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By Catherine Walsh, Tyco Retail Solutions

Vice President and General Manager, Tyco Retail Solutions

Today, we live in a time of instant gratification, where technology has redefined the way people shop. Customers want what they want, where and when they want it; and the time is now. Consumers’ fast-paced lifestyles leave little time to spare. Services have to be quick, convenient and keep pace with the latest technology to satisfy today’s time-constrained, connected consumers. Nowadays, we see convenience stores popping up all over to meet market demand.

Convenience stores, or c-stores, are the mecca for everything consumers need quickly — from groceries and toiletries to food and drinks, magazines, gasoline and many specialties — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For the consumer, this means they can run to their local convenience store in the middle of the night for aspirin and other essentials, avoiding longer lines and parking challenges at the supermarket to only try and get in and out to buy a few items.

For the retailer, it means they need to protect their stores around the clock to keep customers safe and happy, and ensure they return for future purchases.

To combat security issues unique to convenience stores, loss prevention technology is allowing faster reaction to incidents, while enhancing the customer experience.

However, with the National Retail Federation reporting that two-thirds of loss prevention budgets are either flat or declining, c-stores need to look at integrating loss prevention technology that can not only protect against shrink, but also ultimately help save money.

With a small footprint, simple in-and-out exits, and access to small items that can be easily concealed and stolen, convenience stores face several unique problems, such as armed robbery and "grab and go." These challenges are exacerbated by the lack of sightlines throughout the store and the small number of employees that must run operations and provide timely checkout experiences, all while looking out for potential thieves.

C-stores also have a greater number of stores per capita compared to other retailers, which means some end up in high-risk, high-crime areas that are more susceptible to these issues. This combined with extended late-night hours can put customers and employees in danger.

With all of that in mind, convenience stores need to simultaneously focus on things every retailer can relate to, such as store cleanliness and a positive customer experience. The integration of loss prevention technologies can take some of the burden off convenience stores as the technologies can help keep stores safe, increase their bottom line, and allow associates to spend more time with customers.

The implementation of an integrated security approach can help c-stores reduce shrink with more actionable insights into the sources of shrink.

The cornerstone of current convenience store security, video surveillance, can have a lot more functionality and improve operational efficiencies when connected to other new or existing systems, including fire and intrusion security systems, remote monitoring, and traffic-counting analytics.

Digital video technology allows retailers to recognize and record shelf-sweep activity, while identifying facial images of suspects to provide superior image quality in real-time. Following theft incidents, the video can be used in forensic analysis while dealing with incidents and investigations big or small, like a late-night armed robbery at a store located on a dimly lit street. The technology can connect with exception-based reporting and case management systems to collect data on committed crimes and further assist law enforcement.

With better intelligence and deeper insights, convenience store retailers can make their stores more secure, and therefore improve the shopping experience, while better utilizing their limited number of sales associates. Not to mention, by investing in the technology, convenience stores can see an uptick in their bottom line over time as the technology helps stores decrease operating costs while increasing inside sales and profitability.

One of the largest chains in the convenience retailing industry has experienced incredible success with an integrated approach to loss prevention technology. The 24/7 operation recognized a need for an exception-based reporting system to mine data to support the business and help drive decisions. By integrating a digital video system with people-counting analytics, the retailer saw an increase in sales and decrease in shrink, while the data analytics provided a new level of store and shopper intelligence.

Each technology improvement contributed to the retailer’s overall loss prevention program, but effectively integrating all these tools made the program even more powerful — not to mention, the technology was installed while stores across the business remained open for business every day, 24/7.

This convenience store chain’s investment in loss prevention technology is now a key driver to improve the bottom line and enhance security and store operations to satisfy time-constrained customers.

All brick-and-mortar stores must find the balance between operating costs and sales, and to do so means weighing the benefits of technology investments. With the intelligent video capabilities and data analytics that video surveillance provides to enhance security and store operations, convenience stores should feel confident in investing further in loss prevention technology.

Catherine Walsh is vice president and general manager at Tyco Retail Solutions.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

Article originally published by Convenience Store News

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