Securing High-End Retail Stores
Luxury retailers are enjoying a business boom; inventories attract criminals
- By Dana Pruiett
- Dec 01, 2018
It’s no secret Americans like to shop online. A marketing survey
showed 40 percent of U.S. internet users made purchases several
times a month in 2017. The number of people shopping online
and the amount they spend increases annually.
That may not sound like good news for traditional brickand-
mortar retailers, but lately many retailers are using technology
and service innovations to post some of their best sales numbers in
years—even opening new physical stores.
One industry segment, luxury retailers such as jewelry and fine
art retailers, are enjoying boom times. These are goods most consumers
want to see and hold before deciding to buy. However, the same
attraction to valuable inventories also extends to criminals.
As they look to secure their merchandise and employees, high-end
retailers are turning to layers of electronic security equipment, along
with common-sense policies and procedures, proven at all levels of
the retail industry.
Where to Begin
Luxury retailers, in particular, have challenges not found in other
commercial industries. That’s why it’s important to work with a security
integrator that has retail experience before beginning any new
or redesigned security project. Initial planning starts with a risk assessment.
The shop’s location may be important. What types of patrons
are attracted to nearby retailers? Are stairs or elevators a consideration?
Do adjacent roads and highways provide quick escape
routes? Can first responders rapidly reach the store?
It’s also critical to look beyond doors and windows as an entrance.
Walls, floors and ceilings may require fortification.
Any security plan has to prepare a store for organized gangs. Retail
thieves—robbers, burglars and shoplifters—often work in tightlyknit
gangs that plan well in advance before they strike.
Protecting an exclusive retail shop starts outside. Parking lots and
garages can be dangerous, especially for customers carrying valuable
merchandise to their vehicles. A blue-light emergency tower with
an embedded video intercom enables distressed customers to contact
shop security for immediate assistance. The units’ cameras also
provide security with views to help determine the best response. Bollards
installed in front of doors prevent vehicles being used to smash
into shops located at street level.
Video surveillance cameras should be mounted outside the public
entrance. Placing one at eye level helps provide facial images which
are important for forensic investigations. IP-based cameras enable the
video feed to be transmitted and viewed over a network and shared
with first responders. Recorders should have the capacity to store at
least 30 days’ worth of video.
Some high-end shops, such as those selling loose diamonds, fine
art or rare coins, may choose to limit the number of customers in the
store at any time. These stores keep the main entry locked and allow
customers entry by appointment. A video intercom is perfect in this
situation. Customers push a button to alert shop employees and after
seeing and having a two-way conversation with the visitor, staff can
decide to remotely unlock the door. Many other high-end retailers
also use video intercoms to check the identity of delivery personnel
and vendors before allowing them entry.
Network-based video intercoms integrate with many open-standard
platforms, including video surveillance and access control, to
provide greater overall system control and more efficient security
operation centers. Some intercoms have built-in embedded proximity
access card readers, making it easy for employees to use key cards to
enter the store.
Solid-core doors provide greater security than those with
glass. Metallic shutters that slide down in front of all entries provide
added protection at night.
Video cameras inside the store should provide views of all entries, display cases, cash register, the office and
stockroom. Avoid blind spots where a criminal
may loiter waiting for the best time to
strike. Cameras have been proven to act as
a criminal deterrent. By installing a monitor
at the entry customers immediately
know they are under surveillance. Signage
announcing the camera system helps. Also,
have a concealed back-up recorder to maintain
visual evidence if robbers demand to
take a recorder with them.
Criminals are sensitive to time. That
is why it’s important to slow them with
well-designed store fixtures. Display cases
should be made of reinforced glass on all
sides to reduce attempts at smash-and-grab
thefts. Don’t concentrate the highest value
items in one case or on a single rack but
spread them out to reduce potential losses.
Keep cases locked except when removing
one item at a time for inspection. Many display
cases are sold with a generic, modelspecific
key. In that case, install new locks
as generic keys can end up in the hands of
criminals. Discretely place panic buttons on
the back side of display cases or the end of
racks, near the cash register and in the store
office. When pushed, they can immediately
alert first responders. Consider keeping lowvalue
decoy merchandise in the store to give
Separate the show floor and office with
a two-way mirror. Potential robbers may be
slowed or abandon their plans if they wonder
who’s watching from the other side. Mirrors installed
at ceiling level provide employees with a
view of customers across the show floor.
Many stores locate their checkout stands
or registers near the back of the store to
be conveniently close to the office and
stockroom, but a checkout placed near the
exit enables employees to keep an eye on customers
leaving the store. Never leave a cash
register unattended and frequently move
cash to an office safe. At closing time, put the
most valuable inventory into a heavy safe,
permanently attached to the office floor. A
safe with a time lock provides added security.
The office should have a solid-core door
that’s locked throughout the day—even if
an employee is working inside. Another
video intercom provides anyone in the office
an opportunity to see who is requesting
entry. High-end retailers also require intelligible
voice communication. An audio intercom
lets employees clearly communicate between
the office, show floor, cash register and
Electrical article surveillance (EAS) systems
enable high-end retailers to tag goods
using RFID, magnetic, acousto-magnetic or
microwave technology. Unless removed or
deactivated at the checkout, tags will set off
alarms as items pass through an exit pedestal.
These pedestals can be embedded into
door frames for aesthetic purposes. Many
different tag sizes and designs are available
to accommodate goods of various shapes,
sizes and composition.
Count on an intrusion system to protect
the store throughout the night. Install sensors
on doors, windows and air vents. Motion
detectors can catch movement anywhere
in the store. Heat sensors are helpful in detecting
a person. Other sensors, such as fire,
smoke, flood and freeze detectors, protect
inventory and store equipment.
A professionally monitored system will
provide a higher level of security. Using the
camera system, monitoring station technicians
can verify alarms and eliminate—or
at least reduce—potentially costly false
alarms. Although expensive, consider hiring
a uniformed security guard. In larger stores,
plain-clothes guards can be helpful.
A computerized point of sale system
tracks inventory, clearly showing what
merchandise was purchased by customers.
Missing inventory, or shrink, is likely due to
shoplifters or employees.
According to a 2017 National Retail Federation
survey, employees account for about 30
percent of retail theft. Some of the biggest reported
crimes have been inside jobs. A vault
manager at a New York jewelry stole $12 million
in gold over six years—more than 500
pounds—one piece at a time by hiding it in
the lining of her purse.
If it is legal in your city and state, conduct
background checks on all employment
applicants. A credit check may indicate financial
pressures increasing the likelihood
of an employee committing or assisting in
criminal activity. Run checks on employees
annually to ensure nothing in their situations
have changed. Also, if legal, require employees
to undergo drug screening.
Also remember employees can play an effective
role in your security plan. Have a professional
trainer show them how to quickly
spot criminal behavior in customers. Also
train them how to react to prevent harm to
customers and themselves during a robbery.
Attracting shoppers to their stores and
converting those visits into sales is a prime
goal of all luxury retailers, but they also
have an obligation to keep their customers
and employees safe while securing their highend
inventory. Varied layers
of security and other
related equipment can
help them meet those responsibilities.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Security Today.