You may be there for your community day and night, but this accesibility can make you vulnerable to those who see an open store as an open target.

Opening later has long been one of the big advantages that the independent sector has over the competition, providing the opportunity to generate more sales and service the local community while other stores are closed. However, there are drawbacks to later trading, as it provides greater opportunity for criminals to target your store and the staff working in it.

A recent Commercial Victimisation Survey revealed that in the retail sector 77% of assaults and threats took place between the hours of 6pm and 6am, prompting the Home Office and trade bodies to remind retailers of the importance of ensuring the safety and security of evening workers.

Adequate protection

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged retailers to protect evening workers wherever possible. “Thankfully, incidents of violence against retailers and their staff still remain rare but, as this research shows, there are increased risks for evening workers,” he says. “Retailers need to make adequate provision for the security of staff working at night, not just at the weekend but all week long.”

James Brundle of Spar Walthamstow in East London spares no expense in protecting his team at all times of the day and night, through both crime prevention and reporting equipment. “We have a wide range of security equipment including 15 security cameras, Redcare and store shutters,” he says. “It can be costly, but you have to look at it as an investment in your store and staff.”

He advises retailers to assess the risks and act accordingly. “If your store is a target for shoplifting, look at increasing the number of CCTV cameras or mirrors so all theft spots are covered,” he says. “Or if there have been instances of robbery in the past, training staff how to react in these situations and installing a panic alarm could help staff feel more secure.”

Tools for the job

Convenience Store’s 2013 winner of the Zero Tolerance Award for Crime Prevention, Fred Close of Costcutter Layton in Blackpool, introduced a raft of technology including CCTV and a fingerprint ID system to protect her staff and deter criminals.

“Our system has 29 cameras and is extremely high resolution,” she says. “The police are impressed by it as it provides a huge amount of detail about a suspect and gives them a better chance of catching them. They’re also very prominent around the store, so anyone considering doing anything may think twice.”

Although James and Fred aren’t alone in investing in security, with British Retail Consortium research revealing that stores spent 7.1% more in 2011/12 than in the previous year, there are still some stores that don’t have even basic security measures such as CCTV. The Commercial Victimisation Survey highlighted that 32% of wholesale and retail outlets do not have CCTV, exterior lighting or mirrors inside their premises.

For retailers who really don’t know where to start, the BRC has published best practice guidelines for retailers in protecting staff. The Tackling Violence Against Staff report covers the responsibilities of employers toward their staff, penalties for not protecting staff and a self-assessment survey that covers training, safety equipment and guidelines for reporting crimes that take place in a store.

Extra support

Retailers shouldn’t have to act in isolation, though. Lowman says that police forces also need to protect those who are servicing the community outside of traditional working hours. “The Commercial Victimisation Survey figures are a reminder to local police forces that they have to take seriously the risk to the safety of retailers and their employees,” he points out.

“Retailers have a right to be safe, especially when providing a valuable community service for long hours every day. Store owners should be in touch with their local force to discuss how they can help the police protect them better.” •