I write this column quite literally from my car sat outside my store having just come to witness the mess and destruction of an attempted break-in. A thoughtless gang decided to attempt the break in at around 2am on Sunday morning. Having failed to get in via the back door, they moved on to the fire exits and finally the front automatic doors. As I sit here counting the cost of their escapades, the only saving grace is that they did not gain entry and steal tobacco and spirits which they apparently got away with at a local Co-op on a night of destruction in West Sussex.
During my summer lull I decided to upgrade the building security which included heavy duty steel fire doors (normally the weakest point of entry) - what a prudent decision that turned out to be. I was not prepared, however, for the lack of police support.
One of the would-be robbers had entered the store just before closing and artfully removed an alarm sensor from one of the fire exit doors. Thankfully a member of my team spotted this when locking the store and dutifully informed our security company and police that it appeared we were due for a break-in attempt. When it came, in the early hours, the police refused to respond to the first alarm trigger as the gang tried to prize the fire door open, stating they needed a second activation in another part of the store before they could respond. This allowed the gang more than 20 minutes to cause over £2,500 worth of damage to the building, and put one of my team at risk who responded to the call.
It hits home, sat here in my car at 3:30am, what a tough life being an independent retailer can be sometimes. It is bad enough that we have to deal with rising rates, wages, rents, and ridiculous planning laws allowing increased untamed competition. We are also faced with the inevitable insurance challenges and lack of support from people meant to help protect our businesses when bad things happen.
It’s time people start to truly understand the challenges faced by retailers. In the meantime I would advise all store owners to invest in steel fire doors as required. It may be the best decision you make. I bet the Co-op wishes it had!