LP Magazine

MAR-APR 2019

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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THE IMPROBABLE HISTORY OF THE INK TAG 46 MARCH–APRIL 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM American retailers, such as Dave Whitney of Ross Stores, Inc., conducted small-scale trials starting around 1986. But the product remained an "oddity." Kno-Glo ™ (circa 1988). Knogo Corporation was the original manufacturer of EAS products. For many years, it was the second-largest EAS company behind Sensormatic Electronics Corporation. Knogo had a large presence in Europe, and management was familiar with the initial success of Color Tag. They decided to design an "ink pin" that could be affixed directly into Knogo's EAS tags. Their idea was to pour red dye directly into a membrane that was housed in a saucer-shaped plastic cup and then ultrasonically weld on a plastic cover that held the pin for the EAS tag. George Luciano of Clothestime was among the first US users. Converting the idea into a workable product was a challenge. "We had a difficult time welding the two pieces together because of the vibrations," said Tom Nicolette, Knogo's former CEO. "The assembly line had sixteen workers, and by the time they finished the shift, they were covered in red dye. It looked as though people were being murdered. We had to install a shower room adjacent to the factory floor." Even though it was difficult to manufacture, Knogo sold many millions of the Kno-Glo in Europe and then in the US. The Inktag ™ and Inkmate ™ (circa 1989–93). Security Tag Systems, Inc. (for whom I worked at the time) was a small but visionary manufacturer of EAS and access control products. Among its hallmark products were the world's first single-pedestal EAS transceiver system and an early RFID system. In the summer of 1989, Brig. Gen. Carter Clarke, Jr., US Army (Retired), the company's cofounder and president, returned from a European trade show with samples of the Color Tag and ordered our product development people to come up with a rival design as quickly as possible. The Color Tag was virtually unknown in the US at the time. We were skeptical of the idea, but the concept was appealing, so we set to work. In order to succeed, we set several important goals. Based upon our analysis, we believed that the Color Tag system was unsuitable for the American retail market place and had to be redesigned to be: ■ Easy to affix and remove ■ Smaller and lighter weight ■ Nontoxic and odorless but with effective permanent dye that stained a wide range of fabrics ■ Able to withstand rigors of apparel retailing without incidental breakage but still able to damage the apparel as a result of tampering ■ Cost effective We came up with a design for the first version, named Inktag, in the fall of 1989. It was round and about three inches in diameter. The half with the pin held three vials containing gentian violet stain. On the bottom was a warning label. The other half contained a heavy-duty clutch that captivated the pin but did not include an EAS circuit. Unlocking the clutch required a significantly higher-quality rare-earth magnet than had been used up to that time. Our sales force was given handmade working samples to see if they could entice any retailers into a test. The first two early adopters were Pete Schmidt of Bloomingdale's and Mike Myers of Women's Specialty Retail. Bloomingdale's ordered 10,000. I was tasked with testing the initial batch of tags to see if they would "work" properly. I opened the first box and discovered that a few of the tags had leaked in transit. We had sourced the vials from a Chinese 1. The Inktag ™ 2. Inkmate ™ 3. The Color Tag ®

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