Trends in retail

November 2010 Integrated Solutions, Retail (Industry)

Gary Chalmers looks at the impact biometrics will have in the retail environment.

The retail sector has four main problems:

1) Get the right products for their customers.

2) Get the customers into the store to buy those products.

3) Reduce shrinkage and theft throughout the chain.

4) Manage the large, distributed workforce.

Luckily, the first two are not the problem of the security industry. But the last two are falling into the parameters of what we do every day.

Technology is always a key player when it comes to reducing any kind of theft, be it of goods or time. And the retail sector is slowly but surely turning towards emerging technologies to help it manage both these problems. Within the emerging technologies, biometrics is playing a key role in a number of different areas.

Firstly, many companies are investigating the possibility of using the HANIS database to verify the identity of the casual staff they hire. This has not proven to be highly productive at this time, due primarily to inconsistent data, poor management of the system, and above all, the difficulty of integrating with the actual Department of Home Affairs.

Therefore, private, or bureau-type AFIS services will begin emerging over the next two to five years as larger groups seek to avoid re-hiring staff who have been dismissed in other branches for theft. These bureaux will manage the complexity of the system, and the security of the data, while offering the chains the clearly focused and specialised services they need to manage this process.

It is my opinion that this will be the biggest new emerging trend in the retail market in the foreseeable future.

Automated T&A

In addition to this, biometrics will continue its inexorable path towards replacing the old style clocking machines throughout the retail sector. The simple eradication of the buddy-clocking problems that are rife with these older systems more than covers the cost of upgrading the technology, and very few retail chains do not already have plans in motion to go this route.

Automating time and attendance, along with the nirvana of real-time staff numbers in stores, are the key drivers here, with most retail chains relishing the thought of being able to centrally manage their payrolls with timely, accurate data allowing staff minimum leeway to abuse the system.

Not quite as common, but definitely on the rise, is the desire to replace old-fashioned card systems on the point of sale terminals with biometric logins and overrides. This logical access control will assist in removing the fraudulent refunds and overrides that are the cause of a significant amount of the retail sector’s shrinkage.

Finally, the ability to use biometrics to confirm exact times and people involved in the distribution element, where most shrinkage happens, is a key emerging solution that retail is embracing.

The common thread of non-repudiation of transactions, confirmation of identity and above all, the tying of specific people to specific places at specific times, are the underlying drivers for the adoption of these technologies in the sector.

For more information contact iPulse Systems, +27 (0)11 393 5216, [email protected],


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