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Reducing shrink

Actively Engaging in Loss Prevention With Forensic Data Analysis

Crest Foods discovers that 'smart surveillance' technology can help
Axis Communications James Stark Headshot

Loss prevention has long been a looming giant in the retail world, but now it’s no longer being shrugged off as the cost of doing business. Retailers everywhere are actively seeking out solutions, because for some, allowing shrinkage, theft and other losses to actively cut into profits year after year is unacceptable – it doesn’t just take money out of the pockets of the retailer; enough loss could also affect the customer.

In the United States alone in 2021, there was an estimated $94.5 billion in losses, increasing more than $4 billion from the year before. Due to this overwhelming number, it’s no wonder that 45% of organizations opted to increase their loss prevention budgets in 2022. This isn’t just about loss prevention, either. While maintaining the bottom line is an important part of operating a business, so is the safety and security of customers and employees. If criminals are allowed to run amok in a store, safety concerns could result in retailers losing patrons.

[Read more: "Kroger Employee Fired After Filming Shoplifters in Action"]

Using Resources More Efficiently

Improving security starts with knowing how to allocate available resources effectively. With a wealth of options available and every vendor saying that its solution is best, retailers have a tough job ahead of them. Some will choose to spend budgets on employee-focused loss prevention strategies – focusing on employee training, hiring staff for the sole purpose of loss prevention or expanding overtime for more frequent inventory checks. However, businesses should also consider technology options for further analysis that can augment these loss prevention elements.

Until recently, loss prevention analysis was described as “a data desert” because of the limited ways to truly track where shrinkage and loss were occurring. Previously, beyond doing inventory checks, retailers struggled to find a way to truly track when, where and why loss occurred. This led many to seriously consider other ways to generate data and strengthen loss prevention programs. Fortunately, with the impressive advancements in smart surveillance technology, the answer to the “data desert” may finally be at hand.

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Crest Foods Smart Surveillance Main Image
Oklahoma independent grocer Crest Foods has has deployed nearly 1,300 cameras throughout its grocery stores.

Real-World Applications

One retailer currently leveraging surveillance technology is Crest Foods, a family-owned business that oversees 10 grocery store locations across Oklahoma. Outdated systems, growing security concerns and a desire to keep costs low for its customers led Crest Foods to finally make the decision to upgrade from analog cameras to a modern smart surveillance camera system.

Today, the retailer has deployed nearly 1,300 cameras throughout its grocery stores. Though that number may seem high for 10 stores, cameras range from multisensor panoramic cameras to mini-dome cameras to 4K bullet cameras. Each camera serves a different type of situation, and without that variety, Crest Foods wouldn’t have access to the types of data needed to accurately conduct forensic analysis. For instance, Crest Foods found that mini-dome cameras are perfect for the limited space in a grocery store aisle, while dynamic-range dome cameras are ideal for a larger warehouse space, and 4K bullet cameras can be deployed in parking lots to catch what’s happening outside of the store. Crest Foods sought to protect not just the merchandise in its stores, but also the perimeter outside each store – protecting customers who are entering and exiting.

Once it deployed this new system, Crest Foods began to see immediate results, including the ability to pinpoint and prosecute credit card and check fraud – a huge source of loss for retailers everywhere. Previously, if fraud was committed, at best the grocer might come up only with an idea of when the crime was committed, based on cash register logs. Now it can take those logs and use the cameras to pinpoint who was checking out at that time and get a clear image of the person’s face to pass along to law enforcement. Beyond that, these cameras allow Crest Foods to track a perpetrator out of the store, and then use parking lot cameras to capture the license plate of the car that they enter, making apprehension that much easier.

Additionally, using cameras, the store’s warehouse management has been able to pinpoint unsafe working habits and environments, and immediately get to the bottom of the issue. The ability to see who’s involved in an incident enables discussions and training to happen right away, ultimately making everyone safer, even if it’s something as small as seeing where ice melt needs to go or scheduling an additional forklift training.

Finally, with strategically placed cameras, Crest Foods has even been able to solve the “grazing” problem of customers taking advantage of produce displays. Though a grape or an apple here or there may sound like something small, across 10 grocery store locations, those grapes add up. With an upgraded camera system, Crest Foods has been able to save its grapes and keep prices low for the customers that it considers family.

About the Author

James Stark

James Stark is retail segment development manager at Axis Communications, a Swedish manufacturer of network cameras, access control, and network audio devices for the physical security and video surveillance industries. A loss prevention executive leader with dynamic experience spearheading cross-functional initiatives by leveraging business data analytics, strategic planning, and specialized systems and tools to optimize security measures, risk management and customer experience, Stark is a subject-matter expert establishing alignment with key stakeholders to transform loss prevention cultures.
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