The Perfect Fit
Des Moines store owner migrates from analog to VSaaS to in-house IP to reduce theft
- By Mary Wilbur
- Jun 04, 2012
The business proposition of Plato’s Closet, a popular consignment
store chain, differs from those of upscale department
stores and big box retail outlets.
At Plato’s Closet, shoppers bring in gently used brand-name
clothing and accessories, which the store’s buyer makes an offer on
based on the items’ style, condition, brand and the store’s current
Once the buyer and seller agree on a price, the seller can walk
out of the store with some extra cash or shop for a hot new outfit.
Plato’s Closet prides itself on providing a large selection of trendy
designer styles, as well as the basics. The items the store buys from
the seller are generally things that have been stocked in the retail
stores within the past 12 to 18 months or are styles currently being
sold at the mall.
In short, it’s a cash-heavy business, and video surveillance details
are crucial on many fronts.
The Clothes Rack
Plato’s Closet is a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Winmark Corp.,
but each store is owned by a franchisee, who bargains for the store’s
inventory and is responsible for inventory control, loss mitigation
Steve Olson, franchisee of the West Des Moines, Iowa, Plato’s
Closet has gone to great lengths to ensure the security of his
store’s inventory, partly because his store is one of the top-grossing
outlets in the nation. What started out as a 2,000-square-foot
retail area is now a mega store with about 7,000 square feet of
“We decided to invest quite a bit of money in the security
system,” Olson said. “We wanted to be aggressive against theft
and work jointly with law enforcement to stop shoplifting and
In order to do that, Olson’s surveillance system needed to
grow with the store and provide much better image quality than
its original analog system. For that, it had local integrator ICS
Advanced Technologies to thank.
“This store is doing a phenomenal business,” said Patrick Bailey,
president of ICS Advanced Technologies. “The store was expanding
every two years, and the most recent upgrade called for an increase
from 12 to 24 cameras, but more importantly, getting rid of
six analog cameras and offering higher resolution with IP cameras.”
ICS suggested a gradual transition to IP video as the logical
and affordable way to an eventual top-of-the-line video surveillance
system. The first step was to digitize the few working analog
cameras left in the store with two four-channel AXIS 241Q video
encoders and install new AXIS M3202 fixed-dome network cameras
with SVGA resolution.
Using a server-based VMS would have been costly for the
retailer’s small system, but as a local Internet service provider,
ICS had the perfect solution: Video Surveillance-as-a-Service
(VSaaS). It was an idea that leveraged Salient Systems’ CompleteView
Enterprise video management system and a local network-
attached storage device from Iomega as redundant backup.
Yes, It’s Open Architecture
CompleteView is built on the foundation of open architecture and
provides the tools for unlimited scalability and flexibility to manage
multiple servers and sites. This allows administrators to monitor
the status of any and all servers, add or remove users, change
configurations on servers and clients, and push software updates
out to servers and clients from a single desktop application.
“There has been a strong trend for retailers to move to a VSaaS
platform for video security,” said Brian Carle, product manager
at Salient Systems. “VSaaS provides retailers with a video security
system that is professionally managed, upgraded regularly and
hosted off-site to avoid the risk of DVR theft.”
In West Des Moines, Olson and his wife appreciate the response
that VSaaS offers them because they aren’t always at the store but
are able to peek in from their home computers. The system allows
the Olsons a couple of keen advantages: Because of the resolution
of the IP video surveillance, they are able to pinpoint shoplifters
and turn them over to law enforcement and focus on shoppers who try and switch price tags from one item to another.
“The software makes the entire difference in how the security
model is planned and implemented,” Bailey said. “Using
CompleteView means the streaming video defaults to their own
server with a remote backup. Olson has the ability to control his
own video, and if there is an upgrade to the software, it is always
kept up to date.”
It’s the Software, Silly
The software, according to Bailey, provides quick and easy access
to the platform and allows law enforcement to be active in any
investigation rather than take a passive role.
“If there is an incident and word gets out that a thief has been
caught, anyone else thinking of going up against this type of security
system will have to think twice,” Bailey said. “If they think
twice, it’s usually determined that stealing against this type of security
configuration will not be profitable.”
Olson’s Plato’s Closet, like any other retail store, has had to
deal with theft and crime issues, but since the existing system was
installed, shoplifting has dropped below 1 percent and Olson’s
margin for retail success has grown significantly. It also means he
can view video from anywhere, on his time schedule.
“Using CompleteView VSaaS, video is accessible from anywhere
via an Android, iPhone, iPad or Web interface client,” Carle
said. “The CompleteView VSaaS platform provides bandwidth
management via dynamic resolution scaling, tools for VSaaS
providers to manage multiple recording servers in the cloud and
Plato’s Closet is a rather unique shopping experience in that
the seller is as active in daily marketing as the buyer. It’s the security
system that keeps everything just as it should be. Olson said
his store has cameras aimed on both the point of sale and the
point of purchase “just to keep things straight.”
The system helps in reducing shrinkage; equally important, it
stops fencing operations in which someone who has lifted some
new clothing at the mall tries selling it to Olson’s
team. Upon seeing the new clothes, employees
ask the customer why he or she did not
take them back for a refund or exchange.
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Security Today.