Store crime is a constant threat to retailers and, while you can't always prevent an incident taking place, you can limit the amount of damage by using robust cash management procedures.

Making sure that cash is secured safely until it is due to be picked up or deposited at the bank, and ensuring that counting and documentation is conducted in a secure location away from the public are fairly straightforward techniques, yet surprisingly some retailers still leave themselves vulnerable.

According to cash management specialists Loomis, there are three main risks to stores. "Robbery, theft and complacency are the biggest threats to a business," says risk director Tony Benson. "One of the most dangerous things a retailer can do is become complacent," he explains. "There is always the threat of robbery or burglary to a store, but complacency makes it worse. A retailer not taking care of his store's money can leave him vulnerable to repeated robberies, placing him and his staff in danger."

Benson says that retailers often leave organising cash security procedures on the long finger and only think about it after it is too late. "Unfortunately, it's often the case that retailers will do something about their cash management procedures only after an incident," says Benson. "But if they put procedures in place now, they can better protect themselves and their businesses in the long-term."

Dee Sedani of Londis in Etwall, Derbyshire, runs a tight ship when it comes to cash management. If one of his tills has too much cash, it instructs the operator to perform a till drop for which they are given a receipt, making sure that every penny is accounted for. "It only takes a few minutes to do a till drop and ensures there can be no confusion over money," says Dee. "I also have an automatic float dispensing machine that gives them the correct amount every time. We've never been robbed but I believe that it's important to be preventative rather than waiting something to happen."

Benson adds that retailers believe cash in transit (CIT) collection services are too expensive for them, but that's often not the case. "I often speak to retailers about the cost of CIT and ask them how much they think it costs and it's always less," he says. "As well as a CIT service that takes the cash from the store in a secure fashion, they can also install a safe that will protect the money until it can be picked up or deposited."

He adds that even though it will cost, this has to be weighed up against the price of doing it yourself. "Retailers need to consider if the cost of these measures is more than the cost of managing it and taking it to the bank yourself," he says. "And this is more than a financial cost; there's the stress of constantly worrying about it and the potential danger to you and your staff."

Dee says that when it comes to cash management and safety, retailers often can't see beyond the initial expense of implementing procedures. "It's important to look at the payback of these procedures rather than just the cost," he says. "It can be difficult to see the profit that it brings, but knowing that your money is safe and accounted for is extremely important."

Tates Spar loss prevention manager Mark Stevenson believes that some retailers see proper cash management as a strain on resources. "They don't want to take the time to empty money from tills to secure it as it means being away from the shop floor," he says.

He adds that if the correct procedures are in place, the store owner or manager shouldn't have to spend a huge amount of time away from the floor. "If the tills are emptied on a regular basis then it should only take an hour out of the entire shift," he says. "And while that's an hour spent away from the customers, it'll help protect your store and your staff."

Reduce the risk

While precautions can't guarantee that a store won't be robbed, they can protect the retailer from losing too much money and certainly help to discourage criminals from holding up the shop again.

"Retailers need to remove or reduce the prize on offer for criminals," says Benson. "They can do this by regular checks to make sure that the till floats aren't above a certain amount. Thieves are less likely to risk it if they know there is only a small amount in the tills. We would also recommend that retailers advertise this by putting a sticker in the window informing everyone that there is a limited amount of cash on the premises."

Stevenson agrees. "Low-level armed robbers want as much as they can get and they aren't willing to risk themselves for £50," he says. "But if they know a shop is carrying a lot of money in the tills on a regular basis, the store will be robbed again and again."

Although Loomis offers a CIT service to retailers and several options when it comes to safes, Benson says that retailers can do more themselves to protect cash in their store. "For stores that really can't afford a CIT service, they should at least conduct a risk assessment of their business. Loomis has worked with the Home Office and the British Retail Consortium to formulate a risk assessment survey that covers various aspects of store security. This will highlight areas that they may not have thought about."

Simon Biddle of Biddle's Convenience Store in Redditch, Worcestershire, organises his own cash management, but has a checklist of procedures to protect himself and his business. "Myself or a manager will empty the tills on an almost hourly basis to ensure that there isn't too much money on the shop floor," he says. "It's then kept in the safe and deposited at the bank. We deposit money regularly, but take care not to go at the same time every day and sometimes even go in different vehicles to break up any possible pattern."

Simon advises all retailers to assess their cash management policies, as knowing that his money is safe offers him peace of mind. "Even though I'm in a low crime area, I want to be one step ahead of any criminals that might try to rob the store," he says. "There's no point in doing it after something happens as the damage has been done."
Tips to help protect cash in your store
Do a risk assessment on your current procedures find out how your cash management systems measure up and if they can be improved 

Consider the cost of managing your cash in-house versus a cash-in-transit company 

Remove or reduce the size of the prize if thieves know you have little money in the tills, they'll be less likely to bother 

Maintain staff awareness make sure your staff know how important it is to follow the procedures you have put in place 

Don't get complacent no matter how secure you think your store's cash is, improvements can always be made