Security Challenges of Large Retail Sites

Department stores, shopping centres, and other large retail sites are the biggest targets for theft in the country and amongst the most challenging sites to secure effectively.

Theft prevention in a retail site relies upon being able to quickly identity suspicious individuals, monitor them and take action should they engage in criminal behaviour.

This is a relatively simple task in a shop with a few aisles and single entries and exits, but when there are thousands of customers, multiple stores and visitors from all walks of life, theft prevention becomes an incredibly complex task which requires the cooperation of multiple security officers and technologies.

Theft prevention in large retail sites

There are three major components to security for large retail sites: CCTV, security guards and access control.

CCTV is the most effective way of getting a broad, site-wide view that allows the officers monitoring to keep security guards on the ground up to date with unusual activity and developing risks. For example, if a group of children are loitering in the car park or a bus load of tourists has just pulled up.

It is crucial when monitoring large groups of people that the security officers in the control room are trained and experienced in identifying anomalies. It is impossible for them to watch everyone all the time, so they must quickly identify someone who is out of place.

Security guards provide a closer view of suspicious behaviour and are able to respond quickly to criminal behaviour. They cannot be at all places at once, so they rely on the security officers monitoring the CCTV to direct them to high risk locations or suspicious individuals.

Access control includes access to the wider site such as street level entry points as well as car parks. These are key locations to stop suspected shoplifters as security guards are not able to intervene once suspects have left the site. Known problem individuals may also be prevented from entering.

Individual stores may also have access control, such as RFID scanners for alerting for stolen goods or locked doors for appointment-only stores such as high end jewellery shops or art collections.

Out of hours, security becomes far more simple as there are no longer large crowds of people to keep an eye on. Security can be reduced to a small team of guards or mobile patrols depending on the site and CCTV monitoring can be scaled down. Risk of theft is usually minimal in large retail sites out of hours with the primary concern being vandalism or vagrancy.

Employee theft increases the larger the store

When running a large retail site, threats are increased not just from customers but from within the store. The proportion of theft that is committed by employees increases with the size of the store, from single digit numbers in small, independent shops to almost equalling customer theft in some large, multi-store brands.

There are many reasons for this increase in employee theft in large stores. The most significant is that it is simply easier to get away with theft in a store that is spread across multiple floors with hundreds of customers and thousands of items of stock as opposed to a shop that occupies a single space with a handful of employees.

Another factor is the decreased personal connection that the employee has with their employer. In a small store, they may interact directly with the owners or feel more guilt when the theft would more significantly impact the store’s profits. In large, big-brand stores, the consequences of each individual theft is less severe and the relationship with the employer less personal.

It is very important to perform thorough background checks on your staff in large retail sites to minimise the likelihood that you hire someone likely to steal. Unfortunately, this won’t eliminate all bad actors as petty theft rarely makes it to the courts and applicants won’t list prior employers if they were terminated for stealing.

Loss prevention strategies such as bag checks are effective at preventing theft but must be carried out in a way that respects employee privacy and doesn’t result in employees feeling unfairly targeted. Staff should also be trained in identifying suspicious behaviour amongst other staff and be provided with a formal reporting procedure for any incidents.

Where there is evidence of significant employee theft which cannot be identified through CCTV or monitoring from security guards, you may want to hire a store detective. These are plain clothes security officers who will present themselves as customers or staff members who are trained to investigate employee theft, fraud and other misconduct.

Call Magenta Security today to learn more about security for large retail sites

At Magenta Security, we provide all the services listed above, including store detectives. By working with us, you will have all your security needs taken care of with a single contract and single point of contact, no matter how large and complex your site may be.

To learn more about our security services for large retail sites, call our award-winning customer services team now on 0800 772 3786.

Abbey Petkar

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