By  on January 14, 1994

NEW YORK -- The mass beauty industry is looking for a better way to handle the thorny problem of pilferage, especially of high-ticket prestige fragrances and skin care.

The search is on for a universal technology that will take the pressure off retailers and place it on manufacturers. The goal is for manufacturers to "source tag" merchandise -- or insert security devices at the point where the goods are made.

Currently there are several technologies at different chains that use magnetic fields, radio waves and microwaves from a bevy of suppliers.

Most of the technologies are not compatible. Therefore, manufacturers have not been able to integrate one type of theft deterrent into the product during production.

To deal with that problem, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has set up a task force comprising retailers and suppliers to study electronic article surveillance systems.

One of its goals will be to make recommendations about the kind of system that can be universally adopted by the industry, said Steve Perlowski, director of industry relations for NACDS in Alexandria, Va.

The task force got under way Nov. 1. No deadline has been set for its report.

"Right now, there are different technologies. We are trying to find what is most effective. We don't want to detract from ingredient labeling or from the packaging integrity," Perlowski said.

NACDS members, he said, have noticed an increase in shoplifting, and "they wanted us to do something about it."

According to the association, shrinkage costs the chain drug industry $1 billion a year in lost revenue.

NACDS is following moves by groups such as the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, who approved a single technology last March -- acousto-magnetic -- for all products sold in its members' stores.

It isn't just the chain drug industry that's paying dearly for theft. U.S. Justice Department statistics reveal that shoplifting increased 5 percent in 1992 over the prior year to $9 billion.

Thefts in supermarkets, drugstores and discount stores were up an estimated 7 percent over the prior year, according to sources, and beauty is a popular department to pilfer -- one of the top five, in fact.

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