30 January 2009

Effective loss prevention through multi-layered retail security

Crime affects the profitability of retail businesses of all sizes all over the world, from small individual shops to large multi-storey shopping centres. Small wonder, then that most retailers have made loss prevention a major priority. While several practical measures can be put into place to limit the opportunity for theft during opening hours such as addressing blind spots on shopfloors – the real key to bringing about a substantial reduction is the building of a multi-layered approach to retail security – during and after working hours.

“Electronic systems have an integral part to play in this multi-layered approach. The installation of video surveillance has often proven effective. As well as enabling the detection of intruders after hours, the presence of video systems can deter unauthorised access to vulnerable areas during opening hours,” says Kenny Chiu, marketing manager of Elvey Security Technologies. Chiu added that even greater benefits can be achieved through the integration and interoperability between video surveillance, access control and intruder alarm systems. When considered for an integrated security system for a retail environment, one needs to understand that the level of sophistication and functionality required in such systems is driven by the size of the business they cover. The scalable products and systems should allow interoperate seamlessly to provide cost effective security which will not impact negatively on the retail environment.

Adopting common sense procedures – such as locking stockrooms and limiting staff and customer access during stock takes – is fundamental to a more secure retail environment. Through training, staff should be encouraged to remain observant and to be on the lookout for suspicious or unusual behaviour. Once these kind of basic practices are put into place, electronic systems are the effective final layer of security – both during and outside opening hours.

“There are many security products available on the market today but when considering security equipment for retail applications one has to take the interoperability capability into consideration. Meaning that regardless of the system size, the components can interact and be controlled from one central point at all times so all retailers can benefit from centralised security management which focuses on their specific risks and priorities,” says Michael Brett, National Sales Manager of Elvey Security Technologies.

In any attempt to reduce shoplifting, providing an active deterrent is a key objective. This can be achieved by a combination of article tagging and the overt positioning of video surveillance cameras. “And, when thieves are not deterred, the latest high definition digital video systems will ensure that clear, visual evidence is recorded, easily retrieved and readily available to support any prosecution,” added Brett. The installation of access control for offices,stockrooms and other sensitive areas will also limit the opportunity for thieving.

According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer 2007, it is estimated that 35% of retail theft is committed by employees. This involves activities that range from the removal of stock from displays to dishonest handling of cash and fraudulent till manipulation. “The use of video verification integrated to the POS systems, alarm and access control system of critical locations will provide an effective deterrent to staff who may be tempted. It also provides irrefutable evidence of they succumb to temptation anyway,” says Chiu. When properly implemented, video verification systems can send visual information right to the managers and monitoring stations on certain designated events such as the opening of the safe or schedule for virtual visits.

The handling of cash is a major issue within the retail industry. It provides a constant temptation not only for employees regularly handling small amounts, but also for serious criminals wherever substantial takings start to accumulate. Again video surveillance and alarm systems, fitted with discrete panic buttons to summon the police or armed response, have a proven deterrent effect.

Much vandalism and theft – and most break-ins – occur under the cover of darkness, outside normal working hours. Implementing overt electronic systems will help deter offenders and implementing covert ones will help identify, apprehend and successfully prosecute them. The integration of access control, intruder detection and video surveillance systems via IP (internet protocol) has provided much flexibility to cater for different levels of security during and after opening times. “The seamless integration between the overall security systems and the central control room using the existing company network or a dedicated network has helped company to save thousands of rand every month as compared to alarm communication over traditional telephone line,” comments Brett. Not only the IP approach offers the retail a massive saving in telephone bill but the systems also continuously supervise the communication links with the control room and notified the operator for any form of sabotage or breakdown of the communication channel.

By relieving them of routine security procedures, the implementation of electronic security measures gives staff more time for customers. So with a safer, improved service, the likelihood of repeat business is greatly enhanced. Using access control systems to restrict entry to certain areas such as warehouses, stockrooms etc., also can ensure that only personnel trained in Health & Safety (H&S) policies are allowed to proceed. This should reduce the number of accidents in the workplace.

Improved security is the key to a safer retail environment for customers and staff, but it also brings a measurable return on investment – with fewer losses, and improved customer and staff retention.

Elvey Marketing