Shoplifting Solutions You May Not See

ByABC News
May 3, 2002, 2:03 PM

May 6 -- A small sign in the dressing room of J. Crew store in New York City reads in lowercase letters, "our garments have new security sensors. better. smaller. in fact you may not have noticed."

It's not just the warning sign that is unobtrusive. Hardly noticeable is a two inch long, rectangular white fabric tag sewn into the seam of some of the retailers' clothes. That unassuming tag is a new type of security device that will set off alarms if you try to stash that pair of chino shorts into your bag without paying for them.

It's also the latest tool that apparel retailers are using to thwart the scourge of shoplifting.

Shoplifting cost retailers more than $10 billion in 2001 and is the second most important source of inventory shortage retailers face after employee theft, according to the most recent National Retail Security Survey from the University of Florida. The recent arrest of actress Winona Ryder for allegedly shoplifting items at Saks Fifth Avenue highlights the widespread nature of the problem. Not surprisingly, retailers have tried a variety of ways to combat the problem, including surveillance cameras and security personnel patrolling the stores to thwart would-be shoplifters.

Now many clothing and accessory retailers are trying a new approach to make their product more difficult for thieves to steal instead of merely attaching the bulky plastic tags now commonly used, they are putting security devices directly into the product itself, either in the form of a tags or by actually building the detector into the item.

Called source tagging, this method has been used extensively for the past few years by manufacturers of so-called hard goods like CDs or electronics. Now the world of soft goods, like specialty clothing retailers, are adopting the process.

"In the soft goods arena it is relatively new. We're we're seeing more and more adopting this program in the last six to nine months," says Lee Pernice, retail marketing manager with ADT Security Systems, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based security solutions company whose Sensormatic Electronics unit makes the security tags for J. Crew and other retailers.