ALBANY, Calif. -- Andronico's here has begun testing technology designed to keep shopping carts within their home store's perimeter.
The antitheft device uses a custom caster with an integrated protective braking shell on one wheel of the shopping cart. When the cart passes over an antenna line buried around the store's perimeter, the shell is activated via a low-frequency signal.
With the caster in place, the cart is virtually impossible to move and the wheel is protected, according to a source familiar with the situation. Once the locking mechanism is activated, it can only be released with a handheld remote control.
"Cart loss is a huge problem on the West Coast," said Michael Bekstrom, vice president of administration at Andronico's. "Over one 12-month period, our stores lost 100% of their shopping carts."
The retailer began testing the technology in March, and will assess its effectiveness this month.
Andronico's currently uses aggressive methods of cart retrieval to keep losses as low as possible, according to Bekstrom. "We have customer service clerks retrieving carts from the parking lot every 15 minutes, because the longer a cart sits out there the more likely it is to be taken," said Bekstrom.
Such programs are most effective when combined with antitheft technology, however, Bekstrom noted. "We had used a similar kind of [cart-loss] technology in the past and reduced cart losses by about 60%," he said. "We had the best results of retaining our cart inventory when we used all methods together."