How to control shoplifting?

The Scenario

In a self-service modern retail, as per reports from experts, the loss from retail shrinkage accounts for 2% of total revenue. Retail shrinkage is a reduction in inventory (physical and book) due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud. The shoplift alone accounts for more than 50% of retail shrinkage.

According to retail experts the most effective anti-shoplifting tools these days are CCTV and the tag-and-alarm systems, better known as electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems. Separately, these are good options. Used together, experts say, they’re almost unbeatable.

RFID EAS Technology: How it works?

The Radio Frequency Identification based Electronic Article Surveillance (RFID EAS) is the most popular technology in EAS system. The advantage of RF EAS system is mature, high availability, and cost effective. It is independent of the point of sale and inventory software.

EAS system consists of
  • Electronic Sensors (AKA detector, eas gate etc)
  • Deactivator System (AKA detacher, deactivator etc) and
  • Label or Tag. (AKA hard tag, soft tag, reusable tags etc)

An EAS tag or label is attached to an item at the stock in.  At the point of sale the tag is deactivated for the item sold, so that it will not flag the alarm while passing from the gate.
Hard Tag: If the tag is a hard, reusable tag, a detacher is used to remove it when a customer purchases the item it’s attached to.
Soft Tag: If it’s a disposable, paper tag, it can be deactivated by swiping it over a pad or with a handheld scanner that “tells” the tag it’s been authorized to leave the store.
Electronic Sensor that are located at store exits, a transmitter sends a unique signal at certain frequencies to a receiver, which creates a “surveillance area” at a store exit, when a product with an active label or hard tag is moved past a sensor, the sensor sets off an alarm. If the item has not been deactivated or detached by the clerk, when it is carried through the gates, an alarm will sound.
A Detacher is used to remove re-usable hard tags. The type of detacher used will depend on the type of tag. There is a variety of detachers available with the majority using powerful magnets. Any store that uses an anti-shoplifting system and has a detacher should take care to have it secured so it cannot be removed.

How it looks like?


The Radio Frequency Identification based Electronic Article Surveillance (RFID EAS)

System Component for RFID EAS

Known Issues


  • Accuracy: The use of EAS systems does not completely eliminate shoplifting. However, experts say, theft can be reduced by 60 percent or more when a reliable system is used. Even when a shoplifter manages to leave the store with a tagged item, the tag still must be removed, something that is not so easy.
  • False Alarm: A major concern with these systems is when false alarms occur. A false alarm (or false positive) is when the alarms go off when a person passes through the gate without having stolen any merchandise. This most often is due to tags on merchandise not being properly deactivated but other factors such as bringing in items from other stores, even keyrings can set off the alarm
  • Tag orientation is relative to the detection loops. This shortcoming is solved by using multiple coils or by placing them in another arrangement such as a figure-of-eight. Sensitivity will still be orientation-dependent but detection will be possible at all orientations.
  • Shielding:  Most systems can be compromised by placing the tagged goods in a bag lined with aluminium foil. The booster bag will act as a Faraday cage, shielding the tags from the antennas. Although the amount of shielding required depends on the system, its sensitivity, the distance and orientation of the tags with relative to its antennas, total enclosure of tags is not strictly necessary. Indeed, some shoplifters use clothes lined with aluminium foil. The shielding technique is well-known amongst shoplifters and store owners. To deter the use of booster bags, some stores have add-on metal detector systems which sense metallic surfaces.
  • Jamming: Like most systems that rely on transmission of electromagnetic signals through a hostile medium, EAS sensors can be rendered inoperative by jamming. Although jamming is easy to perform, using easy-to-build transmitters, it is also easy to detect. A simple firmware upgrade should be adequate for modern DSP-based EAS systems to detect jamming. Nevertheless, the vast majority of EAS systems do not currently detect jamming.
  • Occasional v/s informed shoplifters: EAS systems provide an effective prevention good check against casual theft. The occasional shoplifter, not being familiar with these systems and their mode of operation, will either get caught by them, or will refrain from stealing, but informed shoplifters can in many cases remove or deactivate tags. However they may miss some tags or may be unable to remove or deactivate all of them, especially if concealed or embedded tags are used. (As a service to retailers, some manufacturers embed security tags in the packaging of their products, or even inside the product itself.) Ink-releasing tags known as benefit denial tags may reduce the rate of successful tag removal. Also, deactivating or detaching tags may be spotted by the shop staff.