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The pandemic has impacted enterprises across nearly every single market sector. Sudden shutdowns, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and an uptick in violent crime have each wreaked havoc on businesses large and small in the United States, and all over the globe.

Particularly hard hit has been the retail sector. Maintaining profitability and business continuity has been a challenge, and expectations for smoother, safer operations have gone largely unrealized. How can brick and mortar retailers get back to basics and protect their profits? Security technology solutions that deliver more actionable intelligence and real-time situational awareness are proving very useful in addressing the specific challenges retailers must overcome.

Retail Woes
The retail industry has long been susceptible to security vulnerabilities, and the effects of the pandemic and road to recovery have rendered some retailers more vulnerable than ever. The retail risk environment is more complex and costly than ever.

The National Retailers Federation (NRF) 2021 Retail Security Survey points out that, while shrink remains an ongoing challenge for retailers, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase of fraud, crime and overall risk. Specifically, these include workplace violence, organized retail crime (ORC), shoplifting, employee theft and cargo theft.

Active shooter incidents have also plagued retailers at an increasingly alarming rate. Retail locations remain soft targets because their doors are open to the public. While sporting arenas and movie theaters have ticket checks or magnetometers, retail stores rely on promoting free unhampered access to their stores. This is essential to their business model, but it limits the level of access control security they can put in place.

That is not all. There is even more daunting news looming on the horizon for retailers hoping to make a healthy comeback. Supply chain disruptions are posing a serious threat to their profitability. Many in-demand goods are sitting on ships waiting to be off loaded and sent to market. This congestion may be attributed to increases in new orders and infrastructure bottlenecks, including a lack of transportation and qualified workers.

This challenge is being compounded by vaccine mandates for retail employees. Implementing them if and when the time comes will be challenging, and affect hiring as the holidays approach. While it will be tough for big box outlets, smaller retailers will be especially hard hit. All this ensuing while during a worker shortage.

The retail sector, no doubt, is facing unprecedented challenges. Thankfully, sophisticated security technology solutions spanning video surveillance, video analytics and real-time situational awareness can help ease some of those challenges.

Security Solutions Retailers Can Rely Upon
Retailers now have affordable, easy to use, rapidly deployable video tools to protect their profitability and the safety of their employees and patrons. Today’s single source, end-to-end models are typically more affordable, straightforward and reliable, with no compatibility problems, and with user-friendliness designed.

A true plug-and-play approach to installation enables seamless connectivity, with no cyber security loopholes, and ensures that projects can be completed quickly and efficiently, whether during and after business hours.

Cost-effective cabling and NVRs that come with built-in switches deliver the benefits of reduced visual impact and lower equipment costs. If retail stores are looking to leverage existing coaxial cabling but still benefit from high-definition image quality, they can look for a range that allows a mix and match of IP with the latest analog technologies such as HD-TVI. Traditional legacy cameras, such as fixed lenses, or PTZs, can be replaced with high-definition fisheyes that work steadily in the background to guarantee wide area surveillance without blind spots – providing evidential-quality footage of every event on a shop floor, when needed for investigations.

When it comes to the VMS, integrators now have options that will easily integrate multiple stores with low or no licensing fees, as well as provide a centralized monitoring environment and allowing easy integration with third-party systems and devices such as wearable and fixed panic alarms.

Prevention managers no longer need to physically be in-store or visit controls rooms at their head offices to review footage or spearhead investigations in-person. Mobile apps now allow them to review events remotes, and view live-stream HD and even 4K footage quickly from their smartphones and tablets.

Video analytics and highly accurate AI-assisted notifications for intrusion, object, loitering, and unusual event detection, are also playing a huge role in helping to provide retailers with a real-time view of any security and theft violations enabling them to quickly verify incidents and respond appropriately.

Using high-performance video technology, behavior analysis applied to a physical retail environment to glean an understanding of what customers and potential customers look at, for how long, and making buying decisions by leveraging the intelligence of video analytics, retailers are equipped with the intelligence they need to maximize their customers’ footprints and profiles and parlay them into purchases.

Retailers surely face specific and concerning security challenges. The capabilities of advanced video security tech is here to help this very viable and needed sector survive and even flourish, post-pandemic, with practical, powerful, and affordable video surveillance solutions.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Security Today.

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