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Store & Building Security 101 for Retailers

Theft is one of the most serious problems retailers face. According to a 2012 survey by the National Retail Federation, roughly 80% of retail shrinkage results from shoplifting and employee theft. Aside from inventory-level security tactics, you have many options to safeguard your business at the store and building levels.

Maureen Bay, owner of Gem of an Idea, a jewelry store in Fair Haven, NJ, has invested in nearly every building security 101 tactic at her disposal: She has dead bolts on both of her store’s entrance doors and two cameras covering each. She also has eight hidden panic alarms around the store, a state-of-the-art security system and in-store security guards during high-value promotions. "I feel more secure and protected with the cameras, recorders and silent alarms, and each system has gotten more sophisticated over time," she says.

Securing a business against break-ins and keeping inventory safe from shoplifters should be among your highest priorities. As Bay exemplifies, small retailers need to understand where they are at risk and create a building security plan that includes both hardware-driven tactics, like alarms and camera systems, and message-driven methods, like security guards and posted warnings. When implemented correctly, these approaches protect products from theft both during and after store hours.

Hardware-Driven Security Options

As you develop the hardware-driven aspect of your security plan, be sure to consider well-tested measures, like a combination of locks, cameras and alarms, in your retail store. Here’s how each of these options help:

  • High-Security Dead Bolts: Installing high-security dead bolts to exterior doors can guard you from attack, even by the most determined intruder. Dead bolts should be commercial grade, meaning they meet American National Standards Institute requirements and can withstand 10 hammer blows without giving way.
  • Alarm Systems: An alarmed security system is a fail-safe measure that alerts the business owner when an event in the store seems threatening. They not only scare away intruders, but they may also alert law enforcement professionals who can help you respond to a break-in.
  • Security Cameras: Surveillance hardware, like security cameras, serves two basic purposes: investigation and deterrence. Standard security cameras can run 24-hour surveillance on your shop while motion-activated cameras will turn on only when triggered. Another, more affordable option is a fake camera that you can mount for deterrence purposes only. As a best practice, security cameras should be placed at store entrances and exits, customer transaction points and the cash registers. If you’re interested in external building security, mount security cameras in secluded areas around your store, like parking lots, emergency exits and dark alleys.

Messaging Tactics

A store should complement its hardware-driven building security strategies with messaging tactics designed to cut back on potential crime. These can include letting customers know they’re being watched by posting security signs and hiring security personnel.

  • Keep an Eye on Customers: Paying close attention to and greeting anyone who walks through your doors is not only good customer service — it’s also good building security. Be sure to ask your employees to look for and report any suspicious activity that might take place while you’re not around.
  • Security Signage: Posting signs and window stickers that say, “Warning! Areas of this property are under 24-hour video security protection” or “No cash left overnight in register,” can stop criminals before they act. Many small businesses choose to post warning signs because they send a clear message and can scare away would-be criminals.
  • Security Guards: Uniformed security guards are a visible presence in and around your store and a powerful deterrent to potential shoplifters. Look for a security personnel agency that specializes in retail and check their online reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings.

A combination of these building security measures can help retail stores cut down considerably on crime, allowing business owners to rest easier.

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