After dismissing the need for electronic article surveillance (EAS) tagging for decades, Marks & Spencer has finally relented and is electronically protecting products in 50 of its branches across the south of England.

Prompted by increased levels of shoplifting in the recession, M&S said there is no option but to invest in tagging technology or risk losing significant sales.

“Sadly, like many other retailers, we have seen an increase in the theft of some high-value products,” said a spokeswoman. “As a result we are running a trial to put security tags on certain food and clothing in some stores.”

It is believed a Sensormatic acousto-magnetic (AM) system from ADT has been chosen following the completion of various tagging trials at the end of last year, although M&S declined to confirm this. The retailer said tagged products include the more expensive meat and fish items, beer, wines and spirits in the food halls and, in general merchandise, men’s suits and higher-value ladieswear items.

A security industry source said the stores in question are around London and the M25. “With over 560 stores in its UK network, only about 8 per cent of M&S branches are benefiting from this EAS security, so it’s likely a much wider roll-out is on the cards,” he said.

“M&S will be carefully analysing which stores have the most urgent shrinkage problems.
In the past they have been concerned that tags, alarms going off and antennae at the doors impinge the shopping experience for their customers. Clearly that’s off the agenda in this climate.”

M&S’s decision is a sensible move in a climate of changing crime trends, according to British Security Industry Association technical director Alex Carmichael. “All retail stores
are advised to review their security regularly and reassess the risks they face. By investing in reliable security solutions, many risks will be mitigated,” he said.

John Lewis has also just completed an EAS tagging trial in its Bluewater and Glasgow stores and is poised to begin a roll-out. The department store group is also believed to have chosen the Sensormatic AM technology.