Security Journal Americas Editor, Victoria Hanscomb, considers the wide range of threats that face retailers over the festive season and the loss prevention measures to combat them.
Shoppers heading to retail stores are seeking out the best presents and gifts for their loved ones this holiday season.
However, with more customer traffic and sales volumes around this time of year, businesses also face extra risk; bad actors looking to take advantage of busier and sometimes chaotic environments can lead to higher levels of shoplifting, while crowded shop floors can lead to conflicts and even aggressive behavior.
Additionally, increasing reports of organized retail crime mean physical stores need to be more vigilant and safeguard their employees and goods as best they can against more structured threats.
Other pressures such as rising rent and overhead costs add to the need for stores to reduce their shrinkage and turn a profit.
Loss prevention strategies and security measures will therefore be essential over the course of this festive period to mitigate the threat of theft or damage, but also to improve the experience for normal shoppers, allowing them to foster brand loyalty and become a return customer.
One of the biggest challenges for retailers is theft – this includes individuals taking items but also more coordinated efforts that require loss prevention methods.
According to Forbes, there are increasing reports of smash and grabs across the US.
These attacks occur when a group forces their way into a store, seizing as much merchandise as they can before leaving in waiting vehicles.
The incidents are often quick, happening before an effective response can be taken by security or law enforcement.
As they frequently involve large groups of people, it means that any security present may find it difficult to prevent or resolve the situation.
As a result, thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and merchandise can be taken, negatively impacting the business’ bottom line.
Furthermore, when an incident does occur, it can harm the brand’s reputation, causing customers to turn to a competitor.
Another aspect for some stores is the disruption to business operations if the retailer needs to replace the stolen items or repair any damage to the store itself.
Meanwhile, employee theft also spikes over the holiday season.
This can be due to temporary staff who are less invested in the business taking advantage of their position or the chaos of busy stores making shoplifting easier to conceal, making loss prevention more important.
During the holiday season, many stores also have offers and sales.
However, this can lead to overcrowding, leading to increased security and safety risks such as accidents, injuries or potential stampedes.
In addition to this, disputes and aggressive behavior from customers can escalate and sometimes involve staff members.
Fraud is another key challenge for retailers, with an uptick in bad actors looking to exploit the more hectic time of year by using higher levels of counterfeit money and engaging in credit card fraud around the holiday season.
Security in the parking lots of stores is also often overlooked when discussing loss prevention, but it can play a crucial role. Crowded lots can become hotspots for car break-ins and robberies.
Steps to prevent theft and the various crimes that retailers see over the festive season and throughout the rest of the year are therefore being implemented by many organizations.
Maximize Market Research says that the global retail loss prevention market was valued at $38.86 million in 2022 and is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.68% from 2023 to 2029, reaching nearly $95.34 million by 2029.
North America and Europe have the largest share of this market, according to the report.
This is driven by the presence of large-scale organized retail sectors and a high awareness of the need for these security and loss prevention measures.
Many stores employ security guards who can observe customers and respond to any alarms raised.
They can also provide a sense of safety for shoppers and staff.
However, without other tools at their disposal, personnel cannot monitor entire stores – therefore, many retail organizations utilize other physical security measures to enhance their ecosystem.
One of the most common solutions used are surveillance cameras.
While CCTV cameras have been used for many years in retail environments, they are used as more of an investigative tool – however innovation in this area has led to the development of a more proactive solution.
Now, video analytics and AI can be applied to surveillance and allow security teams to identify a threat or even a repeat offender immediately and take action, enhancing loss prevention.
These systems can also prove useful to the store in other ways, such as by reporting when certain items are low on shelves and require a restock, improving business operations.
Items in stores are often tagged with wireless systems such as electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems.
These can trigger an alarm if they pass through sensors at store exits without being deactivated, indicating potential theft.
Additionally, high-value items are often kept in locked display cases or cabinets to prevent shoplifting as they need a staff member to be present to hand the item to the customer.
Having effective crowd management strategies to control large numbers of people can help to increase security and safety for shoppers, with clear signage and emergency response protocols employed to ease the flow of footfall.
Employee training is also essential for retailers. Knowing how to identify and respond appropriately to shoplifting or aggressive behavior, particularly over the holiday season, can help employees to feel more confident as they know the correct procedures to utilize.
Additional staff training can also be used to help detect fraud as team members can recognize fake currency or verify the authenticity of credit cards.
Lastly, access control can play a vital role for retailers seeking to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to certain parts of the store, such as stockrooms.
This can not only reduce shoplifting by customers but also mitigate the threat of internal theft over the holidays, enhancing loss prevention.
The holiday season is a time of opportunity for retailers, who often see a jump in sales during this period, with customers keen to get their hands on the best deals.
While this time of the year brings its unique challenges, retailers willing to invest in their security ecosystem and loss prevention measures will find that they are more prepared for these eventualities and as such can mitigate the consequences – reducing their shrinkage and having a successful festive season.
This article on executive protection was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.