Reputations are particularly important in retail. If a store isn't 100% vigilant, would-be criminals will soon pick up on it and business could suffer. So when Geoff Tegg's Spar forecourt in Epworth, Doncaster, first opened in December 2008, he was determined he had to crack down on crime straight away.

Although the store is little more than a year old, Geoff's family has owned the site for almost 50 years and crime had always been a problem for the area. "The forecourt has been in my family for 43 years, but before we opened as a convenience store we sold car parts and accessories," says Geoff. "There was a small amount of theft from the shop and some drive-offs from the forecourt."

When Geoff took over the business, he decided that a convenience store could succeed on the site so he modernised the existing 1,600sq ft space and joined Spar. The store now takes £12,000 a week (excluding fuel sales) and offers food to go, PayPoint and alcohol.

Working together

Since taking over the family business, Geoff has put out feelers to his neighbouring retailers about cutting crime in the area. "I contact the managers of the nearby One-Stop and Co-op stores whenever I spot anyone suspicious, and they do the same for me."

This co-operation has now gone further and the stores also share CCTV footage of shoplifters. "It's still early days yet, but I would like for all of us to sit down together along with a representative from the local police to work out how we can help each other protect our businesses."

Geoff even goes so far as to put up the pictures of shoplifting suspects in his store to deter other would-be thieves. "Thankfully, we don't have too much crime in the store, but there is some," he says. "Alcohol and cooked meats are the two main targets for shoplifters so we have cameras focused on those sections. If anyone is caught on CCTV stealing anything, we put the footage up on posters in the store.

"We talked to the local police about putting them up and they said it was fine, as long as we realised that the individuals pictured may get annoyed and seek retribution. But the bottom line is that we have a store to protect," adds Geoff. "So far it has worked well. All of the customers have noticed the posters and some have even told us who the culprits are and where they live."

Alcohol sales is another area that Geoff and his team got to grips with quickly. They were forced to be extra vigilant from the word go, or face getting a bad name among customers.

"This is a small village and if people thought that kids are able to buy alcohol here then our reputation would be ruined and people might be less inclined to shop here," says Geoff. "I was determined that this was not going to happen in my store.

"We had to be very careful from the outset not to attract anyone underage who would try to buy alcohol," he says. "Luckily, some of our part-time members of staff are from the area so they advise us on who is eligible to buy alcohol. Even some who had identification to show they were over 18 were actually underage, so this help from the staff is invaluable."

Geoff also praises Spar for providing age-related sales information. "We have received some excellent age-related sales training from Spar as well as posters detailing what identification is required and what age-restrictions there are on each product," says Geoff. "We also make sure that staff are constantly aware of the risks of selling an age-restricted product."

Even though his store has undergone a make-over, Geoff was still plagued with drive-offs and 'no means of paying' scams. He installed a CCTV system with cameras on all pumps to combat the drive-offs. However, they have continued and Geoff believes that the police could do more to support him in beating this crime.

"The police are usually great, but I have a file of at least 30 drive-off cases that they have deemed unsolvable, even though we have provided registration numbers and camera footage," he says. "And even if they go to court, most times we never get our money back. I'd like some clarity on what we can do to protect our store from this problem."

Positive results

When it comes to 'no means of paying' scams, though, Geoff has had more success. "These scams occur when someone fills their tank with fuel, then pretends that they have no money and asks if they can come back with the cash," says Geoff. "The retailer is put in a difficult situation as obviously they can't take the fuel back and the police won't rush to the store if we call them.

"Sometimes the person is genuine and comes back, but on most occasions it's someone who wants to get away without paying," he adds. "Now whenever we're asked by a customer if they can pay later, we ask for identification, take pictures of the car and make them look directly into the camera so we have a record. If the money isn't repaid within a couple days then we contact the police."

While Geoff has already made some progress in protecting his store, he insists that he's not finished yet. "I'm hoping to have more communication visible saying how serious we are about halting crime in the area," he says. "I want to promote more engagement between retailers and the police; there is great potential to create a better relationship that will help cut crime."

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