. Whether that means wearing them, giving them as a gift or attempting to resell them, the shoplifter plans to benefit from an item he or she didn’t pay for. But what if retailers deny thieves that benefit altogether? This is the idea behind exploding ink tags.

Enjoy some permanent ink with those stolen jeans
There’s a reason exploding ink tags have been a go-to theft deterrent for retailers since the early 1990s: they’re the ultimate tool for theft benefit denial. That’s because even if a shoplifter manages to remove a garment with an ink tag from the store, he or she won’t get to enjoy their stolen item. While some shoplifters are adept at removing regular security tags, with ink tags, they won’t be able to avoid the explosion of permanent ink. This creates an additional deterrent for prospective thieves.

Thieves can be hard to spot, but easy to deter with exploding ink tags.Thieves can be hard to spot, but easy to deter with exploding ink tags.

If a thief attempts to remove an ink tag in your store, that person will literally be caught red-handed. And if they make it out, it’ll be with an item that can neither be used nor resold. By heightening the chance of capture and denying all benefits, exploding ink tags reduce retail theft to a dangerous practice that lacks any reward. The technology has been effective for a long time. Back in 1996, for example, a survey of 14 stores that introduced ink tags found that these establishments experienced a 14 percent reduction in industry shortages after the incorporation of the ink tags.

Here at CONTROLTEK’s Retail Security Solutions division, we offer an ink tag that serves as the best line of defense for your store’s merchandise:

  • InkGuard ink tag: The InkGuard offers visual deterrence like no other and is available in AM and RF technologies. This ink tag works for any of your apparel items.

When it comes to defending your merchandise in the summer months, loss prevention experts know that a passive approach won’t cut it. The solution to the summer shoplifting boom is to confront the problem head-on, with a theft prevention solution that is explosively effective.

5 tips to prevent the habitual shoplifter from making off with your merchandise

Shoplifting is a crime, but for many, it's also a compulsion and an addiction. As the Mayo Clinic points out, kleptomania is an impulse control disorder. It causes people not only to steal, but to continue doing it. For retailers, this kind of person is a major headache. 

As loss prevention professionals know, one of the main problems with habitual shoplifters isn't just that they steal frequently, but that they're very good at getting away with it. A shoplifter who steals out of habit is someone who's spent time learning to evade store security measures. According to industry statistics, the habitual shoplifter engages in the criminal act 1.6 times a week. And when you consider that there are 27 million active shoplifters out there, that adds up to a whole lot of business losses. 

"Businesses need to take merchandise protection to the next level."

For retailers and other enterprises, broad security measures won't work in nabbing practiced shoplifters. To deter thieves who steal out of habit, businesses need to take merchandise protection to the next level. Here are five ways to do that:

  1. Rollout RF pedestals: RF pedestals like the i30 Gate use a system of embedded electronics to detect if thieves are taking stolen merchandise out of the store. As a tool, it can be easily integrated into a store's existing network, and its physical presence in a store also provides a strong deterrent for potential thieves.
  2. Put RFID overhead readers in place: A RFID-based solution, overhead readers like the Nedap !D TOP offer retailers continuous visibility into store merchandise for easier tracking. Conveniently, these readers can be mounted on the ceiling, allowing for easier flow of customer traffic.
  3. Defend merchandise with ink tags: Habitual shoplifters are motivated by the idea that they can't get caught. But your store can put a swift end to that by catching them red-handed. Exploding ink tags like the SPITFIRE can help quash a shoplifter's feeling of immunity to capture.
  4. Keep track of inventory with handheld readers: Unfortunately, it's not only outside people who shoplift – employees do it too. This is a problem that's often harder to detect, but better inventory oversight is a good way to prevent this type of internal loss. Handheld readers like Nordic+ and Nordic ID Merlin are an efficient and user-friendly way to keep tabs on inventory.
  5. Retailers should take a hard look at their current loss prevention practices to reduce shrinkage.Retailers should take a hard look at their current loss prevention practices to reduce shrinkage.

    Use inventory software to see everything: Inventory and asset tracking software is a loss prevention professional's best friend. This type of software provides a constant snapshot of the items a store has stocked. With this solution on hand, any inventory discrepancies can be quickly detected and dealt with.

At CONTROLTEK, our goal for the past 40 years has been to provide industry-leading security solutions to a global client base. That's why we're able to offer loss prevention experts like you the tools you need to make your job easier. If there's one partner your business needs to keep habitual shoplifters away, it's us. 

How to safeguard merchandise stored outside

For retailers, summer is great for business, but it can also make for risky business. That's because with the rise in temperatures, many enterprises will display merchandise outside the storefront to entice foot traffic. By showing what you've got on the outside, you drive people inside. But this setup is also lucrative for thieves.

"Making off with an item when it's already outside seems like a decidedly easy task to thieves."

Going inside a store and swiping an item is one thing. In that case, a potential shoplifter has many factors to content with, like security cameras, the watchful eyes of staff members and the challenge of getting past the RF pedestals at the exit. But making off with an item when it's already outside seems decidedly easier. In fact, it appears to be as simple as taking the item and continuing to walk.

Retail loss prevention experts are familiar with crime opportunity theory, which posits, broadly, that "opportunity makes the thief" – i.e. particular circumstances play a huge role in whether or not someone commits a crime. The circumstance that's most desirable to a thief is one with lots of temptation and few potential consequences – such as merchandise displayed unattended in front of a store.

Merchandise can face a higher risk of attack depending on where it's placed in or outside of the store.Merchandise can face a higher risk of attack depending on where it's placed in or outside of the store.

No retailer wants merchandise stored outside to be a source of shrinkage. To solve the problem, stores have to eliminate the sense of opportunity thieves feel when they see products displayed outside. Here's how loss prevention experts can do that:

  • Affix prominently displayed ink tags to every outdoor item: Having clearly visible ink tags on items stored outside is an ideal first step to eliminating the sense of opportunity a prospective thief would feel. An item with an ink tag on it, after all, is no good unless the tag is removed by a special key in the store. Otherwise, you can guarantee an explosion of ink that will ruin the item. Thus, the presence of ink tags present a strong visual deterrent to thieves.
  • Make sure surveillance systems are in place for storefront: Surveillance systems – and the presence of them – are a strong force in combatting crime. When someone planning to shoplift an item outside sees that they're on film, they'll probably think twice. In that regard, it's not a bad idea to have a sign out front – alongside the display merchandise – that says something like, "Smile! You're on camera!"
  • Prioritize inventory management: Inventory oversight should be atop your business' priority list year-round, but most definitely in the summer. When you're displaying items outside, you'll need to make sure every item is accounted for – which means having a comprehensive overview of everything in stock. That's where active inventory control using our RFID Inventory Software comes in handy.

As your store prepares for the summer shopping boom, you'll want to focus on business as much as possible, without having to devote extra time to theft prevention. CONTROLTEK is happy to help.

InkPencil™ Garment Tag Thwarts Shoplifters

Tampering with this security clothing tag breaks its ink canister

Thieves aiming to steal clothing from stores are facing a state-of-the art crime fighter in the battle against retail shoplifting.

The technology comes in the form of a tamper-resistant, anti-theft security tag that releases an ink stain as a deterrent for thieves intending to steal garments.

CONTROLTEK ISS (Inventory Security Solutions) markets their InkPencil™ hard tag that features a strong locking mechanism to prevent it from being removed by just any detacher.

ISS is the ideal source for businesses seeking unique solutions for optimum retail-theft prevention.

The InkPencil is manufactured from high-density ABS plastic – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – for superior durability.

The most important characteristics of ABS are impact resistance and toughness. The lightweight material is widely used in children’s toys, musical instruments and helmets.

Efforts to disable security tags on clothing underscore the ABS advantages of being flame retardant, and both  heat and impact resistant.

The InkPencil is compact in size, has a smooth pin for minimal effects on a garment, and has a built-in ink canister deterrent. It also has superlock strength, is tamper-resistant and is available in two different kinds of alarm frequencies.

Tampering with the InkPencil will cause the ink canister to break, allowing ink to spill onto the garment. This removes the incentive for a thief to steal other garments. Whereas the alarm trigger is still attached to the clothing, a thief is still unable to remove garments from the store. See: /ink-tags/sekura-inkpencil-w-pins/ for more information.