adding ip video to manage shrink

Adding IP Video to Manage Shrink

UK retailer reduces loss at cash registers and boosts customer service

Adding IP Video to Manage ShrinkCreaseys Guernsey (one of several franchised Marks & Spencer outlets) is now a 20,000-square-foot site at St. Peter Port in Jersey, U.K. They invested several million pounds to nearly double their prime retail site by expanding into the building next door. The expansion also meant they would need to upgrade their video surveillance system from analog to IP technology.

Shrinkage, already significant in the original store, was clearly going to get worse with the enlarged space not covered by the existing CCTV cameras. The major loss was cash register theft and shoplifting incidents of high-value goods such as meat, wines, spirits and womenswear.

The new monitoring system had to give comprehensive coverage as the frontline for loss prevention because the size of the store precluded the funding of manned guarding. The solution needed to be reliable, require little maintenance and be easy to use by non-security staff.

Easy to Deploy and Manage

With this brief in mind, retail officials called in security contractor KMH Group to design and install an IP surveillance system with a focus on covering cash registers. Milestone XProtect Enterprise IP video management software (VMS) was chosen for viewing, recording and analyzing HD-quality images streamed at up to 18 frames per second from 74 new Axis network cameras. KMH Group installed the cameras and connected them using Cat-5 Ethernet cabling to two dedicated servers, housed in secure server rooms, running the VMS.

Milestone provides Creaseys Guernsey management team and supervisors with an effective tool for protecting the outlet from cash handling and high-value item theft. Creaseys’ IT department now recommends the deployment of the software for many of its stores.

The solution was easy to set up and manage with system configuration wizards and hardware auto-detection to simplify deployment. Delivered with Smart Client, the software’s consolidated single-management interface provides an efficient way to view and control an unlimited number of cameras. KMH Group configured the software to suit the users’ needs. It is controlled through the interface on a dedicated PC linked to two displays located in different security rooms. Authorized staff—supervisor level and above—can quickly find and view the cameras they want to see in live or recorded mode and export video evidence to DVD or a local hard drive.

The software is so easy to use that the system was able to go live following just 30 minutes of user training attended by Andy le Maitre, group financial controller and leader of this project in Creaseys Guernsey. He was able to talk staff through the functionality of the system without further involvement from KMH Group.

Improving the Customer Experience

“The fact that the Milestone system is so easy to use has meant that we’ve been able to extend its use beyond traditional security and loss prevention to improve the customer experience in-store,” le Maitre said. “The familiar interface also means recorded images post-event can be quickly found.”

Supervisors with access to the system use it to keep an eye on customer service quality levels without looming over their employees. They find the video surveillance useful to check how customers are being treated in accordance with Creaseys training. Video images can be used in exercises to show customer service in action or talk through better ways of handling specific customer experiences.

Previously, sales supervisors were attentive to customers while they were in the vicinity, but once their backs were turned, standards tended to slip. With the new surveillance system, it became possible to check the customer service behavior at all times. This helps supervisors reinforce correct protocols, thereby improving the customer experience.

Monitoring Cash and Shoplifting

A key requirement for the new system was providing sufficiently high-quality images of hand movements around the cash registers to reduce shrinkage that occurs through employee or customer theft at the registers—the principal source of loss in the store at the time.

“We have a specific problem in Guernsey associated with the color of State of Guernsey bank notes,” le Maitre said. “Guernsey notes look similar to those from the United Kingdom, if viewed from some distance. It is important that we have high-quality video images so we can judge which types of notes are going into the till, in case the registers indicate a discrepancy between cash collected and goods purchased at the end of the day.

“Our main source of shrinkage is not product shoplifting, but disappearance of money from the cash tills. The major concern is cash not even reaching the registers when handed over by the customer.”

There are no security guards walking the shop floor, which puts greater responsibility on surveillance to capture wrong-doing and reduce shrinkage. Security, to a certain extent, is the responsibility of staff. For example, assistants walk the clothing floors regularly and look for hangers without clothes, which may mean that the missing item was stolen.

“We encourage assistants to wave at the nearest surveillance camera to indicate that a missing item has been discovered so we can more easily pinpoint the time of discovery of a potential theft on the video surveillance system and work back quickly from that time in the system to the point where the item was taken off the hanger,” le Maitre said.

Remote surveillance and central efficiency

Creaseys is considering centralizing its video surveillance systems to support more stores that have no full-time manned guarding. There is a potential benefit from viewing and managing these stores from headquarters if necessary. Moving to IP surveillance makes remote monitoring both cost effective and reliable, using the existing WAN infrastructure to stream live and recorded images to central security and loss prevention teams in headquarters.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Security Today.

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