Not Planning For Summer Customer Traffic In March Is Madness

Not Planning For Summer Customer Traffic In March Is Madness

Have you ever noticed how quickly big box retailers will transition from the Christmas season in their “seasonal” departments to jumping into the new Spring/Summer merchandising sets? They don’t play around they are very strategic in their planning to get a jump on their competition. They use their mini-seasonal areas to drive the Valentine’s Day and Easter business but the large areas used for patio sets, plants, gardening, etc. get changed shortly after the Christmas season is over. Smaller retail stores should be doing their own transitions at this time too. It’s madness if you haven’t started putting out the Spring/Summer merchandise for your type of store by March.

     I understand there are some types of retail stores where it would seem a bit more difficult to appeal to a seasonal change. I think of luggage stores or perhaps a “mom and pop” corner grocery store where customers are used to purchasing their staple food items. But let’s think about this for a moment. Is there room for even the least seasonal retailer to adapt to seasonal sales? I would suggest there is room and it may take a bit of getting out of a comfort zone. Let’s say you sell luggage and people are going to come to your store who travel at all times of the year. Is it possible for you to carry some items that may be more colorful to appeal to a summer traveler? Think about how much easier it would be to locate a unique or brightly colored suitcase if it is on an airport carousel. While some shoppers (such as I) might prefer a traditional dark colored carry- on bag or briefcase, there are those people who fancy a more whimsical style. A change of colors and patterns might draw in more customers especially with the right touch of advertising and product placement.

     Mom and Pop grocers, sure milk, eggs and bread may be your bread and butter (pun intended) but is there any reason you couldn’t put out a display of Igloo coolers, picnic grills, aluminum foil, six-packs of soft drinks or beer? How about a front of store display with these items, grilling aprons and advertising for specials on lunchmeats, steaks and hotdogs directing consumers to your cooler section? Sometimes we all get in ruts and we fail to look outside the box for new and creative ideas to keep a business fresh and improve sales.

     There are the stores out there that just seem to always maintain the same set up and merchandising year in and year out. I can think of a local hardware store I sometimes go to when I don’t feel like fighting the other shoppers at the national hardware chain stores. When I do go to this particular store I usually have to search a bit to find what I need, it isn’t super neat but everything seems to be where it has been for the past fifteen years I have shopped there. It does make me wonder if the owner is trying to reach out to new customers or worries about the competition from the big box stores. A few changes now and again could probably make an impact on sales but that is a choice that owner has to make. What kind of changes would I suggest? I would put out new signs to let customers know about any sales that are running. Place gardening tools and gloves, tillers and lawnmowers at the front of the store. If the store has electronic article surveillance towers, upgrade them so that advertising panels can be interchanged and catch customer’s attention as they walk in.

     Seasons change and retail stores should too, before the beginning of the next season. Take a look at a national clothing retailer the next time you walk into a store. It may be January and they will start putting out swimwear when you are still wearing a jacket. Smaller retailers can take a lesson from the large chain stores. I am not saying to become them, but there are some tips and tricks you can take away. March is here and now is the time to rebound from your winter season and spring into action by driving those summer sales.

An Attitude Of Service Or Just An Attitude? Attitudes Affect Customer Service

This is going to seem a bit odd to some of you but I want to know if you have an attitude? Store owners, do you have an attitude? Store Managers, do you have an attitude? Has anyone taken a look at the attitude of their employees? EVERYONE has an attitude, the statement isn’t necessarily a negative it can be positive. The problem is we have grown accustomed to thinking of it with a negative connotation. Why is that? Because in some form or fashion we have adopted the idea that an “attitude” shows our independence or ability to be self-reliant regardless of what others think. At times it can be very course and abrasive to others. If that is your “attitude” how does that relate to your customers, or those who work for you? I would like you to consider for a moment that an “attitude” may look more like a chip-on-the shoulder than some sort of independence (in some cases if looks like a boulder more than a chip).

     An owner with a poor attitude makes the job more difficult for the managers who work for her or him. The “I’m the boss” temperament may be unstated but if that is how an owner thinks it can reflect into how they give direction and interact with their managers. It frequently means that no one else can have a better way of doing things and leads to a stale operation. I will also tell you that the negative attitude rolls downhill.  The way you interact with your managers will be reflected in how they interact with the store associates and they, in turn, have attitudes with the customers. I have seen it in action and I can tell you I have experienced it and have allowed it to impact my interactions with my team in spite of my best intentions. By the end of a workday, everyone leaves in a grouchy mood. 

     The attitude of the owner affects the attitude of the managers has a direct impact on your customers who don’t have to shop at your store. I happen to work for a company that has two stores in the immediate area. On more than one occasion we have heard comments from customers that they don’t like to go to the other store. They tell us the customer service is poor and the employees are not friendly. On the other hand the manager of the store where I work makes a point of telling the managers they are to do whatever they can to keep customers happy (within reason and without violating policies). Employees may get busy but they enjoy working for this manager. The atmosphere is welcoming and we make every effort to greet our customers and offer assistance when they walk into the building. I have gone into the other store and the climate is different. If a greeting is offered it is more of an obligatory hello that a genuine one.  

     What is the climate in your store? What do your managers and employees think about your management style? If you aren’t concerned think again. If your store employees are providing poor customer service to customers because of the treatment they receive it as a direct impact on sales and a direct impact on theft prevention. Shoplifters who have been interviewed have said that they target those stores where employees are unhappy. They don’t have to worry about someone trying to give them too much attention. If shoplifters aren’t receiving service, neither are your customers and that means no one is trying to sell let alone up-sell for a store. 

     Customer service starts with leadership. When the management team seeks to make the climate one where employees enjoy coming to work that attitude will be reflected in the interactions between workers and customers. Owners and managers cannot assume the team is happy. Truly anonymous employee surveys will help gauge what employees are thinking. They can also be a tool for seeking ideas about what employees might want to see done differently or an outlet for ways to improve. Happy employees make a world of difference. What is the climate in your world? Is everything great or is an attitude adjustment in order? 

Did The Grinch Steal Your Retail Christmas? 

Wow, Christmas is over and Retailers are starting to dig out from the carnage. Unfortunately, some of the carnage is all the merchandise that shoplifters have liberated from your store. I believe that theft is actually the oldest vice around. Even older than “the oldest profession”. As long are there are two things on this earth 1-people and 2-stuff, there will be theft. Well, neither is going away anytime soon. So what do we do?  

The first thing is to make the decision to take your store back from the enemy. Putting the solution off will not fix the problem and it will get worse. The second is to implement the two proven solutions. Training and a Sensormatic system. 

TRAINING – Over the past 35 years I have heard countless retailers say the same thing. “I don’t know what I can or cannot do with or about shoplifters”. Shoplifters are no different than any other business challenge we face. Attack it head-on. Loss Prevention Systems can educate you on what you can and cannot do. But more importantly, we will take you off the defensive and put you on the offense. Now I know what you may be thinking right now. “I am not going to chase shoplifters down and tackle them!”. Well, I am glad we got that out because we do not want you to do that either. We want to prevent the loss from occurring (that’s why we call ourselves Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. What a coincidence, huh?).  

Training should cover a discussion of the problem itself, the law both criminal and civil, who shoplifters are and how to spot them before they even steal, going on the offensive with customer service tactics and more. We do this live via webinar with as many of your folks as you can pull together. I have actually found that most of the time we need to do two sessions so we do not leave the store short staffed or someone misses out. Training will help give you the confidence to attack the shoplifting scourge head-on. 

SENSORMATIC SYSTEM – “So if I am trained, why do I need a Sensormatic system and Sensormatic security labels?” Great question, glad you asked that! (sorry, I am in one of those moods) Consider this, training is only half of the solution. You and your staff can be trained up in the techniques to prevent and deal with shoplifting but you cannot be everywhere at once, even in a small boutique. Shoplifters WILL create an environment where they can steal. On top of that what you will find is that some of your “best” customers are also actually stealing from you. Yes, that good customer is buying merchandise, either small inexpensive items or even more expensive ones but they are actually stealing other merchandise in addition to that. And because they are a “best” or frequently seen customer less attention is paid to their activities. They are kind of a fixture, they hang out a bit, joke with the staff, ask questions and then…. They are simply not observed because “that’s just Sam or Wendy, they are really nice”. 

So to handle all that you will find that a Sensormatic system is actually cheaper than additional payroll. In addition to that, the Sensormatic system never takes a day off, does not call in sick or no show. The Sensormatic system is working 24/7. Actually, many of our systems actually power themselves down after you close to save on your energy bill. They automatically wake themselves up when you come in the next day. 

A Sensormatic system has two benefits. It sends a message to the thieves (real customers do not care) and prevents losses. And, of course, the tags and labels are actually protecting your merchandise and bottom line. 

So there are no more excuses. Make this year the best yet for sales you make and actually keep the margin make on the bottom line. Grinch, GO AWAY! Contact us today. We can make both Training and a Sensormatic system your reality. 


A Proper Reflection Of The Past Year Can Make The New Year Even Better

It is January and you are ready to get started on your new year. What does the start of a New Year look like for your business? Are you still trying to move out seasonal and clearance merchandise? Are you preparing to trim back payroll by releasing seasonal employees? Maybe you are already thinking about inventory and what you will need to do to prepare for that day. There are all sorts of ways retail owners and managers start the New Year but I would suggest that before you look forward you take time to look back on the previous year. 

There are a couple of reasons I would suggest reflecting on what the past year has been like for the business. First, by taking the time to reflect on the year you can celebrate the store wins with the entire store team. Employees want to know how their contributions have helped the store meet goals that were set. You may have one or one hundred successes to share but your entire team has put in the work and should be given a chance to share in the successes. It can be a simple cake in the breakroom or a small in-store party but let your employees know that their efforts paid off and are appreciated.  

 Another reason for reflection is that you can evaluate what did not go as planned. This is when you pull out planning documents or action plans and look at what goals were not reached. Did you meet your sales goals? Did you make stock shortage objectives? Did you meet your employee turnover goals? If you cannot celebrate an item as a win you will want to move that to the new store action plan for this year. You and your management team will need to consider what can be done differently to achieve the goals you set and missed. This is not a 5-minute task. This will require the team to drill down to the causes that led to a missed goal and then plan how to improve it. Sometimes this can feel personal and everyone needs to leave their feelings outside the room. Approach the problem as a group and find ways to help each other with action items. 

One of my favorite tools for a New Year is what I have adopted from several workplaces, a “What Works/What Didn’t Work” session. I have seen these done by only a management team but the truly effective sessions include team members and hourly staff. The employees will often provide you with insight into problems you did not know existed. Here is an example; you may think you have a good return policy and your return desk employees are happy. You don’t see anything that indicates problems with your refund program. What you may not be aware of is that your service desk employees are unhappy because they feel that managers are not supporting them after they turn down a refund with no receipt. The managers are called when the customer is upset and the manager arrives and tells the customer they “will take care of it”. Sure, the customers are happy and the policies look like they are enforced but the service desk employees feel foolish and undermined. A “What Worked/What Didn’t Work” session can help you see how you can improve policies, services and improve morale. When you conduct one, make sure you also ask your employees for suggestions on how to improve what they think did not work. Don’t let it simply be a gripe session. It also allows you to clarify reasons some policies may be in place that employees were unaware of before the meetings. 

After you have celebrated, evaluated and set new goals you are almost ready to jump into your New Year. Make sure your goals are realistic and create plans that will be effective in achieving those goals. If reducing shortage by .5% is your goal, you may want to install an Electronic Article Surveillance system. If making your hiring process easier and reducing paperwork is a goal, Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. can help you with their Applicant Management Center. If parking lot break-ins are an issue you can request improved lighting from your property management company. If you need help in risk assessment and loss reduction Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. offers a consultation package that involves everything from an onsite visit to a comprehensive loss prevention policies and procedures package. 

Start your year off right with a look back at the previous year. Share wins, evaluate opportunities and work as a team to create plans that will lead to an even better year than last. Make 2019 a year of growth and prosperity and consider taking Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. along as a partner!


 

New Year’s Resolutions That Help The Environment And Can Keep Stores Profitable

It’s 2019 and time to make some New Year’s resolutions! We all know how easy a resolution can be to make but they are hard to keep. We also know that it is just as easy to break a resolution but are there resolutions a store owner can make that would benefit the store AND benefit society? I think one resolution that would be mutually beneficial for both would be the implementation of environment-friendly policies and procedures. We are talking about sensible measures that would appeal to anyone on either side of the political spectrum. Right now there is a big push for the elimination of plastic shopping bags. There are also those opposed to going back to paper bags. What could the solution be? Try encouraging the use of recyclable, reusable shopping bags for your customers. You make those opposed to one-time use bags happy and you save money on the need to regularly purchase more shopping bags (which can be a rather pricey supply on your monthly expense report). To implement this type of change you would want to have reusable bags ready for your customers and you might even give them away for the first few weeks you start the program. After that, you might give customers a small discount to customers who bring their own bags, say 1% on every transaction.

     Problems that may arise by allowing recycled bags into the store. The first concern is the potential for increased shoplifting. Inviting customers to bring their bags into the store to bag groceries is going to make shoplifting that much easier. Thieves already walk by unattended cash registers to pick up plastic shopping bags as they enter the store. They fill them up, look like any other customer who has made a purchase at an in-store terminal and they leave. Most customers are honest but I would remind readers that one of the necessary ingredients for shoplifting is opportunity. Without opportunity, some people who may be tempted to steal for a thrill are kept in check. You provide opportunity by permitting reusable bags and some will take advantage of it. You also have to think, are the bags only allowed at the checkout stand? How do you keep shoppers from filling them up as a convenience rather than using a shopping cart? How do you monitor the shoppers for those who may be stealing and those who are simply picking up merchandise for purchase? It can lead to problems for store owners.

     There is a way to allow the use of shopping bags and minimize the risk of increased shoplifting and that is the installation of an electronic article surveillance system (EAS). If you are going to resolve to help the environment you can still do it just by adding an EAS System in your store if you don’t already have one. You tag all of your merchandise with EAS tags or labels depending on what the merchandise is or how you strategize your theft prevention procedures. If a shopper has concealed merchandise in a bag they brought in and did not pay for it the alarm is going to be activated and your employees will respond to it.

     Since we are on the topic of being environmentally responsible it is important that retailers know that many EAS tags are built out of recyclable materials. Hard tags can be used multiple times to tag and re-tag merchandise thereby saving on the need for constantly purchasing new tags and since they are recyclable they help the environment. It should also be noted a lot of Sensormatic systems help to reduce power consumption. When the systems are not in use (during non-working store hours) they go into a power saver mode. Stores save money and wasted energy. The use of EAS loss prevention equipment saves stores money by preventing theft and it allows stores the ability to appeal to their environmentally focused customers thus driving sales.

     Another environment-friendly step you can make as a retailer is to look at recycling those cardboard boxes your merchandise is shipped in. A cardboard bale can bring in anywhere from $10 to $20 a ton. If this does not seem like a cost-effective move for your store you could try partnering with a neighboring store and combine efforts. It isn’t a lot of money but it does keep cardboard out of landfills and you can advertise that to your customers.

     Resolutions may not be easy to keep but once you start down the road of using merchandise protection and you see the money you save in shortage and how easy it is to implement you won’t find it difficult to stay on track. In 2019, resolve to make some changes that will help the environment and make your store more profitable at the same time.


Loss Prevention Systems For The New Year

For a loss prevention officer, the holiday season is a hard time to be jolly when the busiest shopping season of the year brings with it its shoplifters, crime, and theft.  During the holiday season, the number of incidents involving shoplifting increases considerably, and the losses the store suffers can be devastating to their bottom line.

For any retail store in the United States and across the globe, having a loss prevention system in place or a loss prevention officer in their store can be the difference between having profits or losses during their fiscal year. 

According to recent studies, more than half of retail stores in the United States have stopped investing in their loss prevention teams or systems even though their inventory shrink rate has seen an increase in the last year.  The inventory shrink rate takes into consideration the following:

  • Shoplifting
  • Employee theft
  • Vendor fraud
  • Administrative and paperwork errors

Shoplifting theft accounts for almost 40% of the total theft a store experiences, and even though the amount an employee steals can surpass that of the common shoplifter each instance it happens, the shoplifting theft can be considerable every year.

According to many pieces of research, retail stores lose approximately $35 million a day due to shoplifting or $48.9 billion in a year. Those detrimental statistics in the retail industry are worth considering when many stores and businesses decide whether to invest in a loss prevention system or a loss prevention team to combat the shoplifting in their store.

A loss prevention system expense can be recovered within a short period of time, and if your losses are increasing each year, the time you will recoup the money invested in the system shortens considerably. 

The introduction of a loss prevention system in the store allows your employees to dedicate more time with the customers entering your store, than attempting to catch the shoplifter. The system also allows your store to be protected and send a message to the shoplifters. Shoplifters know where and which stores to target.  If you are a store that doesn’t prosecute shoplifters or doesn’t have a loss prevention team or system, you are vulnerable and can become the target store for many of these shoplifters.


Strategies to Keep Black Fridays From Becoming Bleak Fridays (A Focus on Sales, Safety and Security)

Black Friday and the holiday shopping weekend has generally been the time of the year that most retailers are excited about. This is the time when shoppers are going to pull out their wallets and spend money. Deep discounts, doorbusters, even gift bags for the first customers, have been used to entice shoppers to visit stores early. It has been so successful as a marketing tool that stores have even advertised early Black Friday sales in JULY! Unfortunately, it seems that there has been a dark cloud overshadowing this weekend and it is more ominous each year. This cloud is one that can turn a Black Friday into a Bleak Friday if a store owner isn’t prepared for it.

     The black cloud involves the safety and security of customers and retail sales for the store owners. There are factors owners must take into account to keep that cloud from raining on a weekend that should be making shoppers happy and keeping registers ringing. As a Loss Prevention Manager, I have seen to it that my stores have remained safe during the Black Friday weekend but I have followed incidents at other stores where things turned ugly. Customers have gotten hurt rushing into stores. People have fought over doorbuster items that were limited in quantity. I have had to intervene when shoppers argued over not receiving a raincheck for a one-time purchase item. I have also worked a Black Friday when all of the registers went off-line and customers became angry and abandoned shopping carts. All of these can have a negative impact on sales and hamper the weekend that should be one of significant profits for a store.

     Here are some suggestions for preparing your store and employees for the event:

  • One of the things that set customers off is waiting in a line only to find out that a particular doorbuster is sold out. If you have some item you expect will draw in customers but there is a limited quantity, have a ticket for each item. Have someone go through the line as it forms and ask who is there for that item. Pass out the tickets and set aside enough to fill those orders. Continue to do this until you open the doors. If you run out of tickets before you open the doors be honest with the customers who are continuing to walk up and let them know you are out of that item.
  • Consider hiring a security company to provide a presence at the front of the stores to help keep order. A lot of altercations begin outside when people who have formed orderly lines and have waited patiently believe others are cutting in front of them. They are also a great presence to keep shoppers safe as they leave with their purchases to go to their cars. If you don’t want to hire security you can see if local police are willing to make frequent drive-by’s. Another alternative is to have two or three employees mingle with the line, talk about the sale items and even hand out store maps where specific sale items are located.
  • Check all of your point of sale equipment at least a week in advance to try to ensure there are no equipment failures on Black Friday.
  • Have a technician test all of your electronic article surveillance equipment to minimize false alarms and reduce the opportunity for theft to take place.
  • A lot of cash transactions take place on this holiday weekend and it is a good time for counterfeit bills to be passed. Be sure cashiers are using counterfeit pens for $50 and $100 bills. If possible a counterfeit bill detector for each point of sale is a better solution. Know that if you take counterfeit bills your store is not reimbursed or covered by your financial institution.
  • If your store happens to use display cases for some high ticket items, be sure more than one employee is carrying keys to assist customers and minimize wait times (also consider all of the retail anti-theft options available from Sensormatic that can improve security while enhancing sales).
  • Think about offering free coffee or tea to patrons who may be waiting outside for the store to open. You would be surprised at the positive response you will get from shoppers.

By taking the time to prepare in advance and plan out your Black Friday weekend you can minimize safety and security risks. The same planning will boost sales and ensure that your business truly experiences a very profitable holiday.


We Installed A Sensormatic System. Our Shoplifting Problems Are Over, Right?

NO! not yet. Before we begin patting ourselves on the back you must remember that your Sensormatic System is only part of your shoplifting solution. Your Sensormatic System will protect your merchandise however, many shoplifters are determined and will try to steal anyway. The Sensormatic System itself is a deterrent. Its mere presence will dissuade many shoplifters.

There are TWO PARTS to the shoplifting solution. Loss Prevention Systems, Inc. (LPSI) did not invent them, we simply perfected them both. So in your case:

✓  Sensormatic System installed by Loss Prevention Systems.

 Staff training by Loss Prevention Systems. LPSI includes FREE anti-shoplifting training with every Sensormatic system you purchase from us, as often as you reasonably need it.

Let’s discuss the training to teach your staff how to deter shoplifters. First, we have to get our heads straight about your Sensormatic System. The system is there protecting your tagged merchandise 24/7. It is critical to have but you must realize that to fully stop shoplifters, the first line of defense must be customer service. Shoplifters hate customer service. They do not want you near them and need privacy to conceal your merchandise even if only for a moment.

We want to teach your staff to approach every customer and at a minimum greet them. Did you know that over half of all shoplifters are classified as “impulse” shoplifters? An impulse shoplifter is someone who has entered your store and will only shoplift if you give them the opportunity. Many studies over the years have shown that most impulse shoplifters will not shoplift in your store, during that visit if they are properly greeted! Wow, that means that if you or your staff greet them when they walk in the door with a verbal greeting such as “welcome to xxxx” and as important use good eye contact that it is likely that the impulse shoplifter will not steal from you during that visit! So you have put a serious dent in your shoplifting losses by just greeting customers.

Of course, greeting customers also helps us to achieve higher sales. It gives the legitimate customer a chance to ask a question and makes them feel more at home. Think about it, good customers love customer service, shoplifters hate it. Customer service everyone to death and increase your sales and reduce your shoplifting losses all with one technique.


 

Children shoplifting: how parents are using kids to steal for them and/or kids shoplifting on their own

I was once asked why I kept toys on my desk in my Loss Prevention office. I had two reasons, the first was they were collectible superhero figurines (The Tick to be precise) and the other was to keep children entertained. It is a sad fact in Retail Loss Prevention but there are children who shoplift, there are parents who shoplift and there are parents who use their children to help shoplift. As a Loss Prevention professional, it is not hard to handle an adult who steals. There may be anger, tears, and pleading but these are adults and they made a choice to steal so there should be consequences. What is not so easy to cope with is the child who has to sit in the office while the parent is being processed and does not understand what is taking place. There were many instances when I had to try to keep these young ones entertained as mom or dad were answering questions about the crime, providing personal information or trying to contact a family member or friend who would be willing to pick up the child. Add to the mix a parent who is throwing a conniption fit or making the scenario worse by bawling and wailing in front of the child begging you to let them go “Just this one time and it won’t ever happen again, I promise.” It becomes quite annoying. It also upsets the child who becomes a prop for the parent. The toys were my prop to entertain the children in a pinch.

     It may be hard to comprehend but aside from just shoplifting with their kids in tow, there are parents who use their children as tools or props to commit their crimes. What is worse than a parent who removes a price tag from a purse, straps it over their daughter’s shoulder and walks out with her and the purse? Well, it could be worse when the parent scolds the child and tells her she shouldn’t have done that when the parent is caught by Loss Prevention. Then there are the parents who walk through the store pushing a baby in an infant stroller with the little baby covered by a blanket. What can these doting mothers and fathers do with a cute little baby you may ask? It turns out baby strollers with blankets make great hiding places for designer blue jeans…MANY pairs of designer jeans. Aw gee, let’s not forget one of my all-time favorites, the pregnant mommy who gets more pregnant simply by walking through the store gathering clothing.

     If you aren’t shocked by now it could shake you up to know that some parents not only use their children as props or to disguise their own theft, some will steal while the children steal too. I caught two mothers and their combined five children ALL stealing in my store. The children wandered around areas of the store that interested them and the mothers did likewise. Everyone took their turn cleaning house. I once caught a father and his teenage son stealing jeans in a department store I worked in. It really gave perspective to the term, “Like father like son”… although I think the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” also came to mind. The unfortunate reality is, those cute, cherubic faces and tiny tots may not be just little cutie pies accompanying their mom or dad in your store. It is not uncommon for these youngsters to be covers for theft or potentially cranky crooks themselves.

     So how should retailers handle situations like these to prevent shoplifting family frolics? The number one deterrent to all shoplifters is customer service for everyone. Adults, as well as children, should be acknowledged and assistance offered. Electronic Article Surveillance systems will discourage adults from stealing. And while the systems may help prevent teenaged terrors from 5-finger discounts they will probably not have the same effect on young kids. It is probably not a good idea to try to stop a shoplifter if you do not have trained Loss Prevention Personnel working for you. Bad stops and aggressive shoplifters can lead to costly and/or dangerous situations. Aggressive, non-stop customer service is in order if you have a strong suspicion someone is stealing. Most importantly don’t let yourself be duped by those cute-chubby cheeked darlings. Those families might not be as charming as they look.


      

It’s getting darker earlier: how to keep customers and employees safe

Now that fall is upon us it is getting darker earlier. These hours of darkness can bring unique challenges for retail owners. Have you ever considered that it is your responsibility to help keep customers and employees remain safe while they are on your property? It may make sense that you are responsible for employee safety but you are also obliged to help keep customers safe as well. This includes your parking lot and the exterior areas around the building. How do you do this? What do you have to protect against? Good questions and hopefully we can provide you with answers to those questions and suggestions to make your business safer.

     What is it that you need to protect against as the daylight hours become shorter?

  • The potential for robberies increases in the hours of darkness.
  • Slip/trip/fall accidents in the parking lot can increase when it is dark as hazards are more difficult to see.
  • Car break-ins can increase.
  • Working at night can have an impact on your employees.
  • The risk of violence can increase.

Planning for operating a store during extended hours of darkness can help prevent problems that could arise.  According to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) power point presentation, “Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments” one of the panels states”; “Late-night retail businesses such as convenient stores, liquor stores, and gasoline stations have experienced high homicides and assault rates”. The same power point on panel 5 goes on to mention the following as risk factors for late-night retail workers:

  • Exchange of money
  • Solo work and isolated work sites
  • Sale of alcohol
  • Poorly lit stores and parking lots
  • Lack of staff training in recognizing and managing escalating hostile and aggressive behavior

There are things store owners can do to mitigate the risks to their employees and patrons.

  • Inspect parking lots and sidewalks now for potential trip hazards. Have curbs painted yellow to make them fire lanes as well as making them brighter to reduce the chance someone trips on them. Paint parking stops or blocks a reflective white or yellow again to lower the risk of tripping.
  • Cracked or raised sidewalks should be repaired or reported to a landlord.
  • Check the parking lot light timers to ensure they turn on as it becomes dusk.
  • Inspect all parking lot lights and have burned out lamps replaced.
  • Add extra exterior building security lights.
  • If you have not installed them, have night vision security cameras set up to monitor the parking lot, sidewalks, entrances, and corners that may be out of view.
  • Install interior cameras and Public View monitors. These cameras should be at the front entrance and exits, cameras that capture activity at and around cash registers and a camera in a cash office that can see the safe and as much of the office as possible.
  • Have a cash drop at each register for $50 and $100 bills.
  • Keep register positioned away from customers so they cannot reach over the counter into the till.
  • Always have at least two people working in a store and never allow one person to close or open alone.
  • If you have two people working consider having an employee offer to watch a patron walk to their car when they leave. Patrons will appreciate it and it will make them feel safer.
  • If your credit machine accepts debit cards think about refusing cash back transactions after 6 pm. You won’t have to make as many trips to the safe to refill the register after dark.
  • Use a counterfeit bill detector for all $20, $50 and $100 bills.
  • Train each employee on how to recognize and de-escalate aggressive situations. This is also a good reason to have a second person working.
  • If you can only afford one employee at a time and your business is in a strip mall partner with a neighboring business to work together to provide mutual security/support at opening and closing.
  • Employees may get tired more easily as the daylight decreases. Be aware that it can lower their alertness while working and when they drive home. Encourage workers to be careful so they don’t hurt themselves or others.

Operating stores can be different when darkness comes along earlier. Taking the right precautions, being aware of potential issues and planning ahead can make that transition easier. Don’t take hours of darkness lightly.