Never has the phrase ‘big brother is watching you’ been more relevant than when you enter a United Co-operative store.
Cameras are set up at every angle and behind every pillar, peaking into every cranny to weed out shoplifters and troublemakers.
However, this kind of surveillance doesn’t come for free, so the company puts great care and research into what security measures fit and work in each of its stores.
United Co-operative regional loss prevention manager Paul Winstanley says: “In 2002 the company started along an ongoing process of risk assessing each one of its stores and from the initial findings it made a commitment to an additional capital provision of £400,000 for security improvements to premises over the next two years. By the end of 2003 we had seen a 41.7% reduction in the amount of break-ins we were having, and by 2004 this had been reduced by a further 27.6%.”
Through a combination of physical barriers, access control, lighting and alarm systems, all retailers can greatly increase protection of staff, products and facilities; cutting down on risk and insurance premiums.
Winstanley says: “The secret of putting security in your store is having in place a number of measures all working together. Equipment needs to be targeted at each individual store and each area in that store.
“If we stopped selling cigarettes tomorrow then we would cut down on robberies by about 70% because that’s what the majority of thieves in the area steal, but you would also lose 30% in sales.”
A walk around a United Co-operative store puts you not only in contact with CCTV, but also smoke alarms, white noise boxes, security shutters on the product gantry behind the till, protective barriers at either side of the counter, ram-raid barriers fitted around the ATM and outside - classical music.
No stone has been left unturned to make the shopping and working environment safe, while making the criminal’s job near on impossible. The white noise in-store has been a recent addition to the company’s list of security tools.
“White noise is an ideal solution for protecting specific high-risk areas such as cigarette gantries, ATM rooms and cash offices. We first tried out the system in one of our travel stores, which was continually being robbed of its computers. The first time someone tried to rob the store, after the white noise had been fitted, in a room of 12 computers they only managed to escape with one keyboard because they were so disorientated,” says Winstanley.
However, don’t rely on the same piece of equipment working in every store - as Winstanley points out, “Always mix and match” your security measures.
He says: “Not every measure will work in every store and we risk assess each store to see what fits. For example, in some stores a smoke cloak device has proved more effective than white noise, whereas elsewhere just reinforcing a cigarette gantry with bullet locks and powered shutters has worked.”
The priority for every store is to sell goods, but the problem United Co-operative has, like every retailer, is selling those goods in the most secure way while still making them attractive for consumers to buy.
Winstanley says: “A lot more products now have to be placed behind the till area because they’re increasingly becoming targets for shoplifters.
For example, we trialled the protective caps which go on the tops of spirits and wine bottles and found that leakage increased because before they had been better protected behind the till. On the flip side, turnover of these products went up, so it’s a tough balancing act.
“We still use the protective caps because sales were 35% higher and by fitting more CCTV we can cut down on the leakage. It’s a case of trial and error.”
While United Co-op now houses more luxury items behind its counter, a new vending solution, which is taking off in Holland, could prove to be an equally useful tool in cutting crime.
The Wurlitzer Retail Vend concept consists of a dispenser which can house batteries, films, DVDs, razor blades and cigarettes, plus a touch screen terminal.
Customers select the items they want on the touch screen, and receive a barcoded printout. They take this to the till where it’s scanned and the products are paid for. The customer then visits the dispenser, which scans the barcode again, and dispenses the required goods.
Deutsche Wurltizer UK’s Colin Ridgers says: “Only authorised personnel have access to the dispensers, which takes away the problem of storing critical products at the checkout. The dispensers can provide added protection without taking the products away from the full view of customers.”
Even companies who up until recently had concentrated on manufacturing everyday pieces of equipment such as chillers have identified the need for a level of security to be built in to their units.
Verco’s new range of cabinets now incorporates lockable aluminium roller blinds, similar to those found on cigarette displays, rather than the flimsy fabric screens that are usually used to cover merchandise outside opening hours.
Verco sales and marketing director Colin Jones comments: “In today’s society you have to look at all aspects of where your equipment will be used and in what environment. This new security option is designed to give retailers peace of mind when it comes to stocking and displaying chilled alcoholic products.”
It’s clear that it pays to strive for the right balance of security and accessibility in your c-store. That way you get peace of mind while at the same time depriving would-be criminals of exactly that.
CCTV is one of the most popular security tools in the independent retail sector. It’s a proven and cost-effective solution, which deters thieves and monitors both customer and staff behaviour.
Early CCTV systems relied on retailers reviewing VCR tapes to capture incidents, which resulted in difficult and time-consuming searches.
Today’s digital systems allow greater versatility, with specific times and dates being easily located via digital search tools.
ADT has recently developed a system which links CCTV to of point of sale exception monitoring (POS/EM) to prevent loss from employee theft. Cameras film all transactions and these images are accompanied by the actual till point receipt. The company believes the reports generated from this system can dramatically cut down on incidents of fraud, collusion, refund abuse and cash theft.
FAR EAST EXPERTISE
Robots could soon be patrolling offices, shopping malls and banks in Japan to keep them safe from intruders.
Developed by Japanese security firm Sohigo Security Services, the Guardrobo D1 has been designed to move along pre-programmed paths and keeps an eye out for intruders by sending camera images to human security guards.
If successful in initial trials, the company hopes to offer the robot guard to firms in Japan’s major cities next year.