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Pathmark Goes to Bottom of Basket to Curb Loss

CARTERET, N.J. -- Pathmark Stores, Inc. here said yesterday that it is testing a new visual scanning solution that runs on advanced visual pattern recognition software, to help reduce losses tied to items at the bottom of shopping carts that can get overlooked by cashiers. The pilot includes three stores, and will continue through the summer, the chain said.

Pathmark's latest loss prevention program is based on technology called LaneHawk, created by Evolution Robotics, based in Pasadena, Calif. "We believe that LaneHawk will help address an area of shrink that is usually controlled through human observation," Pathmark spokesman Rich Savner told Progressive Grocer. "This technology will remove the onus of monitoring the bottom of the basket from the cashier, and assist each store in capturing potentially lost sales."

Pathmark is particularly vulnerable to such lost sales; one of the chain's trademarks is its extensive offering of larger sizes and bulk packages, which contributes to bottom-of-basket (BOB) losses when shoppers either forget to remove the items at checkout, or purposely try to shoplift them.

Savner noted that while the technology isn't meant to completely obviate the cashier's responsibility, it could certainly help transactions move more quickly. If the pilot is successful, the chain will consider expanding LaneHawk to more stores, Savner said. "We think the potential savings are worth investigating."

Evolution Robotics' data suggests that BOB loss accounts for 10 percent to 20 percent of total store shrink.

"Reducing BOB loss is a challenge grocery retailers have tried to address for years, with very mixed results," said Bob Oberosler, s.v.p. of operations for Pathmark, in a statement. "All of the efforts to date have depended on cashiers consistently checking the bottom of customers' carts and manually scanning those items, which just doesn't happen all the time. LaneHawk is the first product we have seen that can actually help ring those items up [automatically] as part of the transaction."

The key to LaneHawk's technology is its advanced visual pattern recognition (ViPRTM) software, which was developed initially for the robotics industry. "With ViPR, LaneHawk is able to identify BOB items without seeing the bar code," said Michael McWilliams, v.p. of sales of Evolution Robotics' Retail Solutions Group.

"This makes it possible to integrate LaneHawk with a retailer's point of sale system, and include BOB items as part of the transaction," noted Jeff Sakaguchi, v.p. and g.m. of the Retail Solutions Group. "That means BOB items are paid for before they are lost, without relying on cashiers to manually scan every BOB item."
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