When a trailer was stolen from one of Mattress Firm’s distribution centers, the chain was not ready to kiss $30,000 in merchandise goodbye. By tapping its IP (Internet Protocol) network video-surveillance system, Mattress Firm was able to recover the trailer—and a potential loss—in record time.
Mattress Firm, Houston, is a privately held bedding and furniture retailer that operates more than 300 stores. The chain is dedicated to protecting its assets, though, as thieves get sjanter, the retailer’s loss-prevention department has its work cut out for it.
“Loss prevention has changed in the last 10 to 15 years,” Maurice Edwards, the retailer’s director of loss prevention and process development, told Retail Technology Quarterly.
“Rather than have a policeman mentality and focus on catching the bad guy, retailers’ loss-prevention approach needs to be more sophisticated today,” he said. “It is more important to learn where the loss stems from, then use data to make better decisions and manage occurrences.”
Edwards boasted that the company has been very successful at reducing theft losses over the last five years. “However, our efforts are not solely focused on theft,” he said.
“We also need to prevent losses due to accidents and issues that occur when staff doesn’t adhere to operational procedures across our warehouses and stores,” Edwards added. “By monitoring these events, we can further improve efficiency and cut operating costs.”
The monitoring is done in a multitude of ways. For example, the chain relies on location audits, operational compliance programs, and more importantly, video-surveillance solutions.
Mattress Firm is a long-time user of a traditional video-based closed-circuit television (CCTV) system. However, as the chain grew to more than 300 stores, the system “had difficulty pinpointing specific activities in specific locations,” Edwards shared. “It was not uncommon for our team to sift through two weeks worth of videotapes before finding the information they needed.”
To solve these problems, Edwards began evaluating new surveillance options. The top choice had to be cost-effective, provide real-time data and seamlessly integrate with pre-existing infrastructure. “We also wanted a system that our regional managers would be comfortable using,” he said. “If we could find a user-friendly system that made it easy to look at incident clips, then we knew that system would be a go.”
When Mattress Firm started its search almost two years ago, it evaluated systems from six vendors. A solution from Jefferson City, Mo.-based Wren Solutions won Mattress Firm’s approval.
The companies signed a contract in July 2005, and the chain gradually began installing Wren’s Network Video Solution across its network of distribution centers. The solution is comprised of Wren IP cameras and Wren Video Management System (VMS) software.
Unlike traditional CCTV systems that use proprietary cabling to link cameras to a recording device, IP video solutions allow retailers to leverage their standard IT infrastructure to run video. Thus, the latter is more scalable, manageable and cost-effective.
The first step: Mattress Firm installed the solution on its Web server housed at its corporate office. Next, the chain increased the number of IP addresses available across its enterprise. For example, previously each distribution center only had three addresses.
“However since each camera records individually, we increased the number of addresses we support to 16,” Edwards explained. “This ensures that we always have access to cameras and collected data in case one goes down.”
To leverage its available bandwidth, the chain then integr