Black Friday only arrived on our shores at the start of this decade, but it has already become a highlight of the retail calendar.
Love it or hate it, Black Friday (and its online cousin, Cyber Monday) is here to stay, and if your business is taking part, you need to prepare your security so that customers and staff are kept safe.
Retailers in the UK first started to take part in Black Friday early in the decade, but it wasn’t until 2014 that we started to see the consequences of large scale, poorly planned sales events.
Videos spread across news sights of crowds being whipped up into a frenzy, as seen in the infamous scenes from a London supermarket where shoppers hopped escalator handrails, pushed each other out the way and broke into fights for the chance to grab a bargain.
The footage is startling but also a perfect example of how not to run a Black Friday event. There’s not a single security guard to be seen, nor is there any form of access control or crowd control. The customers were simply unleashed into the store with no regard for their safety or the safety of the store’s staff.
News of arrests and injuries came in from across the country, with retailers widely condemned for their dangerous lack of planning. Thankfully, retailers have become wiser to the risks that Black Friday poses to customers and staff, and we haven’t again reached the heights of chaos that were seen in 2014.
The first step to a successful and peaceful Black Friday is to carry out a risk assessment of your store or any other site you are using for the event.
A risk assessment from a professional security manager will inform you of the safe maximum capacity of the site, crush points at entrances and exits, blind spots and any other health and safety hazards that may put your customers or staff in danger. With this information at hand, you can plan your crowd control measures ahead of time.
First of all, you need to implement a way to keep the number of customers below the maximum capacity. If you know that demand will be greater than what you can supply, you should consider an advance ticketing system to avoid excess crowds – a technique often seen in exclusive fashion sales events.
If you want to keep customers flowing throughout the day without overcrowding your site, security guards at the entrance and exit equipped with clickers are the easiest way to keep numbers within a safe range.
You should also have security guards inside the premises to monitor the crowd for any dangerous or criminal behaviour, as well as outside to keep the queue orderly and calm. Any crowded area will attract pickpockets, and Black Friday is no different.
Remember that well-trained and attentive security guards provide many services beyond deterring and preventing crime. A security guard is often the first point of contact for your customers if they need assistance or if there is an emergency.
For example, if someone collapses in the crowd, a security guard can provide first aid and move them to a safe location until they recover or paramedics arrive. Or if you need to evacuate the building, security guards will guide everyone to where they need to be safely and effectively.
A 2017 survey by PwC found that three quarters of retailers in the UK had participated in Black Friday either on the day itself or the week running up to it.
Shoppers were also surveyed, with around a quarter of under 45s planning to buy something during Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The older respondents were, the less interest they had, dropping to single digits for those over 55 years of age.
The highest proportion of bargain hunters were found in London and Northern Ireland, where over half surveyed were interested in the event.
While electronic devices continued to be main driver of interest, PwC’s survey found that fashion had surged to a close second place, with 45% of shoppers saying they intended to buy clothes on Black Friday.
With a young target market and an increasing number of retail categories taking part, there’s no sign that Black Friday is on its way out. Now that it’s here to stay, let’s just make sure that it’s safe for your customers, staff and store.
There’s still time to make a security plan for your Black Friday event. Call our award-winning customer services team now on 0800 772 3786
New service - from as little as £1 per cameraFind out more