Top ten tips for effective retail security

For retailers, improving their customer service and driving repeat visits sit high up on their priority list. Customers matter more than ever in today’s world, so providing premium retail security services to improve customer experience is a must.

Retail security services help retailers ensure staff and customers feel welcomed and, above all, that they are entering a safe environment.

What is retail security?

Retail security focuses on the safety of customers and staff, and retail security officers are responsible for ensuring public safety and also preventing and handling theft and other challenging situations both quickly and safely. They provide reassurance for everyone, but also a response when called upon.

Retail security services

Security officers within a retail environment are responsible for several key aspects, including:

  • Safety of employees and customers
  • Deterring and apprehending potential shoplifters
  • Providing premium customer services to visitors
  • Safely and efficiently handling emergencies or challenging situations
  • Remaining compliant and ensuring safety procedures are followed at all times

Retail loss prevention 

Retail loss prevention refers to reducing and mitigating the risk of profit loss through theft, both by customers and, in some cases, employees.

According to recent data, there were more than 228,000 offences of shoplifting in England and Wales in 2021/22 – an increase of 49,000 cases since data was first recorded in 2002.

Further to this, around 455 retail staff are either assaulted or subjected to abuse every day, and 200 incidents of threat are recorded every hour.

Overall, retail crime and profit loss is costing the UK more and more every day, with the current annual figure standing at £2.2 billion.

Guaranteeing a safe, compliant retail environment pays dividends in making both customers and staff feel comfortable, while also mitigating loss prevention and preserving cash flow.

Below, we’ve shared our top ten tips for effective retail security…

1. Employee training

While having well-trained security personnel is the safest way to handle shoplifters, training your staff on how to handle criminal activity is an effective approach to retail security.

Providing training programmes, either in person or virtually, on what employees should do if they notice any suspicious activity that could lead to theft will ensure staff are on the lookout for potential shoplifters and feel safe to escalate the situation to a trained professional.

Some red flags employees should look out for in shoppers include:

  • Looking around to check if they’re being watched
  • Picking up items and putting them back down in different places in the store
  • Swapping price tags

Simple, clear communication on what staff members should do if they notice any of these signs ensures any issues are handled quickly and efficiently.

These can be simple steps, such as:

  • Regular training on the location of emergency buttons
  • How to handle a security alarm
  • Safety phrases for safely communicating between team members without raising suspicions

2. Provide exceptional customer service

Customer service is an effective way of ensuring repeat custom, but it also plays a crucial role in deterring potential thefts.

Greeting and assisting customers throughout their visit can help dissuade potential thieves from following through with their plans if they know their movements are being observed by attentive staff members.

Similarly, having staff members at the entry/exit points provides additional surveillance on anyone coming and going from the premises, and simple acts such as tidying or restocking shelves provide an additional layer of security.

While this extra level of attention will delight many customers, it should also mean would-be thieves will be less likely to steal if they know their journey through the shop floor is being monitored effectively.

3. Optimise store layout

This is one of the most crucial steps in mitigating retail loss prevention. Organising your store layout in a way that makes it easy for employees to see shoppers will help to ensure maximum visibility.

Some simple things to avoid include:

  • Creating displays that are too tall to see over
  • Clustering together large volumes of products that will attract a significant amount of customers
  • Stocking high-value products in unlocked displays

The end goal is to make it difficult for shoplifters to get away with stealing, so it’s advisable to maximise visibility across the shop floor to make it easy to spot any potential criminal activity.

4. Identify high value/at-risk items

It’s more than likely there are items that will be more attractive to shoplifters and, therefore, more susceptible to attempted theft.

These are typically items of high value, either from a monetary perspective or consumer demand. They can also be items of a lower overall value, but that are easily accessible in the store layout.

Placing items of high value in a locked display case, or attaching security tags can help mitigate potential theft, as well as having a dedicated staff member, or item specialist nearby to keep an eye on them are effective ways of avoiding theft.

5. Regular walkthroughs and proactive stock management

Having an effective stock management strategy in place will help to identify theft, loss, and cases of human error quickly and efficiently.

Regular stock counts can reveal any patterns of theft, allowing security processes to be implemented to reduce the risks.

Routine walkthroughs from security personnel or staff members can also act as an effective deterrent, while also allowing for consistent surveillance of areas with high-value stock/former hot spots for theft, meaning any further issues can be spotted quickly and handled properly.

6. Introduce clear shoplifting policies

As well as educating employees on how to handle situations involving shoplifters, it’s also important to have a clear policy on the procedure, if a perpetrator is apprehended.

Alerting a store manager, or the most senior member of staff is a good place to start and detaining the thief in a locked room while the authorities are alerted will help ensure staff and customers are kept safe.

Having a trained retail security officer provides invaluable comfort in incidents such as these, as they will be able to diffuse the situation, remove the person quickly and safely from the retail floor, and handle the situation with the police.

7. Security signage

Signs showing retail security services are in place within the store can also act as an effective deterrent for prospective thieves.

These signs are not intended to intimidate legitimate customers, but rather to ward off thieves who may be considering shoplifting by making it clear what policies are in place and how perpetrators will be handled.

Advertising security measures should be carefully considered, however, as too much signage could potentially be off-putting to genuine customers. 

8. Minimise cash payments

Cash drawers are often gold mines for thieves and light-fingered employees. Promoting more cashless payments will reduce the amount of cash kept on-site, making the store less of a target for thieves.

While this may inconvenience some customers at first, it will streamline the overall check-out process and potentially enhance customer service, as contactless or cashless payments are a norm now.

9. Limit employee loss

While the vast majority of retail employees are trustworthy, there may be a small minority willing to take advantage of their trusted position.

In the UK, 22 per cent of retail loss is due to employee theft, with job dissatisfaction often being the primary cause.

Creating an open and welcoming workplace will help encourage happier employees and inviting them to feel a shared responsibility for the overall success of the business should help put them off any potential criminal activity.

However, it remains important to acknowledge the threat of internal theft and implement ways to mitigate the risk, such as:

  • Minimise blind spots in warehousing/storerooms and ensure these areas are regularly checked or have security surveillance
  • Keep staff changing rooms locked and limit the number of items each person can take
  • Implement a procedure for staff purchases, such as asking a manager to review and sign a receipt for any items purchased and kept on site for the employee’s shift

10. Invest in trained professionals

The best thing for effective retail security is to hand over the reins to a trained security professional who is well versed in handling challenging situations, including criminality.

Private security officers are dedicated to ensuring the overall safety of both staff and customers and a consistent security presence means they can learn the patterns of the store, identify regular customers and spot potential red flags.

This investment will also place staff members’ minds at rest, knowing there is a person on site who can safely diffuse or handle any tricky situations quickly and safely.

A consistent security presence will also positively contribute to the customers’ experience, as a personable and friendly officer will help make them feel at ease when visiting the premises.

Retail security services at CDX

CDX Security is ranked in the top five per cent of UK security firms, following a successful audit from the Security Industry Authority.

Our retail security officers are highly trained, and their practices are market-leading to ensure the safety of those they are dedicated to protecting.

As one of the UK’s most experienced security guard companies, we have extensive experience in the retail sector, ensuring our officers provide a friendly, helpful service while remaining dedicated to ensuring the overall safety of both customers and staff.

Find out more about our officers and get in touch to find out how we can implement a bespoke security service in your retail business.