While safety and security should be a priority all year round, you should pay even closer attention to these matters during the holidays.
Seasonal promotions and events can send larger than usual crowds to your store. And while that can be a good thing for sales, it can also leave you vulnerable to theft and fraud, or worse — put your employees and customers in harm’s way.
But don’t worry — by taking the proper steps, you can minimize or even completely avoid any security and safety issues this holiday season.
Start with the following best practices below.
1. Carry out holiday-specific safety precautions
In addition to your year-round health and safety policies, take extra time to review and implement holiday-specific precautions.
According to Gary Johnson, Senior Consultant at Prevention Advisors, health and safety “become more magnified during the holiday season” because of the additional crowds.
Remember, you’ll have more shoppers with children and more shoppers with backpacks, and this can open up both security and safety concerns. Think about how you can address these issues before the rush begins.
Johnson also brought up holiday decorations. If you’re adding Christmas lights, for example, you want to make sure the cords don’t cross over walkways. Or if you’re setting up a Christmas tree, you should see to it that it’s installed correctly, so it doesn’t fall over.
2. Implement crowd management measures if necessary
Craft a crowd management plan so you and your staff can handle the holiday rush. Here are some things to think about:
Start by mapping out your store
Planning for crowds will be so much easier when you have a visual aid. If you haven’t done so yet, create a store map and use it to identify entrances, exits, and other important spaces. Doing so will also help you plan how to manage traffic flow, where to place fixtures and equipment, and where to position your staff.
Devise ways to keep your store from being overcrowded
Take note of your store’s maximum occupancy and ensure that you stay within its limits. Some retailers have found success by implementing staggered entry during busy shopping events. These stores would only allow a certain number of people in the store (e.g. 25 a time) to ensure that the space doesn’t get too crowded.
Create a contingency plan
Always have a contingency aka “what if” plan. As the NRF puts it:
Even the best-laid plans run into challenges. Contingency plans should be created for the “what if” situations that could arise, including larger-than-anticipated crowds, inclement weather, power outages, large lines of angry customers, trampling, shooting and merchandise sell-outs.
Business continuity and emergency preparedness plans give associates a foundation upon which they can handle unexpected situations. Contingency plans can also include alternative entry/exit points for customers, celebrity guests, associates, and security/law enforcement.
To prepare for the unexpected, retailers should consider:
- Evacuation routes
- Communication plans
- Law enforcement/public official engagement
- Preservation of evidence
Use the right equipment
Once you have an idea of how to control in-store traffic, see to it that you have all the materials to help you carry out your plans. Depending on what you’re implementing, these could include
- Stanchion ropes
- Surveillance tools
3. Invest in loss prevention and anti-theft devices
Speaking of equipment, have you armed your store with anti-theft tools to curb shoplifting and other crimes? It’s not too late to do so! Here are some of the anti-theft devices that you can use in your store during the holidays and beyond:
- Merchandising security tools (e.g., security stands, shelf locks, etc.)
4. Protect your business from internal theft
Do you have enough people in your team to handle the rush? If not, you may want to start hiring seasonal employees. The roles for which to hire will depend on your company. Some retailers may need to bring in additional cashiers, while other stores may require more security personnel as well.
Do note that while hiring people can certainly make things easier during the holidays, it can sometimes lead to internal theft. Prevent that with the following best practices:
Conduct background checks
Screen potential hires thoroughly. In addition to the usual application and interview process, conduct background checks on potential hires — especially if they’re going to handle sensitive information.
Set the right user permissions
Most modern point-of-sale systems allow you to set user permissions to enable or restrict staff members from doing certain tasks. Check with your POS solution provider and see how you can update permissions in your store.
Review your user permissions to make sure you know exactly what your staff can see and do with your POS. Pay extra attention to those who can process voided sales, as this is a very easy way to steal stock.
Onboard and train them properly
“Amid the hustle and bustle, managers need to fill positions with stellar candidates, get them up to speed quickly without sacrificing the customer experience or slowing the teams momentum,” says Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, a microlearning platform for frontline staff.
“Remember, seasonal staff is here for a good time, not a long time. So how can managers make sure you get your new hires up to speed quickly? For seasonal hires in particular, a continuous onboarding strategy helps them succeed from day one, immersing them quickly in your culture, brand and products and reinforcing their learning over time.”
She continues, “By focusing on critical knowledge first, you will ensure they have the knowledge they need to provide top-notch customer service, stay safe on the job, look out for loss prevention and promotions.”
Keep your employees happy
Want to reduce internal theft? Keep your employees happy. Jack Zahran, President of Pinkerton, wrote an excellent discussion on this topic on Pinkerton’s company blog:
When an employee feels like he/she is not paid enough, or is over-worked, or the job is beneath their level of skills, they empower themselves with an attitude of ‘I deserve this, for whatever it is they plan to steal, he wrote.
Then there’s the fact that temporary employees aren’t as invested in the business as full-time staff. Zahran continued:
The temporary nature, and relatively lower compensation compared to full-time positions fuels some of these employees’ belief that “taking this one thing won’t really matter and, I’m gone in a few weeks anyway.” In employee screening interviews, we have had workers admit to this mindset. It is especially prevalent during the holiday season as these workers are also laying out a lot of money for gifts, so picking one up for free, even if illegal, helps with their financial burden.
So, how can you ensure that your employees, even the seasonal ones, remain engaged? You can start with proper training. Arm them with the knowledge they need to do their jobs well and make sure your educational resources are accessible.
You should also consider pairing temps with seasoned employees to quickly get them up to speed and integrate them into your company.
Finally, offer incentives. Depending on your business and budget, such perks could include bonuses, swag, or the opportunity for full-time work.
Need more staffing tips and insights? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity.
This free resource is chock-full of advice and insights that can help you empower your staff and increase your store’s productivity. Specifically, you’ll learn about:
- Hiring and training retail employees
- Using a mix of learning tools to improve staff knowledge
- Inspiring team members to be top performers
Get it free hereLearn More
Stay on top of inventory counts
Doing regular inventory counts not only helps you stay on top of your stock, but it also reduces theft and shrinkage. Strive to physically count your inventory on a regular basis, so you always have a handle on what you have on hand.
Understandably, it can be difficult to conduct full inventory counts often, so if this is an issue, consider cycle counting or partial stock takes instead. Such inventory counting methods only require you to count certain portions of inventory on a daily or weekly basis, so you won’t have to do full inventory counts.
5. Make sure your technology is up to date
Your retail tech stack (i.e. POS, payment terminals, readers, scanners), as well as any loss prevention tools you may have, must be all up-to-date for the holidays.
Get in touch with your hardware and technology vendors and talk to them about any relevant updates. Needless to say, if your equipment isn’t up to snuff, take immediate steps to address the issues.
The same goes for your software. Don’t ignore those update prompts you get from your apps. The newest version of an app or solution contains the most updated features and security measures, so it’s less vulnerable to hacks and breaches.
And while you’re at it, uninstall programs or plugins you’re no longer using. All programs have vulnerabilities, so fewer apps mean less risk of attacks. Go through all the programs installed on your computer and mobile devices, and remove the ones you’re no longer using.
6. Secure your POS from hackers and fraudsters
Crowded stores, long lines, and busy employees can make your POS area a hotbed for retail crime, which is why you should implement the right security measures to prevent theft and fraud. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
Watch out for equipment tampering
Inspect your POS equipment, credit card terminals, and PIN-entry devices for any signs of tampering. Such signs may include broken seals, missing screws, extraneous wiring, or additional labels that might hide indications that the device has been altered.
You should also check each device’s USB or network port. If you see anything plugged into them that isn’t supposed to be there, report it immediately.
Physically secure your POS
Make sure your checkout area is secure. Keep valuable information away from prying eyes by positioning your POS, card terminals, and screens for maximum privacy.
Make use of secure shelves, stands, and security cables to prevent unauthorized removal. Mount your PIN pads securely on the counter, and utilize locking stands to protect your equipment.
Secure your POS network
In addition to beefing up your physical POS space and equipment, ensure that your network is just as secure. One important thing to do is to run your POS system on a network separate from your guest Wi-Fi. You also want to make sure you encrypt network data, so traffic and activities aren’t visible to anyone else.
If you need more info on different point of sale solutions, download Vend’s POS Buyer’s Guide. In this resource, you will learn the 7 secrets to find a reliable POS system, and avoid the costly mistakes most retailers make when choosing a new retail platform.
In it you’ll learn:
- How to budget for your POS system
- How to find and vet providers
- How to get the most out of the solution
We’d also love to hear from you! Are you doing anything extra this holiday season to prevent loss and safety issues? Share them in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.