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The different types of security and anti-theft tags

Gianni Linssen
Written by
Gianni Linssen
/ Published on
July 13, 2023
type of retail security tag

In the world of retail and security technology, security and anti-theft tags play acrucial role. These tags are designed to help retailers protect their inventory from theft and unauthorized use. There are various types of security tags available in the market, each with its own unique features and benefits. In this blog, we will explore some of the different types of security and anti-theft tags commonly used in the retail industry.

History and innovations in the different types of security tags

The humble security tag, initially developed in 1964, has undergone significant advancements over the years. In the 1980s, adhesive security labels were added to the loss prevention arsenal, providing an alternative to hard tags. The continual advancements in technology have led to the development of security tags that are more reliable, harder to detach and available in different strengths and designs for specific purposes. Similarly, security labels have evolved to feature a smaller footprint, greater detection capabilities and comein different types that are suited to a wide variety of high-volume products.The ongoing innovations in tag and label technology have made them an essential part of retail loss prevention strategies. From their beginnings to the present day, the evolution of security tags and labels demonstrates the retail industry's commitment to tackling theft and improving security.

Types of security tags

There are many different types of security tags available, all serving the same purpose: to keep the product from being stolen. We have identified the 6 main retail types of security tags. Within these 6 types of security tags, there arevariations available.

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tags

EAS tags are one of the most widely used types of security tags in retail. These tags utilise a technology that triggers an alarm when an item with the tag passes through an EAS detection system located at the store's exit. EAS tags can be attached to various items such as clothing, accessories, and electronic devices.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags

RFID tags use radio frequency signals to track and identify tagged items. They consist of a microchip and an antenna, allowing for wireless communication with RFID readers. RFID tags are commonly used in inventory management as they provide real-time tracking and monitoring capabilities. They can also be integrated with EAS technology for enhanced security.

Benefit denial tags

Benefit denial tags, including the well-known ink tag, function by effectively destroying stolen merchandise if not removed properly. This kind of tag, as the name suggests, denies the benefit of theft to the would-be thief. The ink tag releases permanent ink when an unauthorised person attempts to remove it. This ink renders the item useless and unsellable.

Apart from ink tags, there are other types of benefit denial tags that destroy the stolen goods in different ways. For instance, some of these tags have the capacity to destroy DVDs and CDs if they are tampered with. Others are equipped with a super-strong adhesive that could ruin the appearance of the stolen item. Additionally, there are special tags designed for bottles that can only be removed using a specific key. This ensures that the content of the bottle remains secure. Some retailers, for an extra layer of protection, prefer to use benefit denial tags in conjunction with EAS security tags. The use of benefit denial tags in retail security represents a strong deterrent against potential theft.

Acoustic Magnetic tags

Acoustic Magnetic (AM) tags are also widely used in retail stores and libraries. They consist of a strip of ferromagnetic material that resonates at a specific frequency when exposed to an electromagnetic field. If an item with an AM tag is taken past the store's exit without being deactivated, an alarm is triggered. An example of an AM tag is an optical tag, which is added to eyewear. This type of tag is specifically designed to allow customers to try eyewear on without having to remove the tag. AM tags are known for the irreliability and effectiveness in preventing theft.

Cable lock tags

Cable lock tags provide an additional layer of security for high-value items such as laptops, cameras, and electronic devices. These tags feature a strong, retractable steel cable that is looped around the item and locked in place. The cable cannot be removed without the appropriate key or combination, preventing unauthorized removal of the tagged item.

Visual Tags

Unlike EAS tags or benefit denial tags, visual tags serve as a deterrent purely basedon their visibility. These retail types of security tags do not have a transmitter inside the casing and hence cannot communicate with an antenna or alert staff in case of theft. However, they are designed to be prominent and obvious, intending to discourage potential thieves just by their presence. The visual deterrent effect of these tags is their primary function. Visual tags are manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different items, providing a level of versatility that can be tailored to a wide range of merchandise. Since they don not require the installation of an EAS security system, visual tags represent a cost-effective theft prevention solution for smaller retailers. This makes them an attractive option for businesses looking to balance effective theft prevention with low operational costs.

Lanyards and labels

A more budget-friendly option in the anti-theft technology landscape are lanyards and labels. These elements also require store personnel to deactivate them, similar to other types of security tags, to prevent the triggering of an alarm. However, unlike other security tags, labels have the disadvantage of being single-use. Once removed, they cannot be reused. Lanyards, on the other hand, can be reused across different items. The choice between labels and lanyards often depends on the nature of the product being protected. Retailers frequently place them on items made of delicate fabric, where other types of security tags could cause damage. Despite their simplicity, lanyards and labels are effective tools in deterring theft, providing a level of security that does not compromise the integrity of the merchandise.


Retail types of security tags

Retail types of security tags are not always separate from the packaging of the product. Professional clamshell packaging, for example, is a great way to protect your product without having to add a separate tag. The reason for this is that the packaging has a built-in theft security. Clamshell packaging is made up of a full plastic blister with an insert card. Another benefit of this type of packaging is that it can be tailor-made to fit your product perfectly.This ensures both an appealing and a theft-secure packaging design. In the current era, the choice between plastic or cardboard material is less of a concern, as recycled content is becoming the norm in packaging. So, protect your product now and make sure your packaging is theft-secure.

How retail types of security tags work for staff

The removal of security tags is a crucial process that requires specialised tools and trained personnel. When retailers invest in security tags, they also receive the necessary equipment and tools for their safe removal. The improper or unauthorised removal of security tags can lead to damaged merchandise and financial losses. Therefore, it is essential to train the store staff on the correct procedures for removing security tags. This training helps to ensure that the tags are removed without damaging the items they are attached to.

If a customer finds a security tag still attached to their purchased item, the best course of action is to return to the store and ask the personnel to remove it. Attempting to remove the tag at home using DIY methods can lead to irreversible damage to the item, as these tags are designed to be removed using specific technology and tools. It is a reminder that the effectiveness of security tags extends beyond their initial implementation, demanding careful handling during removal to prevent harm to both the merchandise and the customer experience.

Smart keys

A relatively recent addition to retail loss prevention is the smart key. This innovative tool can be programmed to open one or multiple locks, depending on the staff member’s level of access. It provides retailers with a means to better secure their stock and improve the customer experience and efficiency.The use of smart keys not only saves the time and hassle of finding the right key to fit a lock, but also offers valuable insights into retail analytics by tracking what cabinet or locked display has been accessed by a staff member. This functionality can help prevent employee theft by keeping a record of each access event. The implementation of smart keys, therefore, represents a significant step forward in both retail security and operational efficiency.

Staff training and EAS system maintenance

The effectiveness of an Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) system heavily relies on its proper functioning and the understanding of staff. Training the store staff on how the EAS system functions, how to handle 'no go' zones around the antenna and how to deal with tag pollution can significantly enhance the fight against shoplifting. Staff should be well informed about the potential causes of interference with the functioning of the antenna, including tagged merchandise,EAS labels, or even foil decorations.

Regular checks on the EAS antenna to ensure that the power is switched on, the antenna is working, and the label deactivators are functioning correctly, is crucial to maintain the system's effectiveness. Staff should also be trained to understand the implications of tag pollution, which occurs when a tag not detached at another store enters theirs. A well-functioning EAS system combined with trained staff can create a strong deterrent to potential thieves, offering a robust layer of protection to the store's merchandise.

Security tag and label types, sizes, and strengths

Security tags and labels come in different types, sizes, and strengths to cater to a wide variety of products. Security tags are available in various magnetic strengths, including standard, super strength, hyper-strength, and multi-polar.The strength of a security tag impacts how easy it is for shoplifters to force the tag apart. Super strength is the minimum tag strength recommended, with strengths above that offering additional security.

Security tags also come in different sizes and shapes, including circular, pencil-shaped, and square, and the size of the pinhead that secures a tag to a product can affect the difficulty of removing it. Security labels, like tags,come in either RF or AM frequencies. RF labels are flat and can be printed on, while AM labels have a slightly raised profile and are better suited to products with metal or foil in them. Thus, the type, size, and strength of security tags and labels play a critical role in loss prevention, offering a customizable solution to protect a variety of products.

Positioning of security tags and labels

The positioning of security tags and labels on products is a priority for both the aesthetic presentation of merchandise and the ease of detaching tags and deactivating labels at the point of sale. The tags should be positioned so as not to interfere with the customer’s experience of the product. Uniform positioning across similar products allows for a neat in-store presentation and enables sales associates to quickly locate and detach them. For example, tags might be positioned on the rear waistband of denim jeans or the back of shirts or blouses, just below the collar. Similarly, labels should be positioned near the product barcode, allowing for swift deactivation at the point of sale when the item is scanned. The strategic positioning of security tags and labels can thus enhance the shopping experience while ensuring effective loss prevention.

By implementing (a combination of) these different types of security tags and special packaging, a comprehensive security system can be created that helps minimise losses and safeguard valuable inventory. Remember, investing in the right security tags is a proactive approach towards ensuring a safe shopping environment. Good luck!

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