Retail crime has increased by 40% across all categories. Likewise, spending on retail crime prevention has reached an all time high, hitting £1 billion in 2019 – four times 2016’s total. Whether you run a small boutique shop or manage a retail site boasting dozens of stores, you need to make sure that you are spending wisely on security.
Here is my advice for how to best protect your retail business from theft, abusive customers and vandalism.
CCTV is the backbone of any retail security solution.
The utility of CCTV has improved tremendously since the introduction of internet-connected CCTV and live monitoring, not to mention the dramatically improved fidelity of the footage being filmed.
Suspicious behaviour and known troublemakers can now be identified immediately by security officers monitoring the feed, who may be many miles away in a centralised control room. Staff and security officers on the ground can then be alerted and provided live information on the whereabouts and behaviour of the suspects.
For CCTV to be effective, make sure there is signage alerting customers that they are being filmed and that the equipment is professionally installed to minimise blind spots.
Depending on the scale of your retail site, you may also want to combine CCTV with security guards. There is no more effective deterrent than security guards patrolling a store and monitoring entry and exit points, especially when combined with product tagging and live CCTV.
Security guards also provide the ability to respond immediately to any suspicious, criminal or abusive behaviour rather than wait for the police – who are very unlikely to respond to or investigate shoplifting.
It is important when hiring security guards to make sure that they have training and experience in retail security, so that they are familiar with powers of arrest and conflict de-escalation.
In many stores security guards will also be the first point of contact for your customers, welcoming them in and out and providing store assistance. As such, you should make sure any security guards you hire have customer service experience and have a friendly, amicable manner.
You should also enquire about the turnover rates of the security company who are providing the guards. The effectiveness of a security guard increases as they become more familiar with your site, its risks and local troublemakers. If the guard is being replaced every couple of months, this vital knowledge is lost and must be regained.
Information is vital to effective security. If individual stores do not share their information with other retail sites in their area, they are all more vulnerable.
It is very important that your security knowledge is shared with surrounding stores. Have regular meetings with neighbouring businesses to discuss any security concerns and make sure that any security guards that you hire have a means of communication with security guards in surrounding stores.
If you have live CCTV monitoring, provide contact details of surrounding stores to the security officers monitoring your feed so that they can be alerted of any suspicious individuals, known troublemakers or criminal activity.
In some areas, such security information sharing is mandatory. For example, in Bond Street there is the Bond Street Agreement where all of the stores are linked to each other via radio so that they can alert and advise each other of any security threats.
No matter how many CCTV cameras your install or how many security guards you hire, it is impossible to keep an eye on all customers at all times in a busy retail site or retail premises.
If you train your staff in how to identify suspicious behaviour, report incidents and de-escalate aggressive customers, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood of crime in your store. This training not only prevents customer theft but employee theft as well.
It is important that along with training that there is a formal reporting procedure in place so that incidents can be monitored for any trends. For example, if there is consistent theft in a particular area of your store, you will know that there needs to be an increased security presence there.
Employees will also be far more likely to report incidents or suspicious behaviour if there is a formal procedure in place, otherwise they may not feel confident that any action will be taken. Employee confidence in the security of their workplace has been shown to be directly affected by the quality of reporting procedures and the response taken.
The advice above is just a fraction of what is required for a robust retail security solution. Every retail site has unique risks and thus requires individually tailored security services.
This all begins with a risk assessment from a security manager to identify the vulnerabilities of your site and the best ways to secure them. To book a retail site visit from one of our SIA-certified security managers, call us now on 0800 772 3786.
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