Loss prevention from shoplifting in retail stores has, until recently, depended primarily on personnel and vigilance. From the smallest owner-operated establishments to the largest retail chains, shoplifters and employees have had only to avoid the visual detection of store personnel. Retailers have tried various combinations of uniformed security guards and nonuniformed personnel with mixed results. The widespread adoption of closed-circuit TV (CCTV) allows fewer personnel to monitor a larger sample of the store, but the basic tools are visual detection and questioning.
The development of low-cost radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and detectors added a new level of external loss detection for high value products. While the RFID industry predicted that widespread adoption of the technology in large markets like the retail industry would make it affordable for lower-cost items, the penetration remains limited today. Another limiting factor of RFID loss prevention is that the detection occurs only as the merchandise and customers exit the store. To protect the safety of their employees, many retailers are reluctant to direct employees to follow customers outside their stores.
Because of the rising cost of labor and the pressure from online retailers, store operators are reviewing staffing levels for dedicated loss prevention activity. The 2017 National Retail Security Survey found that most survey participants are experiencing flat or declining loss prevention budgets, with 8 percent of respondents reporting decreases of 20 percent or more. The retail industry must invest in new methods that use more technology and require less labor for reducing internal and external losses.
Loss prevention at SCO lanes has traditionally been implemented by using scales. This technology attempts to mitigate loss by detecting the mismatch between the expected weight of the item on the sensor and the actual weight of the item. However, these systems have a high rate of false positive results. That is, the system can confuse legitimate buying as potential theft and falsely raise an alarm. This action typically locks the register and requires assistance from an employee. False positive results are the main problem with traditional anti-theft approaches at SCO lanes because they increase operational overhead while frustrating and annoying customers. The industry has spent years trying to address these false positive results with scales but has been largely unsuccessful. Many retail stores have opted to disable the scale-based detection method in their current machines or not purchase this option with new machines. An anti-theft system that can both mitigate inventory loss and provide less false positives is most desirable to the industry now.