Tags vs Labels - Which One Should You Use?

by Liam Byrne on April 13, 2022

If you want to protect your merchandise from thieves, an EAS system is the best place to start. Just by having one, you will show thieves that you are a store that is taking loss prevention seriously and deter many of the non-professional thieves. However, to deal with the more experienced shoplifters you need to combine an EAS system with either EAS labels or EAS tags. Both will trigger your EAS system if anyone attempts to bring an item out of your store without purchasing and deter thieves through their presence, but which one works best? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as it depends on the unique circumstances of each store.   

Let us start with labels. For those who are not familiar, EAS labels are thin stickers with a metal coil embedded inside. This metal coil will trigger an EAS system’s alarm if it crosses in front of an EAS system. You typically use EAS labels by just sticking them to an item the same way you would attach any kind of sticker. EAS labels come in a variety of shapes and sizes with bigger sizes being able to be picked up by EAS systems farther away. In addition, you can get EAS labels that are just plain white, transparent or even ones that have a fake barcode on them. The fake barcode kind is especially effective as thieves are less likely to identify it as an EAS label and therefore less likely to try and remove it.   

Some of the pros of EAS labels are:  

  1. They are very easy to deactivate. All you have to do is wave the item that has the EAS label on it over a label deactivator pad. This will break the coil inside the label preventing it from setting off an EAS system’s alarm.   
  2. You can get a lot of EAS labels very cheaply. A roll of EAS labels can be bought for just $60 and comes with 1,000 labels.   
  3. EAS labels are easy to attach to products. EAS labels are just stickers, so they are very time efficient to attach to items compared to more complicated tags. 

Some of the cons of EAS labels are:   

  1. They will not work on certain products. EAS labels will not work on any items made out of metal. As well, they cannot be overly bent, or the metal coil inside will break. This makes it not a good option for very small or irregularly shaped objects.  
  2. EAS labels are single-use items. This means you will have to keep buying more labels as you go through your inventory.  

Tags, like labels, also use a metal coil to trigger an EAS system to alarm when it crosses its path. However, tags in comparison to labels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Typically, they have a plastic casing surrounding the metal coil. They can come with different functions such as enclosing caps to prevent the opening of bottles to self-alarming speakers that will alert staff when passed through an EAS system. Tags also are attached to items in a variety of different ways. Some are attached using pins or lanyards while others wrap themselves around the item using cables. No matter which way an EAS tag is attached to an item it is usually extremely difficult to remove it from the item without the proper detacher making it great at stopping even the most experienced thieves.  


Some of the pros of EAS tags are:  


  1. They are reusable. EAS tags are not single-use like labels. You can use the same tag for many years without having to replace it.  
  2. EAS Tags are very noticeable. They are usually attached to an item in a way that makes it very noticeable to thieves.  
  3. The variety offered by tags allows you to find a tag that works best for your situational needs. For example, if you have customers sneaking to the back and taking sips of your expensive liquor you can get a tag that encloses the cap making it impossible for them to do this. 

Some of the cons of EAS tags are:   

  1. They can be more time-consuming to attach to items than labels.   
  2. EAS tags also tend to take up more time at the cash register. Instead of just swiping the item over the deactivator pad the tag must be removed with a detacher 

As you can see the decision of whether to use tags or labels comes down to what kind of products your business stocks and personal preference. However, in our experience, most stores benefit by using both tags and labels. They find that using labels on products that work particularly well with labels (packaged goods) and using tags on items that work well with tags (clothing) lets them have the best of both worlds.