Visible Source Tagging: a new trend in product security

Source Tagging – which places EAS labels on products at the point of manufacture – has long been heralded as a positive development by the packaging industry. Not only does it save retailers a considerable amount in labour costs but thanks to strict pre-agreed security label application guidelines, it also helps meet packaging and labelling regulations, protects brand presentation and enhances the customer shopping experience.   

Since its introduction into retailing the mid-90s, source-tagging has been proven to reduce shrinkage by as much as 50%, at the same time as increasing sales by between 75% and 100% by ensuring the merchandise is available, on full open display to potential customers who can interact with it while they consider their purchase. Whilst in the past, the trend has been towards invisible or ‘hidden’ labelling which does not give potential thieves any indication on whether the merchandise is protected or not, a new trend is emerging for Visible Source Tagging.

Visible Source Tagging involves retailers flagging their use of an anti-theft device to potential thieves using a small, but visible EAS label on merchandise packaging to signal to shoppers that it is protected with an anti-theft label, therefore acting as a visible deterrent.

The 2014 National Source Tagging Symposium in the USA, hosted by CVS Caremark Corp, discussed the various benefits of Visible Source Tagging. One particular standard discussed was the use of clear (i.e. transparent) EAS labels to provide a visual deterrent to potential shoplifters while protecting the brand integrity of the merchandise.

Retailers’ studies have proved that clear labels, which do not interfere with existing retail packaging, branding, barcodes or product information, significantly reduce pilferage. Research conducted with a Fortune 500 retailer found that 90% of store managers believe that external clear labels are effective at deterring theft, while 68% believe that shoppers prefer to see visible product protection. In that respect, some RF EAS labels have a verified black lock logo so the merchandise shows a strong visual anti theft deterrent.

At the Symposium, food and drug retailers also discussed the value of visible labels in deterring and apprehending the growing incidence of organised retail crime to allow products to be more easily tracked and identified when resold to wholesalers, markets and online auctions. If the clear RF label has the retailer’s logo as well as the store number, this indeed facilitates the tracking of stolen merchandise.

Industry research amongst large retailers, CPGs and suppliers shows that most consumers are sympathetic to the need for retailers to secure products in store and tend to value visible security – believing that stores with high theft levels will compensate by raising prices, therefore more visible security is viewed as better value-for-money. Additionally most consumers believe it is important for a security system to incorporate a preventative and dissuasive element rather than simply punitive.

Visible Source Tagging is proving popular – and successful – amongst global retailers. While Source Tagging itself provides the first line of defence and detection against shoplifting, Visible Source Tagging is seen as providing even greater deterrence over hidden labels.  As a result, retailers are reaping the benefits from greater merchandise availability, decreased shrinkage and therefore increased sales.