We were recently approached by a retail business that had been experiencing heavy stock losses and slippage. They knew that they needed to act but were concerned that stepping up their retail security might create an intimidating atmosphere and deter customers from coming through the door.
Having given this a great deal of thought and come up with a few solutions, it seemed like a great excuse to look at this complex subject in more detail with a blog post. And so here we are! How to implement retail security that keeps customers coming back.
So whether you’re a small boutique or a large department store, read on to learn how to keep your customers coming through the door with effective yet low-key retail security.
In this post from Titan Security Europe, we will take a detailed look at:
- What is retail security
- Retail security risk factors
- The potential pitfalls
- The benefits of retail security
- Unobtrusive retail security measures
- Working with a professional retail security company
What is retail security?
Retail security refers to the measures and strategies implemented to protect retail businesses from theft, fraud, and other forms of loss. It is an essential aspect of any retail operation as it helps to ensure the safety of customers, employees, and assets, while also protecting the business’s bottom lines. Important aspects of retail security include:
- Shoplifting prevention
- Point of sale security
- Employee theft prevention
- Risk assessment
- Retail security policies
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Retail Security Risk Factors
As a retail business, your stock is under threat from the moment it leaves the warehouse until the time it is successfully processed through your till.
According to the British Retail Consortium, the total cost of crime and crime prevention for retailers was £1.9 billion in 2019, up 12% from the previous year (£1.7bn). This was made up of £900 million direct cost from retail crime, and £1 billion spent in efforts to prevent crime
The 2021 Commercial Victimisation Survey estimated that 38% of business premises (151,000 premises) in the Wholesale and retail sector in England and Wales had been a victim of crime between April 2020 and March 2021
So what are the main retail security threats?
Retail losses can be separated into two categories: external losses and internal losses. External losses are caused by shoplifting, organised retail crime, and other forms of theft while most internal losses result from dishonest employees
- Theft of goods in transit: This occurs when merchandise is being transported from one location to another. This can happen due to poor security measures during transportation or through collusion between insiders and external criminals.
- Fraudulent returns: Fraudulent returns occur when customers return merchandise that they did not purchase, or that was stolen.
- Supplier fraud: Supplier fraud is a retail security risk that occurs when a supplier intentionally deceives a retailer in order to obtain financial gain. This can include the supplier providing false delivery inventories, overcharging for goods or services, or submitting inflated invoices.
- Shoplifting by opportunist thieves and organised gangs: Shoplifting is the most common form of retail theft, and it is estimated that globally, retailers lose billions of dollars annually due to shoplifting. This can be carried out by individuals acting alone or by organised gangs that target multiple stores.
- Theft or fraud by employees: Employee theft involves employees stealing merchandise, cash, or other assets from their employers. Employee fraud involves employees tampering with financial records, such as inventory or sales, for their own gain. This could be employees acting alone or in collusion with external criminals.
- Cybercrime and web application attacks: Cybercrime and web application attacks are a growing retail security risk that can result in financial loss and damage to a retailer’s reputation. This can include hacking attacks on a retailer’s network, phishing attacks on employees, and theft of customer data.
What can go wrong with retail security?
Security is a crucial component of any successful retail business. With theft, shrinkage, and other security risks costing retailers billions each year, it’s essential to prioritise security measures that protect employees, customers, and stock.
With online shopping taking an ever bigger slice of the cake, retailers are under increasing pressure to create a positive customer experience that keeps customers coming through the door.
Balancing effective security measures with a welcoming and friendly approach can be challenging, but it’s essential for retailers who want to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. So it’s important to consider how the retail security measures may impact the customer experience.
Here are some ways that the use of retail security could potentially have a negative impact on the customer experience:
- Intimidation: Visible security measures such as security cameras, metal detectors, and uniformed guards can create an intimidating atmosphere, making customers feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
- Inconvenience: Security measures such as bag checks, ID checks, and long lines can create an inconvenience for customers, potentially leading to frustration and impatience.
- Privacy Concerns: Customers may feel that their privacy is being violated if they are being monitored or tracked, leading to distrust and negative feelings towards the shop.
- Lack of Trust: Excessive security measures can send a message that the shop doesn’t trust its customers, potentially damaging the relationship between the business and its customers.
- Staff Motivation: It’s not just customers who may be disconcerted by prominent security measures. Staff can be affected too, resulting in their feeling like they are under suspicion. This has the potential to demotivate and affect performance which will then reflect on the customer experience
The benefits of retail security
Retail security measures go beyond just preventing theft and shrinkage. In addition to these critical objectives, effective security measures can provide a range of benefits that can positively impact a business. Here are some ways in which retail security can benefit retailers:
Security measures like security cameras, alarms, and access control systems can provide increased safety for customers and employees. Visible security measures can also give shoppers peace of mind while they are browsing and making purchases.
By minimising loss, retail security measures can help to improve profitability. With reduced losses from theft and shrinkage, retailers can increase their profit margins and reinvest these savings into their businesses. This can lead to better customer experiences and increased customer loyalty.
The Customer Experience
Anything that improves the customer experience is a positive step for a retail business. For instance, quick and efficient bag checks can help reduce wait times and enhance the overall shopping experience. This can help retailers stand out from competitors and build customer loyalty.
Retailers with effective security measures may also benefit from reduced insurance costs. Insurance providers often view businesses with strong security measures as lower-risk clients, which can lead to lower premiums.
A security incident can quickly damage a business’s brand reputation, so having effective security measures in place can prevent incidents from occurring in the first place. This can help to maintain customer loyalty and protect the business’s long-term success.
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Retail Security Measures – the three main categories
So let’s now explore the three main categories of retail security measures and discuss some specific examples within each category.
Physical Security Measures
These are the tangible components of your security plan. They involve equipment or structures that are designed to prevent or deter unauthorised access or theft physically. Examples of physical security measures include:
- CCTV Surveillance Systems: Closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems are effective security measures that use cameras to monitor the store’s interior and exterior. They can be placed in key locations such as entrances, exits, and cash registers to help deter theft, and in the event of an incident, they can provide valuable evidence for law enforcement.
- Access Control Systems: Access control systems include electronic locks and keycards that limit access to authorized personnel. These systems can also track who enters and exits the store and when which can help to identify suspicious behaviour.
- Alarms and Sensors: Alarms and sensors can be used to detect unauthorized entry, break-ins, or tampering with merchandise. They can be set to trigger an audible or silent alarm and alert store personnel or law enforcement.
- Locks and Keys: Proper locks and keys are essential for securing valuable merchandise, cash, and sensitive information. Make sure to use high-security locks that cannot be easily picked or tampered with.
These are the policies and procedures that retailers put in place to manage and mitigate security risks. These measures include:
- Employee Training: Properly trained employees can be an effective security measure. They should be trained on security policies, and procedures, and identifying and reporting suspicious behaviour.
- Store Policies and Procedures: Clear policies and procedures can help to prevent theft and reduce security risks. This includes policies for opening and closing the store, cash handling, and merchandise handling.
- Audit and Inventory Control: Regular inventory checks can help to identify discrepancies and prevent theft. It is essential to keep accurate records of all transactions and to have clear procedures for reporting and investigating discrepancies.
Technological Security Measures
These make use of digital security tools to protect sensitive data, prevent fraud, and track merchandise. Examples of technological security measures include
- Point of Sale (POS) Systems: POS systems are used to process transactions and track inventory. They can be integrated with inventory control systems; some even have built-in fraud detection features.
- RFID Tagging: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging uses electronic tags to track merchandise throughout the supply chain. This can help to prevent theft, reduce inventory discrepancies, and improve supply chain efficiency.
- Biometric Systems: Biometric systems use fingerprints or facial recognition technology to grant access to secure areas. This can prevent unauthorised access to sensitive information or merchandise
By implementing these physical, organisational, and technological security measures, retailers can prevent theft, reduce security risks, and improve the overall safety of their stores.
Unobtrusive Retail Security: Balancing Effectiveness with a Positive Customer Experience
Visible security measures can be effective at deterring theft, but many shops would rather keep their security measures less obvious to give their customers a more comfortable shopping experience.
Here are some subtle strategies that retailers can use to make their security measures more effective but less overt and, in that way, maintain a positive customer experience:
- Uniformed Security Personnel: Instead of having guards in uniform, consider using plain-clothed security personnel who blend in with the crowd. Staff integrity can also be tested using security personnel to act as mystery shoppers.
- Audio Announcements: Play non-threatening, calm-sounding announcements in the store that remind customers that security measures are in place, without sounding like a warning.
- CCTV Surveillance: CCTV cameras can be used to monitor activities and detect theft or suspicious behaviour without being obvious or intrusive to customers. Retailers can install cameras that are not easily visible to customers, such as cameras that are embedded into light fixtures or disguised as objects like smoke detectors. These hidden cameras can still provide valuable footage for security monitoring without being too overt.
- Access Control: Use access control systems to restrict access to restricted areas of your store, such as stockrooms or back offices. This can help prevent theft while keeping the customer experience seamless.
- Use of signage: Using signs that inform customers of your security measures without making them feel uncomfortable or unsafe can be effective in deterring theft without being overly intrusive. For example, signs that say “this shop is under video surveillance” indicate that the business is aware of, and focuses on security.
- Discreet Alarm Systems: Most customers will not feel comfortable with loud alarms or flashing red lights. Use discreet alarm systems and intelligent monitoring systems that can detect unusual behaviour or transactions. When integrated with the security personnel’s communication devices it means they can respond to any incidents quickly and without creating a commotion.
- Locks and Keys: Keep stockrooms, back offices, and other restricted areas locked and secured with keys that are only given to authorised personnel. This limits the potential for theft by employees which has proven to be the most costly form of slippage experienced by retailers
- Anti-theft tags and labels: These can be hidden within product packaging or clothing. These anti-theft devices can set off an alarm if someone tries to leave the store with the product without paying, without being too noticeable or disruptive to other customers.
- Staff training: Train staff on subtle observation: Retail staff can be trained to be alert to customers’ behaviours and look for signs of suspicious activity. Creating a culture of security within a retail business can be done without being too overt or invasive to customers.
- A welcoming and friendly environment: Retailers can make their stores more welcoming and friendly to customers, which can make it less likely for people to engage in criminal activities. Creating a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere can also encourage customers to stay longer and make repeat purchases.
By implementing these unobtrusive security measures, retail businesses can maintain a safe and secure environment while also ensuring that their customers feel welcome and valued. Always bear in mind that a positive customer experience can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business
Working with a security contractor to keep customers coming through the door
Security contractors play a vital role in protecting retail shops, but it’s important that their security measures don’t deter customers from coming through the door. A good security company will come up with a plan that includes a variety of security measures, many of which will be low-key.
Here are some strategies that you might want to discuss with a retail security contractor to ensure that their guards and other security measures are not deterring customers:
- The levels of customer service training for security personnel: Retail security guards can be trained on how to provide excellent customer service while still maintaining a secure environment. This can include greeting customers as they enter the store, assisting with directions or product inquiries, and maintaining a friendly and welcoming attitude.
- The use of uniformed and non-uniformed guards: Retail security contractors can use both uniformed and non-uniformed guards to create a balance between visibility and subtlety. Uniformed guards can serve as a visible deterrent to potential criminals, while non-uniformed guards can blend in with the crowd and provide more subtle security.
- Placing guards in inconspicuous locations: Guards can be placed in inconspicuous locations, to maintain a secure environment without being too overt. This can also help to create a more natural flow of foot traffic and prevent congestion at the entrance.
- Use of technology to enhance security: Retail security contractors can use technology such as CCTV cameras, motion detectors, and electronic access control systems to supplement security measures without relying solely on security guards. This can help to create a more subtle security environment while still maintaining high levels of protection.
- Obtaining customer feedback: Retail security contractors can use surveys to monitor the effectiveness of security measures and get customer feedback on the levels of security and the impression they create. This can help to identify any potential issues and make adjustments to security measures as needed.
Partner With Titan Security Today
If you represent a retail business in the UK or Europe that needs a security boost that will not deter your customers, Titan can help. We’ve been in this industry for more than 3 decades and have retail businesses of all sizes including some international brands in our customer portfolio. Get in touch with our retail security experts to discuss your unique needs and requirements. We are a flexible and agile security company and we offer free retail security audits.
Contact us today to discuss how we can help you create a safe and secure retail environment, boost profitability, and provide an exceptional shopping experience for your customers.