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Going to market.

Health and beauty care products, cigarettes, meat, cheese, and expensive wine may be hot items for professional shoplifters, but not for those venturing into Food Lion stores. The company recently installed Aisle Keepers, an electronic article surveillance (EAS) system in a number of its stores.

"Experience shows that easy-to-conceal merchandise, such as health and beauty care items, meat, and cigarettes, are favorite targets of thieves. Sensormatic's Aisle Keeper significantly reduces our losses from shoplifting," says Clayton Edwards, Food Lion's loss prevention director. According to Edwards, the system's payback, the period of time it takes the company to recoup its investment, is very favorable.

Food Lion, a 1,012-store chain based in Salisbury, North Carolina, tested the EAS system for two years before purchasing it. While the system is more expensive than others on the market, Edwards says it has a lower false alarm rate, a more discrete tag, and detection pedestals that are more aesthetically pleasing to customers than others on the market.

The system uses clear, thin labels, which are placed on selected store merchandise at the point of manufacture or distribution. The labels are almost invisible and contain a hair-like electronic fiber. The labels remain on the merchandise; store clerks do not remove them at the point of purchase as is done with other antishoplifting devices. The fiber remains active, or live, even after it has been scanned and placed in the customer's bag by the cashier. The customer then passes between the pedestals, collects his or her bags from the clerk, and exits the store.

"It's similar to the passaround system you find at video stores," explains Lou Chiera, corporate communications director of Sensormatic. "The chances of the items coming back into the store are very slim," he continues, because "99.9 percent of the packaging is thrown out once the customer takes the item home." If tagged merchandise is carried between the Aisle Keeper pedestals in the checkout aisle, an alarm sounds, alerting store personnel. An internal microprocessor system helps eliminate the inconvenience of experiencing any false alarms. The technology is only sold to food markets, and each store operates the new tags at a different frequency. Chiera adds that this passaround system is better than individually deactivating each tag, which is more apt to result in the customer experiencing false alarms.

At this time, Food Lion will use up to nine Aisle Keeper systems in fifty stores to protect the checkout lanes. During the next two years, it plans on installing the systems in 300 stores. Edwards says that the company is leaving it up to the discretion of individual store managers whether to place the labels on merchandise that is not frequently targeted by shoplifters.

While shopping for an acceptable EAS system, Food Lion's loss prevention team questioned professional shoplifters who were in jail for shoplifting. "We asked them what was the primary deterrent to shoplifting in a store," explains Edwards. "They said that they hated those damn beepers" that went off when an item passed through an EAS system.

Honest customers do not seem to be deterred from shopping at stores that have obvious detection systems set up. "They find it so common in stores now, so it's not really a big deal. People have come to expect it," Edwards concludes.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Security Works; Food Lion Inc.'s security systems
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1993
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