How a local strategy can better protect retail

The importance of customizing security, design and LP processes for urban, suburban and rural stores

All of these differences must be managed and accounted for using resources available to the retailer. So what should retailers be doing to alter their loss prevention approach to mitigate the risks associated with each of these locations?

Create employee incentives

In light of higher turnover, a more transient workforce, and greater competition for nearby job opportunities, retailers in urban environments must work even harder than usual to engage their employees at every level. Retail employees who are empowered with authority and accountability are positioned to act and make a difference when and where it is needed most. Infused with a sense of their importance to the organization and a sense of responsibility, they tend to rise to the occasion and most often act on the retailer's behalf in very positive ways. Likewise, these employees are likely to take action to prevent, report or address loss problems in the store. Empowered employees may take the extra effort to pick up debris in an aisle that could potentially cause an accidental fall. They might also report an associate they suspect is stealing, looking to gain a personal reward, or possibly feeling a sense of loyalty to the retailer. Being empowered to make a difference, these associates feel trusted and are an important part of the business. The result could simultaneously be reduced loss and improved customer satisfaction. A sense of responsibility and accomplishment will also help ensure that associates don't immediately jump to the next job to earn a paycheck.

On the other end of the spectrum, in a rural setting, where fewer career alternatives are available, training programs and clear paths for advancement are in order. It is important that retailers evaluate the type of employee, their likely motivation and career path, and offer an attractive, engaging package to meet their needs and engage their interests. Incentive plans geared toward the type of employee help reduce turnover, instill a sense of responsibility, and encourage desired behavior, which can go a long way to reducing losses.

Put security first

In urban environments, even the walk from the store to the car can pose discomfort or danger. Retailers in urban environments should put additional security measures in place to protect associates and customers. Security escorts to the parking lot at night and increased monitored surveillance in parking lots and stairwells are a good idea. In urban environments, retailers need to ensure a secure environment not only on their property, but in the surrounding area as well. If the walk from the nearest bus or rail stop to the retail store is dangerous, shoppers will not come. Therefore, retailers must partner with local law enforcement to report and address crime and safety issues in the surrounding area.

A suburban store's greatest security concern may be a particularly hazardous intersection that is congested but does not have the appropriate traffic lights. This retailer may focus their energy on petitioning for municipal transportation authorities to install a stop light or may hire a security officer to direct traffic safely in and out of the parking lot during peak hours.

Implement CPTED

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) means deterring criminal behavior through design principles that maximize natural surveillance and direct the natural flow of traffic. In urban environments, using plenty of artificial lighting and white paint in the parking lot or deck provides brightness and visibility, reducing the opportunity to perpetrate undetected crimes. By increasing signs and constructing fences and paving the general area, the retailer creates a sense of ownership of the property. A clean and graffiti-free area gives associates a sense of pride in the place they work and makes it clear to criminals that the property is owned and cared for. Using short hedges and landscaping and lighting to direct the path of traffic and leaving windows and views into the store unobstructed are all critical. In rural or suburban environments, municipal ordinances may restrict the use of exterior lighting and aesthetics become the predominant concern, sometimes overriding security principles in the exterior design. In these cases, crimes are often less prevalent and crime prevention techniques are focused on other measures.