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Three Reasons Why Apparel and Fashion Retailers Should Replace Their Security Hard Tags with Data

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The security hard tag has been essential in deterring theft worldwide, with their mere presence on items leading to a halt in losses. The tag protects goods by signalling to the Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) antennas typically housed within an entrance to a store, causing them to produce an alarm if they come into close contact with each other. However, changing needs in the retail industry have resulted in a shift away from the traditional hard tags, with a data driven approach now the favoured option.

The steep rise in online shopping has changed the in-store experience for consumers, especially those in Generation Z, leading them to expect a seamless checkout experience every time. Security hard tags obstruct this due to the time and difficulty involved in detaching them and their sharp needles being considered a safety hazard. Tags also cause problems to arise in retailers’ omnichannel strategies, as the attachment and detachment of a hard tag adds a bottleneck in retail workflows. Because of these challenges and more, brands are seeking new alternatives to replace traditional security tagging.

The Need for Seamless Checkouts

The modern shopper has high expectations when visiting a physical store, particularly members of Gen Z, who value experiences and seek out physical ways to engage with brands. However, having grown up in the era of instant gratification, these shoppers can also be the most impatient when it comes to the in-store experience. The need for seamless checkouts has prompted retailers to re-imagine new ways to mirror their in-store experience with their digital one. To prevent losing customers due to long queues, retailers are introducing fixed self-checkout stations, mobile self-checkouts or store associates armed with mobile checkout devices.

However, security hard tags are a physical barrier that potentially could ruin a seamless checkout. Having customers detach an EAS hard tag themselves at the checkout creates dangerous situations, as the sharp needle of the security tag risks health and safety. This creates a difficult decision for retailers, as abandoning the security hard tag altogether in order to offer self-checkouts could greatly impact their shrinkage.

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Enhancing Omnichannel Processes

As retailers increasingly embrace an omnichannel sales strategy, it becomes apparent that hard tags create disruption in their retail processes. Omnichannel processes are complex multi-stage operations, including shipping items from store to customers, transporting items in between stores for curbside pickups or allowing items to be reserved for customers. Hard tags causing delays in retail workflows prevents a successful omnichannel strategy from being achieved.

The True Cost of Hard Tags

A lack of accurate inventory and shrinkage data can lead to some retailers tagging the bulk of their inventory in order to minimize all losses. However, the actual investment in the hard tags is just one part of the true cost; the cost and time spent on the manual processes of attaching and detaching hard tags can amount to thousands of hours a year.

Replacing Hard Tags with Data

Despite these drawbacks, retailers are hesitant to limit their use of hard tags as they cannot predict what the impact will be on their losses. Retailers are looking to stay in control, and RFID allows for a data-driven loss prevention strategy while also providing the technological foundation of a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.

When retailers choose to implement RFID, it is common that they tag their whole inventory with RFID labels. This means that their whole inventory is trackable, and therefore protected. RFID allows retailers to know which items are leaving their stores without going through the checkout and analyse theft patterns to detect items that have been removed in a way that they would otherwise have never known. This data leads to a smarter hard tag decision: protecting the items that need it the most. Retailers can even go as far as abandoning the hard tag completely in favour of seamless checkouts and more productive labour, greatly compensating for the risk of higher losses.

It is clear to see why retailers are reconsidering the need of hard tagging the majority of their inventory and embracing RFID to power a data-driven approach to inventory management and loss prevention. Data is the future of loss prevention and the key to meeting consumer expectations, allowing them to purchase anything, anywhere. And with regular advances in technology, RFID is a vital part of future-proofing the industry, ultimately helping brands become more efficient and limiting the impact on the planet. 


Mark Kasbergen is Strategic Business Developer at Nedap Retail. After obtaining his Msc Finance & Investments from Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Kasbergen started working as a business development manager in the RFID space in 2011. During his time at Nedap, he has developed a special interest in translating RFID technology into tangible benefits for end users. After co-founding the SaaS iD Cloud store initiative, now a mature industry-leading solution suite, he currently focuses on exploring the value of use cases in the field of RFID base loss prevention with global retailers.

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