Loss prevention in retail: theft is not a faceless crime

Author: Ye-Un Lee Strasburger, Business Development Manager, Panasonic Germany

 

Shrinkage is an all-too familiar issue for bricks-and-mortar retailers. It affects large chains and small independent stores alike. And the problem seems to be getting worse. Take, for example, trends in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the US.

 

A costly problem

According to the British Retail Consortium’s 2017 annual retail crime survey, the total direct financial cost of all retail crime in the UK has risen year-on-year by six per cent – to a staggering 700 million pounds. In France, a shocking 75 per cent of retailers stated they have been victims of shoplifting – often costing the shops up to five per cent of their turnover.

Total shrinkage cost German stores 3.5 billion euros in the past year, with customer theft accounting for 2.28 billion. Things are not any better across the pond. US shops lose nearly 50 billion dollars annually to theft – with shoplifting accounting for over a third.

Fighting back

Understandingly, bricks-and-mortar retailers are investing time and big money in combating this problem. Employees are being trained to spot suspicious behaviour. Store layouts are being modified to hinder shoplifters – for instance, placing high-risk items together with assigned staff nearby, and installing mirrors in blind spots.

Then there are the more high-tech measures. These include electronic article surveillance tagging and, of course, cameras. As an extension of the latter, some retailers are adding facial recognition solutions to their arsenal.

Face-to-face

Facial recognition is already been leveraged in a variety of areas – from unlocking smartphones to improving the immigration process in airports , to enhancing the spectator experience at sporting events. Many retailers are harnessing video analytics to better understand their customers, capturing data on age, gender, dwell time and more. Against this background, the use of this technology for loss protection should not really come as a surprise.

For instance, it can support retailers by matching images of known offenders with people currently in the shop. Moreover, it can enable management to proactively allocate security and staff to intervene before a theft occurs. Panasonic’s FacePro solution can link to a retailers’ “known person” list in real time. It checks each individual entering the store and sends instant alerts to sales assistants and security staff. This is both cost-effective and efficient as it eliminates the need for a human to continuously monitor surveillance footage. Many customers have already reported a significant decrease in their losses. A video illustrating how this innovative technology works can be found here.

All solutions not created equal

At the same time, facial recognition has received considerable flak. And there have certainly been a number of horror stories. However, Panasonic FacePro has proven to be exceptionally accurate. The solution achieved the highest level of facial recognition in the world in a benchmark test conducted by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2017. The test comprised eight challenges addressing verification, identification, detection, clustering and processing of crowded images. It was carried out with a pool of 67,000 face images, 700 face videos, and 10,000 non-face images. Panasonic’s algorithm came out top for cumulative match characteristic – the fraction of hits above a certain threshold of accuracy.

Moreover, FacePro’s deep learning facial recognition system was put through its paces at the 2018 IFSEC international event, the largest security exhibition in Europe. Attendees’ faces were registered within the system – some using 10-year-old photographs.  Throughout the three-day event, with some 1,500 attempts, there was not a single mismatch – despite some individuals deliberately disguising themselves with items such as sunglasses and wigs.

A holistic approach to loss protection

So, there is no catch-all method when it comes to loss prevention. But there are concrete steps and reliable technologies that retailers can combine to safeguard their valuable stock.

For additional information on Panasonic’s FacePro solution please visit: https://business.panasonic.co.uk/solutions/business-intelligent-video-systems-for-retail