Preparing for Black Friday

Industry experts share crowd management, loss prevention tips for annual shopping bonanza

In addition to the aforementioned security strategies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also released a list of what steps retailers should take in their crowd management plans including:

  • Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store's entrance.
  • Implementing crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
  • Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers.
  • Explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
  • Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level.
  • Not blocking or locking exit doors.

"That certainly is the most important thing, the safety issue. What we’ve seen work and what we hear a lot of people have moved for is it’s more about visibility – making sure you’ve got adequate staff or outside resources," said Wren. "Law enforcement is a great addition just from a deterrent standpoint. Having that presence there is very, very important."

As important as maintaining crowd control is outside the store, retailers must also be cautious about shoplifters or malicious employees looking to take advantage of the crowds inside.

"You have to take some precautions inside the store. You should have store security posted around the store in various places," Baillie said. "If you’re going to have certain areas with special items for sale, you need to have security posted in and around those places. You have to have people at the doors that can observe and know what they’re doing to direct people to specific areas. You have to have special considerations for cash control – having till limits on the registers in the store and removing money from the registers and securing cash, not letting cash build up in the registers because there will be people that will take advantage of that situation."

By and large, Degener said that most shoplifters are leery of crowds, but in some cases, there will be some people that try to use Black Friday crowds to their benefit.

"You’re going to find those bold shoplifters though are going to take advantage of the chaos and maybe try to walk right out the door with large amounts of products almost like a diversion," he said. "You’ve got to be very sensitive to that. They might just punch out through a fire exit door to a car that’s waiting with lots of merchandise."

Another aspect of retail security that’s paramount, but can sometimes get overlooked on Black Friday is making sure that parking lots are secure.

"You’ve really got to start your program in the parking lot. You’ve got to think your brand extends past the building and goes out into the parking lot," Degener said. "When you have all of those additional customers and cars, you really need to increase your security into the parking lot to make sure any kinds of purse thefts, vandalism, car thefts, and all of that is protected. You’ve got to adjust your lighting up to what it needs to be in the parking lot because most of them are on timers nowadays, so if they’re normally shut down, they’ve got to make sure lighting is still in place."        

Retail security experts say stores that have surveillance systems should test them to ensure they’re working properly before a Black Friday sale and to also make sure that they are trained on entry and exit points. Wren said that retailers should also review all of their internal and external processes well before Black Friday.

"How do we receive products? What does our return process look like? What’s the checkout process like? Make sure those are buttoned up and if there are tweaks that need to be made based on the volume of shoppers that are going to be there, make those tweaks," he advised. "And then really understand what the staff requirements are and train and over-train, especially because this is a time where we have a lot of temporary workers coming in just for the holiday season to ensure they’re slotted in the right job and we’re not putting too much on their plate."   

Overall, Baillie thinks that retailers take Black Friday security much more seriously now.