How a local strategy can better protect retail

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

Pick the right technology

Retailers should select technologies that address their most pressing security issues according to their location. In urban areas, access control should be used liberally to control entry and exit points. Call boxes in parking decks create a greater sense of security for shoppers and employees by enabling people to directly notify a security officer who can respond immediately.

In suburban or rural stores, more traditional theft deterrence tactics may be effective. Exterior video surveillance systems will likely be focused on property crime prevention, whereas surveillance inside the stores may focus on providing facial recognition shots for investigating shoplifting incidences.

Rural stores may be able to set surveillance equipment for recognition shots instead of identification. They may also invest in equipment and technology to help them manage emergencies for that critical time period before emergency responders can arrive at the scene.

Develop proactive processes

Loss prevention processes centered on the biggest potential problems can help mitigate risk. Urban stores should have clear policies on addressing loitering and panhandling, such as conducting rounds regularly to ask loiterers to leave the property. If the parking decks are a source of unwanted activities, the LP team may decide to monitor live video during peak traffic hours. If smash-and-grabs or organized crime are a problem, urban stores should place merchandise toward the middle of the store, away from exits/entrances and windows.

If suburban environments are subject to particularly high rates of "sweethearting", with school-aged employees cutting deals for their friends, the retailer should conduct random video reviews of cashiers at the register and set up alerts for suspicious behaviors or activities at checkout. If traffic accidents are a problem in the parking lot, they can consider installing cameras that have the capability to read license plate numbers to help resolve traffic issues.

Rural stores without immediate access to first responders should keep a first aid kit and defibrillator in these stores and have staff members trained to issue first aid in case a medical emergency occurs on the premises.

Evaluating risks and taking time to customize technologies and policies to the store's greatest needs according to the surrounding environment is no easy task, but one that is well worth the investment.

Establishing a retail security program is difficult and too often once decided on, is implemented across the board and rarely challenged. The greatest problem with these baseline programs is that, in implementing them, retailers are building in failure points. Security concerns are simply not the same in rural, suburban and urban environments. To be effective, the security practitioner may need to start from scratch when building an urban strategy. Every aspect of the operation may be different and mitigation strategies must meet these unique risks. Although difficult, it is worth the effort to factor in the impact location has on the store and design a program that may look completely different than the baseline program. You may find that a more customized program can be a game-changer for your shrink prevention and people protection strategy.

Eric White, Wren SolutionsAbout the Author: Eric White is director of retail strategy for Wren, providers of physical security solutions. White can be reached at To learn more, visit
White previously served in loss prevention (LP) and security roles at Wal-Mart and The Home Depot, and has over 20 years of experience in loss prevention, asset protection and physical security. He is the chief blogger for the LPXtra blog from Wren.