The Ultimate Guide to Retail Security Systems

The Ultimate Guide to Retail Security Systems

Shoplifting is the most commonly recognized security problem in retail. Crime statistics indicate there were 382,000 incidents of shoplifting in 2018 and there has been a steady rise in the number since 2013.

Most thefts occur during busy shopping days and hours. Shop staff are usually too busy serving the honest customers to recognize and deter the shoplifter.

So, how can retail spaces improve their security to prevent potential theft and break-ins?


Installing a retail store security device, like a security camera system, can help to prevent retail store losses. A security camera system will help to cut down on theft and the negative financial impact this has on businesses. If those who are intent on stealing from your shop spot a security camera, they will be much less inclined to proceed with shoplifting. In the event that a thief does proceed to steal any stock, there will be footage of them.

Security cameras can also be used to improve the layout and design of the shop. The footage can be assessed to see the patterns that shoppers make when they are in your store and modify your floor plan accordingly.


An Internet protocol camera, or IP camera, is a type of digital video camera commonly employed for surveillance which unlike analogue closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, can send and receive data via a computer network and the Internet.

With a security IP camera, there is constant surveillance of the shop, even when there isn’t anyone there. This means that the shop will be monitored even after it is closed, and when the owner is miles away. Retail shops are often targeted by thieves after working hours, as thieves often assume that there will be less of a chance that they will be caught. With a night vision security camera in place, there is constant surveillance of the shop, even during the hours when it isn’t open. If criminal activity is detected, the authorities will be notified, and they will be able to take action.

The presence of video surveillance cameras will also deter internal theft, preventing employees from stealing from the shop. Security cameras can also capture visual evidence of any staff members who may be stealing from the shop.

Having a high-quality video surveillance system with proper coverage means that any time an incident or loss occurs, a small business owner can go back and find it on the video and identify exactly what happened.

Video systems can also be valuable from a liability perspective. Slip-and-fall claims are not uncommon, but in many cases,  they turn out to be false. Thankfully, cameras can provide video that will support or refute a claim. Without video, such incidents could be costly for small businesses.

What’s important to note is that for the system to be successful, the right camera has to be installed for the right environment. For instance, a camera positioned at the back door of a business has to have wide dynamic range to deal with changing light levels throughout the day. A camera used to monitor transactions must offer high enough resolution to identify note denominations. For advice on IPCCTV contact our expert team here at APE Fire and Security to learn more.

Electronic Article Surveillance

Electronic article surveillance is another technology for preventing shoplifting from retail stores.

Special tags are fixed to merchandise which are removed or deactivated by the shop assistants when the item is properly bought or checked out.

Electro-Magnetic Systems

In the electro-magnetic system, tags are made of a strip of amorphous metal which has a very low magnetic saturation value. Except for permanent tags, this strip is also lined with a strip of ferromagnetic material with a moderate coercive field.

This system is suitable for items in libraries since the tags can be deactivated when items are borrowed and re-activated upon return. It is also suitable for merchandise in retail shops, due to the small size and very low cost of the tags.

Radio Frequency (RF and RFID) Tags

Anti-shoplifting alarms use a technology called RF (radio-frequency). It involves a transmitter and receiver at the doorway. In bookstores and libraries very discreet “soft tags,” can be found stuck to one of the inside pages. In record stores, the plastic shrink-wrap may have an RF tag stuck onto it, or CDs may be locked into large plastic cases with RF tags built into them. In clothes shops, there is typically a “hard tag” bolted onto each item with a sharp metal spike. Some of these tags are cleverly concealed so you can’t spot them while others are deliberately very obvious and easy to see to deter potential shoplifters. The gates on the doorway are another very visible deterrent to shoplifters.

If you walk through the doorway without paying for something, the radio waves from the transmitter in on one of the door gates are picked up by the coiled metal antenna in the label. This generates a tiny electrical current that makes the label transmit a new radio signal of its own at a very specific frequency. The receiver picks up the radio signal that the tag transmits and sounds the alarm. When an item is checked-out correctly the process destroys or deactivates the electronic components in the RF label, so they no longer pick up or transmit a signal when you walk through the gates and the alarm does not sound.

Anti-Tag Methods

Tag systems can provide a deterrent against casual theft. The occasional shoplifter, not being familiar with these systems and their mode of operation, will either get caught by them, or preferably, will be dissuaded from attempting any theft in the first place.

Informed shoplifters are conscious of how tags can be removed or deactivated. A common method of defeating RF tags is the use of so-called (and illegal) booster bags. These are typically large paper bags that have been lined with multiple layers of aluminium foil to effectively shield the RF label from detection.

However, they may miss some tags or be unable to remove or deactivate all of them, especially if concealed or integrated tags are used. As a service to retailers, many manufacturers integrate security tags in the packaging of their products, or even inside the product itself.

Hard tags, typically used for clothing or ink tags, known as benefit denial tags, may reduce the rate of tag manipulation. Also, deactivating or detaching tags may be spotted by the shop staff.

Intruder Alarm Systems

Another way to protect retail stock is a security alarm system. The majority of security alarm systems have specifically placed sensors that can be triggered when somebody is close enough to them either by sensing their movement or body heat. Once the alarm goes off the local police can be alerted of a potential break-in. They will contact the owner to see if they are the cause of the alarm and if not, they will send their personnel to check things out. Protection is available 24 hours a day to help keep stock safe.

Learn More with APE Fire and Security

Before starting a retail business, it is important to consider how best to protect stock from potential shoplifters and dishonest employees. It is likely that in order to deter the most determined criminals the security system will need to be multi-faceted with a CCTV system, article tagging and security alarms.

The specifics of the types of system employed will depend on the nature of the stock, the design of the shop and the available budget. However, corner cutting could be an expensive mistake in the long run.

To learn more, get in touch with us here at APE Fire and Security today.

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