ALISON DEARDEN, director at Alison Handling Services, explains why retail packaging innovations need to place security at their heart…
As the dust settles on the Christmas period and the January sales reach their closing stages, retailers are picking through the data to
determine just what sort of holiday season it has been. For many, even news of improved sales and footfall will be tempered by worrying theft statistics.
Christmas has always been peak season for shoplifters. The combination of increased footfall, increased inventory, booming sales and inexperienced seasonal staff can make it harder to spot thieves, and more difficult to maintain standard security procedures.
It’s not just the shop floor. At Christmas, stock rooms are more likely to be that bit more accessible. Locked cages are more likely to be left unlocked. And loading bays are more likely to be left unguarded as a stretched team unloads more stock. As Retail Risk noted pre-Christmas, a Checkpoint Systems report estimated that 38% of the entire year’s losses to theft would happen over the Christmas period. That equates to every person in the UK helping themselves to goods worth £15.15.
IDENTIFYING THE THREAT
Of course, not all retail thefts occur the same way. The latest British Retail Consortium Crime Survey reveals that cyber-crime now accounts for 15% of losses, yet the vast majority of losses are still the result of customer theft, which accounts for 75% of incidents and 66% of costs (a staggering £438m).
Whilst employee theft pales by comparison (at £13m), 29% of retailers reported that ‘insider’ theft is on the rise. Such thefts can happen virtually anywhere along the supply chain, from the warehouse to the loading bay to the shop floor.
Whether they’re operating within the business, or customers of it, the message is clear: creating ever more secure packaging crates and boxes can discourage opportunists and reduce theft.
THE SECURE BOX
The latest generation of lidded boxes feature a range of tamper resistant features which make accessing the contents more difficult. They
can’t, for example, be opened with a Stanley knife. That makes it much harder for an opportunist off the street to quickly open the box to discover whether what’s inside is worth taking. They also incorporate tamper evident features such as clips and loop seals, so even though they may remain unbreached, stores can see evidence of unsuccessful attempts to break in. That can make insider theft attempts far less likely. If you know that a break in attempt will a) likely fail and b) still result in investigation, you’re far less likely to bother.
Additionally, the tough, durable polypropylene construction with reinforced corners doesn’t only protect goods during transit; it inhibits crude break-in attempts too.
No box security measures will prevent organised or large scale robbery, but these are vanishingly rare occurrences when compared with the bulk of retail theft, which is small scale and generally relies on the retailer presenting (however unintentionally) a quick, simple opportunity for the perpetrator – like a momentarily unguarded loading bay. Secure, lidded packaging reduces that opportunity.
AN INTEGRAL PART
Yet no retailer would choose a storage system that offered security alone. What matters is that security innovations take place alongside other improvements designed to benefit handling simplicity, product quality protection, inventory control and more.
Increasingly, the packaging industry is, appropriately enough, able to pack more features (security based and otherwise) into its lidded crates and boxes. Take our standard box (600x400x310); in addition to all the security features noted above, it features a range of additional tools and devices aimed at protecting contents or speeding up processing. Moisture dams and hinge drains keep rain and condensation away from the container’s interior. Stock code ticket windows and dedicated bar code areas make scanning swift and simple. Ergonomic handles make lifting easier. Textured areas make removing sticky labels easy and keep boxes looking pristine.
Add in the tamper-proof hinges, guide channels for loop seals, openings for banding straps et al, and the result is packaging that reduces the risk – from weather or would-be-thief – and makes every loading bay and storage area safer.
FOR EVERY BUSINESS
The industry is taking note. Right now, our containers are being used for transporting the latest season fashions to a national department store chain. At the other end of the retail spectrum, they’re transporting the latest cutting-edge technology for a (very) well-known global tech manufacturer.
There’s another reason for the lidded crates’ popularity too: reusability. Reusing, rather than recycling, cuts packaging costs by 25% and more than halves carbon emissions, as we explored here.
So the humble packaging crate is no longer simply a passive vessel. It’s a boon to the operating process and to the environment. It is protecting products. And it’s helping to reduce theft – when it has security built in.