Home Depot Inc. is using Bluetooth to deter organized retail crime, such as coordinated groups that steal from the retailer and take the goods to pawnshops or resell them on online marketplaces.
is piloting the use of the technology on power tools at select stores across select states. The technology activates at the cash register or other point of sale, which allows the items to work once they leave the store. A stolen item equipped with this Bluetooth technology won’t operate.
Business Insider has previously reported on the effort.
“The value of any product is its ability to work,” said Christina Cornell, a spokesperson for Home Depot. “If we take that away, there’s no reason to steal it.”
The idea is akin to the way gift cards work; on the rack, they have no value. Money is added to the cards at checkout.
The Bluetooth technology is applied on the item rather than the box. The home improvement retailer is working with partners like Stanley Black & Decker Inc.
on the program. Home Depot is considering other items with high resale value, like Smart home merchandise, for the Bluetooth effort.
Cornell says the company has seen an uptick in crime, and attributes it to these organized groups, who may then use money from the resale of the stolen goods to fund other criminal activity.
Home Depot, like many other retailers, according to Cornell, has an internal group that is dedicated to monitoring these crimes and works with law enforcement on the issue.
However, Home Depot is calling for other measures to deal with the problem.
“We’re trying to fight this on all fronts. We need to make it harder to steal from our stores,” she said.
“Another is need is for law enforcement and prosecutors to think of this as more than property crime. We need more accountability and verification on marketplaces.”
Home Depot has partnered with the Buy Safe America Coalition in support of the INFORM Consumers Act, legislation that would require verification of independent sellers on online marketplaces. The Buy Safe America Coalition represents consumer groups, retailers, manufacturers and others in an effort to stop the sale of counterfeit goods and stolen items.
“By bolstering transparency and ensuring accountability, professional criminals would be less likely to rely on e-commerce platforms to peddle stolen products,” Buy Safe America wrote in an email.
Home Depot didn’t put a dollar amount to the cost of this organized crime to the company, nor did the company say how much the Bluetooth pilot is costing.
“Until thieves figure out it’s not worth it, there will be some loss,” Cornell said.
The shoplifting problem is large enough that other retailers are also taking action to prevent it.
changed its store hours in California earlier this month after an “alarming rise” in shoplifting.
Thieves have been caught on camera at retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
and Neiman Marcus in recent weeks.
While Home Depot is working to block criminals, the company says it still wants to provide a welcoming shopping environment for paying customers.
“We don’t want to impact customer experience so stores become a fortress,” she said. “We’re trying to think of ways that won’t impact the 98% of consumers shopping legitimately.”
Home Depot stock has run up 23.2% for the year to date while the Dow Jones Industrial Average
has gained 14.2% for the period.