Top secret security tag is taking the high street by storm

John Smith is a long time professional criminal and convicted shoplifter. But he got more than he bargained for recently, when trying to steal clothing from a high street retailer

It was just another day of thieving, as far as serial criminal and convicted shoplifter John Smith was concerned.

Smith set his sights on JD Sports in Birmingham to steal clothing by illicitly removing security tags. After years of slipping by security guards and RFID tag sensors, Smith was finally caught by store security because of an unassailable EAS tag.

The police were called in and the what happened next went viral in the retail community, as an endorsement for investing in shrinkage-proof security tags.

Caught on camera

Unfortunately for Smith, the store he chose was one of the soon to be 200 across the JD estate that has rolled out the new Concept Tag.

Bragging to detectives of his shoplifting prowess, Smith said he could usually remove the tag and walk out of the store with the loot within minutes. In order to prove his mettle, he agreed to show detectives how and have his attempts captured on camera.

YouTube video: trying to remove the concept tag

Over an hour later, Smith had to concede defeat. Not only did he failed to remove the tag, he destroyed the garment it was protecting, making it useless for resale, and hurt himself in the process.

“I am delighted to see that our new tagging systems are causing criminals so much distress… We only wanted to stop them stealing clothing, but the fact that this fellow gets so frustrated and inflicts flesh wounds upon himself is frankly… a bonus,” says Tim Edwards, Group Profit Protection Director at JD Sports.

JD Sports has signed an agreement with the makers of the Concept Tag to roll it out across most of its stores over the next three years. In field trials, this EAS tag reduced theft in stores by as much as 66 per cent, and considering how shoplifting, or shrinkage, costs British retailers £613 million last year, the highest level since records began, the need to ramp up security is crucial for profitability.

The cost of shrink

The human cost of retail crime has also grown. Research earlier this year from the British Retail Consortium revealed a 28 per cent increase in offences involving abuse or violence against shop staff, rising to 41 out of every 1,000 crimes committed, compared to 32 out of 1,000 reported last year.

“This video insight into the trouble we are causing criminals, together with the information provided by the criminal himself around how easily he and his associates defeat other tagging systems (including those upon which we previously relied), is most gratifying,” Edwards adds.

The manufactures of these tags, Agon Systems, spend over two years on field research with JD Sports to get it right. As criminals get more sophisticated, so much security systems, according to Sean Welch, managing director of Agon Systems.

“We were so certain that the Concept Tag was the next huge thing that we gave people free access to all results. They could have been good or bad. That was how confident we were. And the results were unbelievably good,” he says.
“However, it is only now, having published this video footage, that we seem to finally have caught the attention of retailers who increasingly understand that those fitting the Tag in the stores will not only see a reduction in their losses, but will be displacing the criminals to stores that do not have them.”


Following the footage going viral among retailers, the company has had 10 major retailers enquire about Concept Tag all of whom are in varying stages of trialling it in their stores. Welch adds, “I suppose, from that point of view, we owe John Smith a debt of gratitude!”

Not on the high street!

The Concept Tag was originally developed in Denmark although it did not really come to prominence in Europe until Agon partnered with the inventors and JD Sports in field trials.

The technology depends on a patented design for security together with a powered detacher that cannot be purchased by criminals or be used without mains power.

As it stands, the more commonly used EAS tag can be easily detached with a pocket knife and a lighter in changing rooms. More sophisticated shoplifters tend to have a detacher on hand, purchased from the dark net with the click of a button.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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