Late Night And Overnight Store Operations Make It Difficult To Prevent Shoplifting And Robbery

I watched a video shared with me by a former Loss Prevention Manager colleague. The video showed three subjects enter a retail store and all appeared to be wearing masks and at least one looked to be carrying a rifle of some type. There were several employees at the front entrance when the subjects walked in and one of the employees seemed to say something to the one who was carrying what I will refer to as a rifle. The video was not the greatest and the camera is pointing into the store from the exterior door so for the most part, the backs of the perpetrators are seen.

The employee who approached the subject standing at the doorway may have said something and in the video, it appears the employee was hit and knocked to the floor. Two of the bad guys raced into the store and shortly afterward ran out and it seems they were carrying bags. I did not inquire as to what was stolen from the store but one person did inquire why this particular retailer was open after midnight (an unusual time of the evening for this company to have the doors to their stores open). It turns out they were open late for a special sale of “Star Wars” toys being released.

The idea of remaining open late into the night has always disturbed me. In my opinion, it invites all sorts of problems. How do you prevent robberies this late at night? How do you prevent shoplifting? What about the protection you should be offering your customers who come to your store so late? All of these are things that retailers should be considering before they make a decision to try to get one more sale or add one more dollar to the register.

 One thing that Loss Prevention departments can do little about is stopping a robbery while it is in the act of occurring. They also cannot control who is coming into a store. This brings me back to the point about store leadership that decides to leave a store open late at night. The idea is that sales are going to surge (for that night or event) and the store has to beat the competition. If a store is going to be open late at night, and the owner/manager believes this is the best business decision my first recommendation is that the store is fully staffed. More employees are a deterrent to thieves and robbers not to mention shoplifters than a skeleton crew.

Customer safety has to be considered and so it is the obligation of management to make sure parking lot lights are all on and working properly. Several weeks prior to the event(s) a thorough inspection of parking lot lighting should be completed and ALL issues fixed by the property owner prior to the event. All exterior building lights must be working to take away areas where criminals may try to lurk. Camera (closed-circuit television systems) installation would be a good idea and today it can be done for relatively little money. Fixed cameras can be installed to monitor front entrances and exits, cash registers, a cash office and even sidewalks and parking lots. Finally, and this can be controversial, hire an armed security officer or off-duty police officer to work the front door of the store.

There are people who have a concern with an armed security officer or off-duty police officer for store protection. This is where the controversy comes in. What if someone(s) enters the store to commit an armed robbery? If that officer draws their weapon to intervene the possibility of innocent customers or employees being injured increases exponentially. On the other hand, an armed officer may be a strong deterrent to would-be robbers and their visibility may prevent shoplifting by being stationed at the front doors. The question remains, what if that one robbery attempt happens and everything goes bad? Store owners and managers MUST take that into consideration before taking that step.

I am not a fan of the late night or overnight store operation. I believe the risks associated with these events along with the possibility of robbery and increased theft, far outweigh the financial gain. Instead, drive profits with great customer service, great values and sales and reduced shortage with the use of retail anti-theft devices. Make safety and security a priority and your employees will appreciate it and customers will reward you by spending money in your store.

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