FARM FRESH ROLLS OUT ANTI-THEFT TAGS

NORFOLK, Va. -- Farm Fresh here is rolling out an anti-shoplifting system chainwide following a four-month test in three stores.The program is credited with helping cut health and beauty care shrink in half in the pilot stores and will now be placed in all 68 of the chain's stores, said Orville Crook, Farm Fresh's controller and head of the store's shrinkage task force.The electronic surveillance

NORFOLK, Va. -- Farm Fresh here is rolling out an anti-shoplifting system chainwide following a four-month test in three stores.

The program is credited with helping cut health and beauty care shrink in half in the pilot stores and will now be placed in all 68 of the chain's stores, said Orville Crook, Farm Fresh's controller and head of the store's shrinkage task force.

The electronic surveillance system uses tags, attached with label guns to packaging, which activate sensing devices at checkout stands. The clear plastic labels contain a hair-thin wire.

Although the labels are attached to easily concealed items that are favorite targets of thieves, including HBC items and even meat, the system deters theft in other product categories, Crook said.

"We saw a reduction in shrinkage in all departments throughout the stores," he said. "This is called the 'halo effect' because although only specific product categories are tagged, the savings are experienced storewide.

"The labels are designed and installed to be a deterrent," Crook said. "We don't put them on to catch people."

The system, manufactured by Sensormatic, Deerfield, Fla., is expected to pay for itself in nine months, he said.

It is also enhancing product display. Farm Fresh can now openly display such high-theft items as film, batteries and health and beauty care products. By being more readily available to consumers, sales of the items should increase significantly, according to the retailer.

Farm Fresh will be using the systems in conjunction with camera surveillance, which was also tested in several stores. The retailer found a much quicker payback period with the product tags. "I think cameras will continue to play a part, but jointly. There are certain places where [this system] won't work, such as the back door," Crook said.

Camera systems require constant monitoring to be effective at the checkstands, Crook said. "With the camera system you have to man the cameras more than we were able to do. You have to man them all the time, sitting and watching, to be able to catch someone in the act," said Crook. At Farm Fresh, the film often was not reviewed for half an hour, too late to catch a shoplifter in the act.

Farm Fresh is currently leasing the tag system equipment, about 11 pedestals or sensing devices per store, from Sensormatic, but it has an option to buy.

Other chains reportedly using the system include Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.; Albertson's, Boise, Idaho; Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla.; A&P, Montvale, N.J.; Food 4 Less Supermarkets, La Habra, Calif., and Harvest Foods, Little Rock, Ark.