Billions of dollars are lost every year to shoplifters. Burglaries and employee theft also amount to great losses for retailers around the country. Why not take a look at some of the ways and means to protect your products and your property.
While you need to be very security-conscious, you don’t want to make your customers feel like they’re shopping in a prison. The key is to establish a system where you have control over your merchandise, without jeopardizing sales with cumbersome security tags or aggressive measures that make shoppers uncomfortable.
Since shoplifting is the most significant threat to retail stores, costing retailers an estimated $30 billion annually, this should be your primary security concern. Electronic article surveillance (EAS) is the primary means of preventing shoplifting, by means of tags that attach to the merchandise or packaging. Such tags are typically either magnetic or use radio frequencies; they can be removed or deactivated by the cashier at the time of purchase. If not removed or deactivated, the tags activate a detection system that sounds an alarm when customers pass through the security pedestals placed at store exits. Discreet or concealed systems are available, but more expensive than pedestals.
For a detailed discussion of radio frequency identification tags for retail security, see RFID for Small Business.
Security tag technology has improved over the 25 years since its emergence in the early 1980s. One cannot bypass the newer tags by placing aluminum or other fabrics over them. Of course, you should ask to see a demonstration of any tagging system to make sure that the tags are easy to remove or deactivate and to verify that they are effective with minimal false alarms.
Sensormatic and Checkpoint Systems are the two largest EAS manufacturers. Both offer a wide variety of products including new smart technology that not only protects merchandise but also provides inventory reports.
Retail security systems
In addition to inventory tags, you should install some type of surveillance in your store. The latest closed-circuit televisions systems can narrow store activities down to precise times, unlike traditional videotape, which requires scanning the entire tape to find the moment when unusual activity occurred. The new models record specific motion and are very user-friendly. For roughly $1,000, an average-sized store can set up cameras indoors and outside along the perimeter of the shop.
Indoor dome cameras provide more subtlety, while the latest in standard mounted surveillance cameras provide sharp detail. For outdoor use, look for weather-sensitive enclosures. Spy cameras hidden in wall clocks, more frequently used in office settings, are sometimes used in stockrooms, break rooms, or other back-of-the-store locations in order to catch internal theft. Smaller versions come in smoke-detector casings.
The latest alarm systems can be used on all windows to deter break-ins. They can be installed to reach a central security destination and provide information on the specific window that was opened or broken.
Of course, the best security system is often a trusted employee trained to use the various tools. Staffers need to be alert for customers lurking in a remote area of the store or returning to one area often to stash stolen goods. It is also important to keep tabs on what is taken into and out of dressing rooms, and make sure that all stockroom and other “personnel only” areas are not entered by anyone but staff members. In fact, coded badges can be worn by employees, so that anyone entering such areas without one sets off an alarm. For more tips on thwarting sticky-fingered customers, read How to Reduce Shoplifting in Your Store.
While combining these measures will help with security, it’s also important to establish a relationship with local law enforcement officers, so that they are aware of your presence in the community and the hours that your business is open.