Five ways to keep your store safe and secure for the holidays

  • Opinion
  • November 29, 2016
  • Francesca Nicasio
Five ways to keep your store safe and secure for the holidays

While safety and security should be a priority all year round, you should pay even closer attention to these matters during the holidays.

Seasonal promotions and events can send larger than usual crowds to your store. And while that can be a good thing for sales, it can also leave you vulnerable to theft and fraud, or worse — put your employees and customers in harm’s way.

But don’t worry — by taking the proper steps, you can minimize or even completely avoid any security and safety issues this holiday season. Start with the five best practices below.

Carry out holiday-specific safety precautions

In addition to your year-round health and safety policies, take extra time to review and implement holiday-specific precautions.

According to Gary Johnson, Senior Consultant at Prevention Advisors, health and safety “become more magnified during the holiday season” because of the additional crowds. Remember, you’ll have more shoppers with children and more shoppers with backpacks, and this can open up both security and safety concerns. Think about how you can address these issues before the rush begins.

Johnson also brought up holiday decorations. If you’re adding Christmas lights, for example, you want to make sure the cords don’t cross over walkways. Or if you’re setting up a Christmas tree, you should see to it that it’s installed correctly, so it doesn’t fall over.

Implement crowd management measures if necessary.

Craft a crowd management plan so you and your staff can handle the holiday rush. Here are some things to think about:

Start by mapping out your store – Planning for crowds will be so much easier if you have a visual aid. If you haven’t done so yet, create a store map and use it identify entrances, exits, and other important spaces. Doing so will also help you plan how to manage traffic flow, where to place fixtures and equipment, and where to position your staff.

Devise ways to keep your store from being overcrowded – Take note of your store’s maximum occupancy and ensure that you stay within its limits. Some retailers have found success by implementing staggered entry during busy shopping events. These stores would only allow a certain number of people in the store (e.g. 25 a time) to ensure that the space doesn’t get too crowded.

Equipment – Once you have an idea of how to control in-store traffic, see to it that you have all the materials to help you carry out your plans. Depending on what you’re implementing, these could include signage, stanchion ropes, wristbands, surveillance tools, etc.

Create a contingency plan – Always have a contingency aka “what if” plan. As the NRF puts it:

Even the best-laid plans run into challenges. Contingency plans should be created for the “what if” situations that could arise, including larger-than-anticipated crowds, inclement weather, power outages, large lines of angry customers, trampling, shooting and merchandise sell-outs. Business continuity and emergency preparedness plans give associates a foundation upon which they can handle unexpected situations. Contingency plans can also include alternative entry/exit points for customers, celebrity guests, associates, and security/law enforcement.

To prepare for the unexpected, retailers should consider:

  • Evacuation routes
  • Communication plans
  • Law enforcement/public official engagement
  • Reunification
  • Preservation of evidence

Protect your business from internal theft

Do you have enough people in your team to handle the rush? If not, you may want to start hiring seasonal employees. The roles that you hire for will depend on your company. Some retailers may need to bring in additional cashiers, while other stores may require additional security personnel as well.

Do note that while hiring more people can certainly make things easier during the holidays, it can sometimes lead to internal theft. Prevent that with the following best practices:

Conduct background checks – Screen potential hires thoroughly. In addition to the usual application and interview process, conduct background checks on potential hires — especially if they’re going to handle sensitive information.

Set the right user permissions – Most modern point-of-sale systems allow you to set user permissions to enable or restrict staff members from doing certain tasks. Check with your POS solution provider and see how you can update permissions in your store.

Review your user permissions to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with your POS. Pay extra attention to those who can process voided sales, as this is a very easy way to steal stock.

Keep your employees happy – Want to reduce internal theft? Keep your employees happy. Jack Zahran, President of Pinkerton, wrote an excellent discussion on this topic on Pinkerton’s company blog:

When an employee feels like he/she is not paid enough, or is over-worked, or the job is beneath their level of skills, they empower themselves with an attitude of ‘I deserve this, for whatever it is they plan to steal, he wrote.

Then there’s the fact that temporary employees aren’t as invested in the business as full-time staff. Zahran continued:

The temporary nature, and relatively lower compensation compared to full-time positions fuels some of these employees’ belief that “taking this one thing won’t really matter and, I’m gone in a few weeks anyway.” In employee screening interviews, we have had workers admit to this mindset. It is especially prevalent during the holiday season as these workers are also laying out a lot of money for gifts, so picking one up for free, even if illegal, helps with their financial burden.

So, how can you ensure that your employees, even the seasonal ones, remain engaged? You can start with proper training. Arm them with the knowledge they need to do their jobs well and make sure your educational resources are accessible.

You should also consider pairing temps with seasoned employees to quickly get them up to speed and integrate them into your company. 

Finally, offer incentives. Depending on your business and budget, such perks could include bonuses, swag, or the opportunity for full-time work.

Stay on top of inventory counts – Doing regular inventory counts not only helps you stay on top of your stock , but it also reduces theft and shrinkage. Strive to physically count your inventory on a regular basis, so you always have a handle on what you have on hand.

Understandably, it can be difficult to conduct full inventory counts often, so if this is an issue, consider cycle counting or partial stock takes instead. Such inventory counting methods only require you to count certain portions of inventory on a daily or weekly basis, so you won’t have to do full inventory counts.

Make sure your technology is up to date

Your retail tech stack (i.e. POS, payment terminals, readers, scanners), as well as any loss prevention tools you may have (i.e. surveillance cameras, foot traffic analytics, security tags), must be all up-to-date for the holidays.

Get in touch with your hardware and technology vendors and talk to them about any relevant updates. Needless to say, if your equipment isn’t up to snuff, take immediate steps to address the issues.

Same goes for your software. Don’t ignore those update prompts you get from your apps. The newest version of an app or solution contains the most updated features and security measures, so it’s less vulnerable to hacks and breaches.

And while you’re at it, uninstall programs or plugins you’re no longer using. All programs have vulnerabilities, so fewer apps mean less risk of attacks. Go through all the programs installed on your computer and mobile devices, and remove the ones you’re no longer using.

Secure your POS from hackers and fraudsters

Crowded stores, long lines, and busy employees can make your POS area a hotbed for retail crime, which is why you should implement the right security measures to prevent theft and fraud. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

Watch out for equipment tampering –  Inspect your POS equipment, credit card terminals, and PIN-entry devices for any signs of tampering. Such signs may include broken seals, missing screws, extraneous wiring, or additional labels that might hide indications that the device has been altered.

You should also check each device’s USB or network port. If you see anything plugged into them that isn’t supposed to be there, report it immediately.

Physically secure your POS – Make sure your checkout area is secure. Keep valuable information away from prying eyes by positioning your POS, card terminals, and screens for maximum privacy.

Make use of secure shelves, stands, and security cables to prevent unauthorized removal. Mount your PIN pads securely on the counter, and utilize locking stands to protect your equipment.

Secure your POS network – In addition to beefing up your physical POS space and equipment, ensure that your network is just as secure. One important thing to do is to run your POS system on a network separate from your guest Wi-Fi. You also want to make sure you encrypt network data, so traffic and activities aren’t visible to anyone else.

Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert and blogger for Vend, an iPad-based point-of-sale software that helps merchants manage and grow their business. Looking for more insights on empowering your workforce and implementing technology to enhance the retail experience? Join leading retail expert Erin Harris of Innovative Retail Technologies for the webinar, How to Win More Customers without Competing on Price or Products on Wednesday 30th September at 8:00am. Erin will be discussing proven ways on how to offer surprise-and-delight services and experiences that set you apart from competitors.

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