Maura Keller is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor. She writes for dozens of publications on a variety of business-related topics. When not writing, Maura serves as executive director of the literacy nonprofit, Read Indeed.
How To Enhance Your Store Security
Store security remains a critical concern for beverage alcohol retailers.
When Dave Hawley, owner of The Beer Cellar, first opened his store in Glen Ellyn, IL, he was focused on addressing several major issues with security: inventory control, employee safety, and customers drinking in their tap room. Hawley wanted to address those concerns with a high-end solution, but without a complicated high-end user interface found in some of their previous security solutions.
Hawley isn’t alone. In the beverage retail marketplace, liability concerns pertaining to safety and security issues are top of mind for store owners and operators alike. Robbery, burglary, shoplifting and workplace violence are life-threatening situations that leave employees, customers and owners at risk.
But with the right security procedures in place, beverage storeowners can protect the risk to others as well as to their own financial liability.
The biggest issues facing small and mid-sized beverage retailers as it relates to security are employee or internal theft, inventory management and physical security.
According to Ellen Lemire, director at Pinkerton, a global leader in security and risk management solutions, employee and internal theft accounts for the greatest loss across the retail industry. Often the greatest tool to combat this is creating a preventative culture.
“Inventory management is tied to the issue of internal theft, and there are technology solutions that can make inventory management seamless,” Lemire says.
Physical security, such as access systems, making sure loading docks are secured or roll-up doors are pulled down and secured, is another issue facing small and mid-sized retailers. All three of these issues pertain to the liquor industry, where there may be large amounts of cash on location, and high-value merchandise.
Additionally, the liquor industry must comply with state regulations regarding minimum age verification. If a store’s employee sells to an underage person, the store could lose its license.
“The first step for any retailer, including those in the liquor industry, is to have a written internal policy that can be used to educate employees about aspects of security, and can help build that preventative culture within the retailer,” Lemire says.
Technology and security have come a long way in recent years. As Lemire explains, IP cameras can be placed at strategic locations, and can be tied into larger intelligence systems. A system could monitor and alert each time a register voids a transaction, or each time a register opens without reason, and can be tied into the POS system as well.
“These alerts and intelligence system can be organized into a dashboard where a business owner or manager is able to monitor every part of the retail location, even remotely,” Lemire says. “For liquor stores, electronic article surveillance for high-value items can also be tied into the system. External threats can also be monitored, from natural disasters that may affect distribution of product, to terror threats that may shut down areas in urban environments.”
To ensure Hawley and his staff are able to identify theft or incidents on the store’s retail side, American Telephone and Data strategically installed cameras to cover the exterior doors, cash registers and retail sales area.
While The Beer Cellar is in a very small and safe community where theft is an afterthought, after some recent brazen crimes, Hawley decided to upgrade to Axis cameras to keep up with new challenges.
“We went with Axis Communications’ small and discreet cameras with a HD picture and the remote capabilities, which allows us to watch from anywhere using the Axis mobile app,” Hawley says. “Traditionally the industry has only needed security to combat theft, but things are changing. Beverage retailers need to actively protect themselves against possible lawsuits and keep up with compliance for local and state law.”
Since people can drink at The Beer Cellar, it also is important to keep track of patrons inside and outside of the store. Hawley needed to make sure no one was being over-served and that his employees were in compliance with local and state ordinances.
“To further improve our vantage point, we installed Axis cameras outside the building to oversee our parking lot,” Hawley says. “This has been helpful in keeping track of who is coming in and out of our taproom.”
Hawley incorporated a few different Axis network video cameras to ensure each priority area within the store was covered properly. In addition to an external weatherproof camera on the exterior of the building, for the front and back doors, they also are using two directional cameras.
“In our taproom, we have a fish eye camera that covers the bar and retail area,” Hawley says. “We like that all the solutions are accessible remotely via the Axis mobile app.”
Predicting the future is like forecasting the weather. You think you know what’s going to happen—then it doesn’t. The liability of beverage retailers, as it pertains to security issues, is also the great unknown.
While The Beer Cellar requires cameras to monitor theft on the retail side, retailers like Hawley also need to start looking at security solutions for more than just one way to deter theft.
“For us, one of the greatest benefits our surveillance system provides is protection from lawsuits and the ability to stay compliant with local and state law,” Hawley says. “If a patron comes in intoxicated and is refused service, we have video proof that we did not over-serve and can avoid any related penalties.”
Not surprising, safety and security issues bring forth a myriad of liability issues for a storeowner. Retailers potentially face liability (referred to as “premises security liability”) from failure to provide adequate and sufficient security measures. Such liability, based on the concept of negligence, could result from a shopkeeper not taking reasonable security measures to protect employees and patrons from reasonably foreseeable threats and risks.
There also is potential liability from a shopkeeper’s actions in response to a criminal incident. Shopkeepers (or their employees) who use unreasonable force, or take inappropriate response measures based on inadequate training or knowledge or supervision, or fail to take appropriate response measures, may face liability for their actions or inactions.
“One of the biggest mistakes beverage retailers make is simply not doing enough; not investing in the right systems, not working with the right outside firm,” says David Bitton, COO of Supreme Security in Union, NJ. “That would typically encompass working with an outside security firm solely based on who offers the lowest cost. In many cases they don’t have the experienced techs and a spotty customer service record, and thus are unable to provide services at a level that results in reduced risk and minimization of loss.”
Bitton stresses that the security technology for the retail environment is ever-evolving.
“As far as what retailers need to be aware of, IP-based CCTV, in one area that they should have knowledge about,” Bitton says. “Also video verification and intrusion integration is key—so that when an alarm goes off, not only do we see the alarm, but we also see the video and can then expedite the imagery to the proper authorities.”
Steps to Take
As with any technology, significant strides are continually made to improve security technology to meet the changing needs of the retail environment. Just as would-be thieves become more adept at their efforts, so too do the security systems used to stop them in their tracks.
So it pays for retailers to do their homework and learn about the technological options that are available for their specific situation.
Of course, a key step in beverage retail security involves implementing technology, including an intelligence program, and thinking about utilizing employing mystery shoppers to make sure employees are checking IDs and are turning away underage customers.
The biggest misconception that beverage retailers make with security is that having a single or a couple cameras is all you need. Retailers need to think holistically about both their internal and external environments, and they need to train their employees in policies and procedures specific to their location and industry.
Specifically, once a retailer has policies and procedures in place, they need to train, test and drill its employees on those policies and procedures to instill confidence in employees and in the systems themselves.
“Start incentive programs where employees can report issues of internal theft confidentially, with a reward if the case is resolved,” Lemire says. “Retailers might also consider a longer-term solution in a security manager who is onsite and can manage the physical security and the training and compliance with policies and procedures by employees.”
Another way retailers can reduce their potential liability is by hiring good employees who work according to sound policies and procedures. All prospective employees should undergo preemployment background screening. You also want to review incidents to assure that policies and procedures are adequate and sufficient and are being followed.
Review your business liability insurance on an annual basis to ensure you are properly covered. Like everyone else, beverage retailers tend to look at insurance as a necessary evil. They often only review it when it is time to renew, if at all. And then they typically only focus on the price changes of the policy.
If the price increase represents an incentive for owners to take a closer look at their policies, then it’s a blessing in disguise. By doing so, they may evaluate their exposure to liabilities, which may or may not be covered under their business insurance.
And finally, invest in a solid security system. Hawley says one of the biggest mistakes beverage retailers can make is choosing a “cheap” solution.
“There are many options available that provide different benefits and are designed for different purposes,” Hawley says. “Take the time to research what you are buying and make sure your money is being utilized to get the most out of the solution.”
Lemire advises beverage retailers to look for a security partner who thinks holistically and can advise them in every aspect of their security.
“A security partner with vast experience in the retail industry can work with small to mid-sized retailers to benchmark, let them know what similar businesses are doing, and can advise them in cost-effective solutions,” Lemire says. “Taking security seriously is becoming the norm, and retailers must have policies and procedures in place to protect themselves and their employees. But policies and procedures are worthless unless employees are trained on them and can use them.”
Security experts agree that there are common mistakes retailers make when it comes to protecting their liability as it pertains to potential safety and security incidents.
The key issues that are usually not given sufficient attention by retailers include:
- Inadequate screening, hiring, training and supervision of employees. Inappropriate actions or inactions of employees are a primary cause of potential liability.
- Failure to provide and enforce adequate policies and procedures. Policies and procedures should govern the actions of employees.
- Failure to document and review security incidents and situations. Problems cannot be adequately addressed until and unless there is some basis for analysis.