Violent crime against the retail sector is increasing, according to the latest Retail Crime Survey. The report, from the British Retail Consortium, shows that the rate of reported violence with injury has doubled in a year.

In a survey that we conducted, 45%* of the customer-facing businesses that we spoke to don’t currently take any extra measures to protect their staff from violent or abusive customers, perhaps under the misconception that it won’t happen in their shop, or that it will pull too heavy on the purse strings.

Whats more; 80%** of consumers we surveyed said that they would personally intervene if a member of staff was being attacked by another customer. Despite their good intentions, it presents a challenge for businesses as it means such situations could very easily get out of hand.

The total direct cost of retail crime has now risen to just over £700m*** but whilst there are a number of things to consider, employers don’t have to spend large amounts to protect their business and staff.

Simple changes make a massive difference

The danger to your staff, premises and your profit can be tackled with small, affordable changes that make your retail business much less attractive to prospective intruders. All it takes is some considered planning.

Do it right, and it can even boost your brand. In our consumer survey, talking about premises they regularly visit, 40%** of people said that if an assault on a member of staff was handled well by the staff or security team, they would be just as likely or more likely to visit there again, as they would feel very safe.

Frank Woods, retail sector specialist at NFU Mutual, shares five cost-effective ways to help improve your business safety.

1. Be safe and secure with cash

When moving cash, have a working process, and ensure staff are trained and following it at all times. Where possible, have more than one staff member on hand.

Make sure the cash is taken quickly to a private area out of view of the public. “As much as possible, vary the times that it takes place,” says Frank. “Otherwise, it can easily become predictable to thieves.”

2. Keep the property secure

Frank says: “Physical security is often overlooked, but it can be very easy to significantly improve. Definitely look at entry points to the building. How might people be able to get in, either during business hours or when you’re closed?”

An intruder won’t stop at the shop front, so make sure you don’t either. If your shop has a side or rear entrance, make sure it’s well-lit and secure when not in use, and that any fencing that protects the area is secure.

You should also consider safe staff areas, and where cash could be stored. You might want to consider grills for windows, out of hours, depending on your shop layout.

3. Use technology to improve security

There have been significant advances in the technology used in both CCTV cameras and to store images, making it a much better option for shop owners.

“Just make sure that your CCTV cameras are able to actually capture a high enough definition, so you can actually see the face of any individuals in the shop,” says Frank.

Cloud storage solutions have made storing these images in high definition a lot easier than it used to be. You could also consider having your storage on site. But if you do store images, it’s important you comply with data protection laws.

New remotely-monitored systems could be an attractive option for smaller shops or remote outlets with few staff. This would give added security to businesses which are more isolated or that staff are not able to monitor at all times.

A panic alarm can be a great tool for staff to respond to the threat of violent crime when it happens. It silently notifies the authorities who can respond very quickly.

DNA marking goods – which is relatively cheap nowadays – will help police track down the criminal, while fogging systems can help deter crime or slow down the assailant’s escape.

4. Create the perfect shop layout

Simple adjustments to the layout of your shop can make it much easier for your staff to stay on top of safety needs.

“Make sure that the whole shop is well lit, and the cashier has a clear line of sight down the aisles, particularly with any high-value goods or alcohol,” says Frank. “Also ensure that any unseen areas are covered by CCTV.”

CCTV acts mainly as a deterrent, so make sure it is well sign-posted around your premises. Furthermore, installing a monitor facing into the shop showing people they are being filmed can strengthen the deterrent.

5. Keep your staff trained and informed

Of the customer-facing businesses we spoke to, more than half* have been exposed to some form of abuse or violence in the workplace. Although it is important to protect your premises and stock, your main concern should always be the protection of staff.

“Proper training will make sure they are fully aware of what their responsibilities are,” says Frank. “Make sure that they understand that their physical safety and security is far more valuable than cash or items in your shop.”

Consider doubling up on staff so that they aren't left alone, and make sure that they are aware of any changes to shop procedures.

Frank adds: “Find out if there are any local community initiatives that you might be able to join. Then you can possibly share resources and help each other out.”

Sources

* Join the Dots online survey of 33 customer-facing businesses, between 9-11th May 2018.

** Populus online omnibus survey of 2,089 UK respondents, between 30th April and 1st May 2018.

*** The British Retail Consortium (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey 2017