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Quality EAS systems expand market use.

ELECTRONIC ARTICLE SURVEILLANCE (EAS) systems are increasingly cost-effective against pilferage in the retail industry. Growth of the industry is one reason. The increase in pilferage is another. But a change in the technology and a different approach to marketing are now expanding the use of EAS.

EAS used to be expensive to buy and costly to maintain. The embarrassment and possible liability generated by each false alarm meant that having a less-than-superlative system was worse than having no system at all. So the game plan for reputable EAS manufacturers was to market top-quality systems at top-drawer prices to those few retailers who could afford a good system.

Today, good systems are inexpensive enough to be practical for small, independent retailers, too. And some vendors are pursuing that market with first-rate offerings.

J.D. Store Equipment is a Los Angeles store fixture designer and manufacturer that has installed EAS in thousands of music and video stores. As company president John Maioriello points out, EAS is no quick-fix panacea but rather a link in the security chain.

Says Maioriello, "The single most important deterrent [to shoplifting] is that clerks must acknowledge the customer coming in the store. A visible security device is a beaming light to all potential thieves to tell them you are not a loose operation, but it is a false god if you expect it to do the whole job of providing security for you."

That's why Maioriello likes to build a six-inch platform behind the counter of a sound or video store. He knows that the average sound or video store employee is female, and he knows that the average American female stands 62 inches tall. The platform he installs improves her surveillance advantage to 68 inches. Then he adds EAS.

The EAS system that J. D. Store Equipment markets is nontraditional in several ways but typical of a new generation of EAS. The manufacturer sells through a network of dealers and distributors. It targets chain franchises, strip mall specialty retailers, and other small retail businesses with a full-featured EAS product priced less than larger vendors charge.

The system consists of two vertical metal loops that fasten to a floor plate. The parts can be assembled, wired, and plugged into standard 110 volt AC power in about 10 minutes without any special knowledge or tools.

Radio frequency (RF) noise or interference with other equipment in a store is always a potential problem with EAS systems, but Maioriello points out that his system does not have to be anchored to the floor.

Maioriello's surprise was the RF detector technology, which he says generates fewer false alarms than magnetic EAS systems. More important, however, is the possibility that magnetic transmissions can affect computers, potentially causing a store's nearby cash register computer to lose information. This has not been a problem with EAS systems that rely on RF.

Of course, no technology is foolproof. One major North American retail chain has been phasing in this system in place of a leading competitor. The chain's director of loss prevention points out correctly that any strong radio signal, such as the output from a nearby commercial radio station or a police radio transmitter, can affect an RF system. Even so, he says none of the two dozen systems installed so far has suffered false alarms.

He listed features of the system that can serve as a useful checklist for anyone considering these systems. These include the following:

* Installation of older systems is a handyman's job. Older generation systems have no user-tunable electronics; they require a skilled service technician and special equipment for setup. This retailer estimates a system like his can be set up for half the cost of some other systems.

* The system is more sensitive than others. Using a competing design, the retailer needed two antennas plus a third, central antenna to cover the double, three-foot-wide doors of its stores. The central antenna could inhibit customer traffic and might even run afoul of fire and safety access codes, the retailer pointed out. But the new system can cover both doors with only two antennas because of its range.

* The improved technical design should lead to fewer service calls. This retailer currently pays $150 to $300 per service call and budgets more than $100,000 a year for repairs. It expects the cost for the new system to be a fraction of that.

* Repairs should be simpler and easier. The vendor sends a replacement part by overnight mail and store personnel can install the replacement part themselves with on-the-phone help from the manufacturer's shop.

* The system is aesthetically unobtrusive and pleasing to the eye.

Finally, because such systems may be more sensitive, they can operate with greater distances between their antennas. If a retailer takes full advantage of this feature, it may not need to move to larger EAS product tags.

Modern portable RF EAS systems can offer all the advantages of up-to-the minute electronics design. Low cost systems are now available that are highly reliable and easy to install. They are low maintenance, with excellent sensitivity and have almost no problems from false alarms.

Donald R. Reath is senior vice president for Richard Yeager Associates Inc., a marketing communications firm in Moorestown, NJ.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Retail Security; electronic article surveillance
Author:Reath, Donald R.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Words:872
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