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The festive period is a boom time for retailers, with the average British family spending around £800 celebrating Christmas. But, as consumers flood the high-street in search of food, drink, decorations and presents, retailers can feel the strain: more people means more risk and, unfortunately, more crime. Having a retail security solution in place can help prevent and deter criminal activity in your store.

In 2013, the Centre for Retail Research estimated that losses from Christmas crime were as high as £978 million – with the most commonly stolen goods being alcohol, electronic devices, computer games, women’s clothing and fashion accessories and children’s toys. Although the organisation has not collected any statistics since, in 2016 it’s unlikely that too much has changed.

To help you keep your stock, staff and consumers safe, here are 5 security tips for retailers.

Ensure Fitting Rooms Are Attended

It’s an old trick, but using fitting rooms to facilitate theft is still a popular technique amongst shoplifters. Fitting rooms afford thieves the time and space needed to remove security tags, switch price tickets and conceal garments on their person. For this reason, it’s crucial that you have at least one member of staff manning your fitting rooms at all times throughout the festive season.

And remember, shoplifters prefer to “shop” when staff numbers are low – particularly during lunchtime, the early morning and just before closure – so make sure that you pay close attention during these times.

Greet Shoppers as They Enter the Store

Sometimes the best defence is a good offense. To a would-be thief, a simple employee greeting can serve as an effective dissuader, since it demonstrates that your shop is well-staffed and that employees are diligent.

So, position a member of staff (or, if possible, a security guard) at the entrance to your shop and give them instructions to welcome consumers as they enter. Not only will this deter criminals, it will make legitimate shoppers feel welcome and create an extra obstacle for any thieves attempting to make a hasty exit.

Double-up Cashier Staff

Posing as inquisitive consumers, thieves will often attempt to distract cashier staff with excessive questions and enquiries. This is an effective way of preventing workers from spotting concealed items or switched price tags, and can even give particularly bold thieves an opportunity to grab a handful of notes from the till.

By placing an additional member of staff behind the till whose primary duty is to deal with customer questions, you will stymie these attempts and give legitimate customers a better in-store experience (especially since, as they’re often shopping for others, they may have more questions than usual).

Respond to Suspicious Behaviour

If your staff spot anything suspicious, instruct them to approach the person in question, ask them if everything is okay and reassure them that they will close-by should they need them. This approach will not be off-putting to honest consumers, but it may be enough to make a potential thief think twice about stealing from you.

Things to look out for: possible concealment devices (rucksacks, large shopping bags, loose clothing, etc.), large groups of people (particularly younger people) who loiter in your store without making a purchase, people who appear outwardly nervous (especially when spoken to by a staff member) and people taking large quantities of clothing into fitting rooms.

Secure Your Assets Adequately  

Large crowds make it more difficult for staff to keep tabs on everything that’s going on in your store. This provides criminals with an opportunity to slip into your store room, or through the back entrance, and take whatever is available – including staff belongings such as phones, jewellery and watches.

So, make sure that staff lock the store room whenever they exit it, that your back entrance is secured with a gate and a substantial lock, and that, particularly when taking deliveries, you don’t leave stock unattended.

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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.