— By Bill Herzog —
Improving security and communication at your retail business.
Security should always be a top priority in your retail business. A good security plan can prevent theft, improve communication and provide customers with an overall safer environment to shop in. Setting up a proper security plan can be difficult if you don’t have the proper expertise around you. As a security expert with experience working in retail spaces, I have helped businesses create a safe and secure shopping environment that keeps staff and customers safe and property secure. Here are a few tips to avoid often overlooked gaps in your security plan.
Hire the Right Number of People
A lack of security personnel is a common problem with small to mid-sized retailers. Many of these retail spaces will either have not hired any security guards to watch over the store.
This is a big mistake. You need some sort of security personnel to act as a deterrent against theft. At the very least you should have one security guard to watch over the front door to catch someone is trying to leave the store with a product they did not pay for. Even a small retail space should have a security guard on each shift. If you own a bigger retail space, then you should have multiple security guards on staff and strategically place them throughout the store. This means security in plain clothes blending in to keep an eye out for any shoplifters. Plainclothes security allows you to safely monitor your store without intimidating customers. The front entrance security guard should always be in uniform since he serves as a reminder that anyone stealing shouldn’t try going out the front door.
If you are on a tight budget I would recommend you hire a uniformed security guard to watch the entrance of your shop. At the end of the day, it is more important to have someone in uniform watching the main exit point of your store over security in plain clothes trying to catch people in the act of shoplifting. Retail security’s main job is to serve as a deterrent, not be law enforcement.
Understand the Rules of Engagement
Safety of staff and customers is always the main priority. This means it is important that your security team engages with potential shoplifters or physical individuals in a manner that prioritizes safety over property. A vast majority of retail security guards will be unarmed, which means their main job is to observe and report any potential crimes to the police. Security should verbally engage with the customer in a polite but firm manner. Let the shoplifter know that you saw them take something they did not pay for and ask them to politely put it back. If the shoplifter declines to put the stolen item back, then it is time to alert the authorities. An unarmed security guard should never physically engage with someone since they have no way to adequately defend themselves. Physically escalating a situation can put your staff, security team and customers in danger if the person you are dealing with is armed.
If your security team catches a shoplifter and they refuse to return the product they stole, then it is best to call the police. Don’t put your customers and your staff at risk for a product that many times can be returned by the police.
Install the Right Security Cameras
Proper security camera placement is integral to your ability to meaningfully identify shoplifters and report them to the police. Security cameras are often the only piece of physical evidence you have to prove a crime has been committed. That is why you have to make sure you have the proper number of security cameras placed throughout the store.
You should have security cameras placed at all entrances, exits, aisles, sales floor, cash registers, loading dock and parking lots. Placing cameras in these spots will ensure it is harder for a customer or employee to easily steal from your shop. It is important that you have a trusted employee or a member of the security team keeping an eye on the security monitors.
You can install either digital or analog security cameras. I would personally recommend digital cameras since you can instantly store that footage in the cloud. However, analog cameras typically cost less.
Implement a Two-Way Radio System
I would recommend any retail space invest in two-way radios for their staff and security team. Two-way radios are perfect for communicating in an emergency situation because you simply have to push a button to let someone know something is wrong.
Stew McClintic is the corporate account manager at HQ98.com, a two-way radio seller in Scottsdale, Arizona. He said that using two-way radio communication is much better in an emergency situation as opposed to communicating the situation via a loudspeaker.
“Communicating a security issue via an intercom can be really distracting to customers and in many circumstances, it is not a smart idea to let every shopper know someone is attempting to steal something,” McClintic says. “Two-way radios give you more discrete communication over a private channel so your customers don’t have to hear about an issue you may be having.”
You really don’t want someone yelling “shoplifter in aisle four” over a loudspeaker.
McClintic said a retail space could use either analog or digital radios. Analogs are slightly more cost-effective while having a shorter delay time between communication than digital radios. Digital radios are a better option if you are looking to establish more private lines. An earpiece is also recommended for more privacy and hands-free communication. Both analog and digital radios are simple to set up right out of the box.
Implementing the right security team and security plan is a vitally important step for your retail space. The right security can keep staff and customers safe from harm as well as deter the theft of your property. Assemble the right team, create a good plan, and get the right equipment and your retail shop will be safe and secure.
— Bill Herzog is the director of operations at Lionheart Security Services in Tempe, Ariz. He is an expert in private business security and has over 25 years of law enforcement experience.