'Tis the Season – Are your Loss Prevention Programs Prepared for the Holiday Rush?
Nov. 10. 2016: By Rex Gillette, Vice President Retail Sales, Protection 1
This year, the National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending will rise 3.6% from 2015 to more than $655 billion. By most accounts, the last quarter can represent a “make or break” year for retailers of all types and sizes. Coupled with a savvier consumer looking for the best deal, every dollar of profit is magnified in its importance.
Store merchants are working hard to draw customers into your stores and websites, but once there, are your loss prevention programs up to the task of securing those profit dollars? Theft prevention and safety are critical components of any loss prevention program throughout the year, but become increasingly important during the holidays. Just as the honest shopper will come looking for that special gift, shoplifters and dishonest employees will be right behind or perhaps even ahead of them. And safety doesn’t end at the front door, outside areas of your stores are just as vulnerable.
To help prepare for the all-important holiday shopping season, let’s breakdown a few areas worth re-visiting:
● Technology – Here’s a quick checklist of questions you should ask yourself: How often do you perform proactive inspections to ensure all of the systems and components are in good working order? Are your cameras in focus? Have you run a health check lately on your DVR or NVR recording device? Do you have enough storage available to capture video should an event take place that needs to be reviewed? From a low tech or no tech perspective, do you have adequate signage informing your valued customer that the premise is under surveillance while sending a message to the would-be bad guys that you are watching? Have you considered adding a remote video monitoring capability to your arsenal for added sets of eyes? Or outsourcing the monitoring of your security systems to a third party provide that could alert you in real time of a potential failure or even anticipate the problem before it happens? Have you adjusted your holiday open and close schedules to accommodate seasonal hours? Deploying an enterprise account management tool for your intrusion system can help you adjust your hours for individual locations or across your enterprise and receive alerts if something goes amiss. If your account management solution has a mobile component, you have the ability to always be connected and informed.
● Seasonal Employees – The NRF estimates that retailers will hire anywhere between 640,000 to 690,000 seasonal employees during the holidays. That means your stores will be fully staffed and ready to assist your customers. Unfortunately, part-time or seasonal employees often lack a sense of loyalty to their employers and may be more tempted to steal. There are measures to help the good employees while hopefully weeding out the bad. Do not minimize or neglect your normal screening practices in an effort to get bodies on the floor. Provide the same level of training to your seasonal employees as you would your full-time associates. Train them on how to spot suspected shoplifters through their mannerisms and actions. Make sure they understand how the security systems operate for those that open and close to avoid excessive false alarm fees. Inform them that inventory levels are carefully monitored and POS transactions are analyzed for excessive exceptions like no sale, voids or under rings. Finally, if you do not already have a program in place, institute a hotline were employees can report suspicious behaviors.
● Cyber Security – At a time where consumers are as likely to shop online as in-store, protecting your networks and websites are as important as protecting your brick-and-mortar locations. A recent survey by NRF revealed online versus in-store shopping is predicted to be a 50/50 split. Add Omni-channel shopping to the mix and many consumers plan on doing both. Have you updated your firewall or anti-virus software lately? If your software is more than a couple years old or you do not routinely update it with the latest patches, it is probably not as secure as you think. Are the devices on your networks secure? Recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have been traced back to common “Internet of Things” like IP cameras and peripherals such as printers that have limited or non-existent security measure on the devices themselves. DDoS attacks typically target websites and can cause them to fail or become unavailable to your customers. Given the number of consumers who plan to shop online this coming season, this could be devastating to a business. If 2015 is any indication, Cyber Monday saw the highest ever sales with $3.19 billion being spent in a single day. It’s no wonder that cybercriminals target websites specifically to cause chaos on very busy days. To combat this type of crime, consider resetting factory-issued passwords on peripherals and create new stronger ones, use a managed or monitored cyber security solution if possible to alert you in real time if suspicious activity is detected, and use a strong firewall at the network level to protect devices that can’t run protective software from making unauthorized connections.
Hopefully these insights will help you keep the happy in the holidays for your organization.