In retail, even the slightest lapse in safety and security can spell disaster. Theft, fraud, and data breaches can put a sizeable dent on your bottom line… and reputation.
Industry data shows that security issues in retail aren’t slowing down. The NRF’s latest retail security survey found that overall shrink in retail is trending up. What’s more, Organized Retail Crime (ORC) continues to plague retailers. The NRF found that in 2018, ORC cost retailers $777,877 per $1 billion in sales — which is an all-time survey high.
We’re not saying this to alarm you. We’re pointing it out because you need to be prepared. If you don’t have the right security procedures in place or if you haven’t updated your policies in a while, you need to take immediate steps to ensure that your store is safe and secure at all times.
1. Be aware of security threats and assess your existing practices
To adequately secure your retail store, you need to be aware of the threats that you’re protecting yourself against.
As Sean Sportun the Security & Loss Prevention Manager at Circle K puts it, “Building an effective security plan to establish tighter security policies starts with assessing what is currently in place. This will help guide the focus on where improvements are needed and determine what policies need to be tightened up or implemented based on levels of risk.”
There are two main types of security threats: physical and digital. Physical threats involve situations in which the culprits have to physically breach your security measures. Examples include:
- Internal theft
To assess your store for these types of threats, physically examine all the areas and components of your store. Identify the parts that are prone to security breaches. These may include hard-to-see corners and shelves that contain high-ticket items. You should also go through your inventory and take note of which items are susceptible to theft.
Taking these steps will help you come up with the right measures to set in place. For example, if you know what your top stolen items are, you can take steps to keep them secure. Or, if you discover some blind spots in your store, you can install the right equipment to keep them visible to you and your employees.
Now let’s talk about digital threats. Unlike physical security breaches, digital threats are carried out through cyber break-ins. They include:
- Card Skimming
- Customer data breaches
- Website hacking
- Secret taps in your network
The best way to protect yourself against digital threats is to ensure that the hardware and software you’re using in your store are compliant and up-to-date with the latest security standards. This is particularly important for programs and equipment that handle customer and payment data.
As Meaghan Brophy, a Senior Retail Analyst at FitSmallBusiness says, “when it comes to digital security, the most vulnerable spots for most retail businesses are their websites and payment processing.”
To protect your data, she says you need to “make sure that your payment processing system is PCI compliant and that you can accept EMV or chip payments.”
Brophy also cautions against storing sensitive customer data and credit card information. A good rule of thumb to follow? If you don’t need the data, don’t store it. Hackers can’t steal what you don’t have.
2. Hire the right employees
Carrying out your security policies comes down to your employees, so you want to make sure that you’re bringing employees who will enforce — not compromise — your retail security.
Peter Sean Magner, Director at Iridium Business Solutions, says that retailers should be very careful with who they hire and look into the backgrounds of new employees.
Make background checks a part of your store’s security measures. One thing you could do is perform specific checks based on your staff’s roles and responsibilities.
For instance, if you’re hiring a cashier or clerk, then running a basic background check involving address and employment verification and criminal history should suffice. On the other hand, if you’re bringing in warehouse and delivery personnel, then you’ll want to add drug testing and motor vehicle reports to the list of things to check.
Whatever the case, make sure that you’re performing due diligence on every person who joins your team.
3. Train your employees well and communicate your policies
Ensure that your employees are well aware of security policies. Your guidelines and procedures should be “clearly documented and provided to all staff when joining and explained during the training process,” says Magner.
Sportun echoes this advice and adds that “if employees understand what is being asked of them and training remains relevant and relatable, the organization will experience an enhanced level of compliance. Proper training increases the odds of success and builds a lasting safety & security culture.”
How exactly should you communicate your policies? Here are a few suggestions:
Show and tell
The best way to get your employees to internalize your procedures is to convey them in multiple ways. In addition to telling people about your security policies, make it a point to show them how to carry about different tasks and procedures.
Let’s say you have specific measures for cash handling. You’ll want to verbally communicate them during training, but you (or an experienced member of your team) should also demonstrate the process to your new hires and supervise them during the first few times they carry out the task.
Post reminders and guidelines around your store
Print out your guidelines and post them in places where your employees converge — such as the stockroom, back office, or behind the counter. This keeps your security measures top-of-mind and helps ensure that your procedures are carried out.
Bring in professionals if necessary
If you don’t have in-house security specialists, consider bringing in third-party experts to coach your team. These professionals often have the best and most updated information when it comes to retail security and loss prevention, so they can help ensure that your employees stay on top of their game.
4. Invest in the right tools
Even highly trained retail employees can run into security issues if they don’t have the right tools. That’s why it’s important to invest in loss prevention solutions such as:
“One of the most effective ways to keep employees and customers safe is to install a surveillance camera system with comprehensive coverage over the most highly-trafficked and important areas,” says Gregg DeRouanna of CCTV Security Pros.
DeRouanna recommends choosing a system that can be remotely accessed using your computer or mobile device.
He adds, “a camera system makes an excellent deterrent to criminal activity and inappropriate behavior. Having a record of incidents, should they occur on your premises, can also help protect you and your employees from liability. Encourage managers to periodically review the footage, even outside of incidents. That way, they can discover if safety processes are being followed even while they’re not around.”
RFID or Security Tags
Magner advises investing in RFID tags. “RFID not only helps speed up inventory counts but can also be used as a strong security measure. It is much more secure than the older security tags, but does come at a higher price point.”
If you’re on a budget, he says you can use less expensive security tag options and install sensors at the store exit to check for active tags.
Scanners and Barcode Labels
Aside from speeding up the checkout and stock counting process, Magner says that barcode labels can also be used as retail loss prevention tools. Scanners and barcode labels can “ensure all products that are purchased are correctly captured.”
Pro tip: look into the solutions you’re already using
You should also look into the security features of your existing hardware and software.
“Retail solutions like POS systems, staff management software and payment processors often come with built-in security capabilities,” says Danny Choi, Founder, and CEO at Payment Depot.
“For instance, most POS systems have user permission features that let retailers limit the information or actions available to certain employees, based on their roles. Meanwhile, some payment processors offer data breach protection as well as chargeback and risk monitoring.”
According to Choi, retailers should be aware of these offerings and make sure that they’re taking advantage of them.
5. Conduct loss prevention audits
Performing loss (LP) prevention audits can help ensure compliance with your policies. Set up an LP checklist for your business, and have a manager go through your store to check if your measures are being carried out correctly.
The items on an LP checklist can vary, depending on the store, but here are some common points to include:
- The security system is fully-functioning
- The location does not allow non-personnel inside the store during non-business hours
- POS keys are kept in a secure location
- Only authorized personnel can carry out high-risk transactions and tasks on the POS
- High theft items are merchandised properly
- All items have a hang tag or barcode attached
- The location has clearly displayed policies for employees
- Everyone on the team understands policies around issuing refunds, voiding transactions, interacting with customers, etc.
For a full list of items to include, check out our Loss Prevention Checklist for 2019.
6. Have the right disciplinary procedures in place
“When the rules are broken, people need to know that there are consequences,” says Magner. “Having a disciplinary procedure in place is essential, but more importantly, is the following through of said procedure.”
If your processes aren’t being followed, take the steps to correct course. You may want to retrain your team or issue a written statement reminding employees to enforce your security policies.
Whatever you decide to do, see to it that your employees get the message and you can count on them to take retail security seriously.
What are your top retail security tips and best practices? Let us know in the comments.
Compliant IA is a complete retail execution and store communication platform. It runs on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It combines task management, social collaboration, smart checklists, action plans and photo verification to ensure store programs are communicated and executed in time, in full, in all locations.
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