HOUSTON -- Gerland's Food Fair here is stepping up loss-prevention efforts with its third new technology initiative in eight months.
The retailer began pilot testing cashier-monitoring software last month in three stores. The pilot comes on the heels of a recent electronic article surveillance rollout and a closed-circuit television system upgrade.
Gerland's surge of initiatives has been sparked by a corporate-level decision to make loss prevention a high priority, said Dave LaPota, director of loss prevention for the 22-store chain.
"We've gotten more leeway and opportunity to use these technologies and whatever programs are out there," he said. "Upper management has realized this is an avenue of great profit potential."
Gerland's hopes the newest software program, which will capture and analyze all point-of-sale information from cashier registers, will identify potential problem cashiers.
"The system identifies those associates at the checkstands who fall out of the norms and who have unusual activities," LaPota said. "It's kind of a red-flagging system. Once we run it for six weeks, it will start defining trends like how many coupons one register is taking over another, the number of no-scans or bad scans."
Gerland's has also made a recent move into electronic article surveillance technology. The retailer is currently piloting a system in two stores and plans to expand the technology to several others later this year.
"Since we modified the system and enhanced our training programs, we have found a substantial increase in grosses in the areas where we are tagging the products," LaPota said.
In its pilot stores, Gerland's tags about 1,200 stockkeeping units, less than 5% of store inventory. The retailer is very selective on which products to tag and concentrates on high-margin and high-risk merchandise.
"We're tagging high-dollar red meat items; we're not tagging the whole lineup of the meat case," he said. "We're only tagging select health and beauty care items."
EAS has already resulted in reduced shrinkage, LaPota said. "This system has basically eliminated the professional thief who comes in and cleans off the entire shelf -- making out with a $200 HBC theft.
"We may find a package lying here or there where the product is missing, but it's nothing like it used to be," he added.
Gerland's has had similar success with recent improvements to its closed-circuit monitoring system. The retailer recently converted to full-color monitors, and has begun installing floor monitors to keep customers aware they are being filmed.
"For those areas where we've had high HBC theft, where we've continuously been hit hard, we have taken a small color TV monitor and placed it on the aisle so customers can see themselves," he said.
Potential thieves should be dissuaded because while they can see themselves being filmed, the camera is well-hidden. "The perception we want to give the customer is that there may be more cameras than you know of," LaPota added.
Gerland's hopes that the sum of its improvements will mean an increase to its bottom line. "We're just trying to keep what we've got and hopefully these programs will allow us to do that," he said.