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From Home Furnishing Business

Security Unplugged: Practical, Low-Cost Protection for Your Store

By Home Furnishings Business in Furniture Retailing on March 2007 While covering the latest and greatest technological advances in retail and shipping security (see €œMission Possible: Thwarting Thieves Through Technology€ on pg. 35), it occurred to me that such products may not fit into every retailers€™ budget.

Sure, we all want to have the latest and greatest technical toys out there. Who wouldn€™t? And if they prevent losses caused by products springing feet and walking out of your store, such measures are a good investment. But high-tech gizmos may be an investment some stores can€™t afford.

Here€™s where my past experience as editor of a biweekly newsletter for inventory managers comes into play. In that role, I was able to talk to a number of warehouse people and learn from their experience of theft prevention methods that cost little or nothing at all. I€™d like to pass on some of these €œlessons learned€ to you.

Watching Out for the Signs

You trust your staff, and with good reason. But unfortunately, it€™s a sad fact that a lot of retail robberies are inside jobs. One of the most common scams involves staffers working with truckers to move stolen items out, sneaking them into trucks, hoping irregular quantities won€™t be noticed, and gathering the loot once it€™s outside the facility.

To avoid this, you could start doing occasional spot checks of loads just before delivery trucks pull away from your store. Look out for unusual cartons or loose items that don€™t belong.

Another way workers could try to get items out of your store is to throw them in a trash bin near an exit and retrieve them later for a quick getaway.

The solution is simple: move the trash bins away from your exits. If that€™s not feasible, inspect the bins regularly, and make sure employees are aware that you do.

Another solution to the problem of in-house theft is an approach called €œlayered security.€

This concept centers on implementing a chain of security measures at different points in your operation.

These €œlayers€ include:

€¢ designating one worker who oversees every shipment through each stage of shipping, from picking to packing, and can vouch for its contents.

€¢ tracking the movement of cartons through your store€™s shipping operation by scanning bar codes or having workers record label info in your computer system

€¢ checking all packages one last time before they leave your store

€¢ tracking shipments through to their final destination through your system, the Internet or other means.

The common theme of these strategies is awareness€”identifying the signs of theft, watching out for them, and taking steps to eliminate them.

Is This Thing On?

Of course, the best way to truly €œkeep an eye out€ for signs of stealing, either by staff or visitors to your store, is through the use of security cameras. In €œMission Possible,€ we document a number of new-age digital security cams that (let€™s face it) are looking more and more like the stuff €œQ€ passed on to James Bond in the movies.

But what if you don€™t have the €œbank€ for that kind of equipment? One warehouse manager I spoke with had success with a tactic that cost virtually nothing. He set up €œdummy€ cameras, using old security cams no one was using. They weren€™t hooked up to the system, just mounted on the wall.

The €œdummies€ worked wonders. Apparently his co-workers got the idea they were being watched (even though they weren€™t), and probably thought twice before taking anything. This same idea can be applied in your store. Even if you can€™t afford to activate security cameras, they can still deter potential thieves.

With some exceptions (particularly in the case of hidden cameras), security measures are usually most effective when people are aware of them, either through word-of-mouth, store and facility signage, or simply by seeing a camera on the wall (whether it works or not). Creating awareness that you€™re taking steps to prevent robbery can be just as important as the steps you actually take. And that can truly pay off in terms of more furniture in your store and less lost to the unscrupulous few who think €œthey won€™t notice if one€™s missing.€

Let €˜em know the lights are on and somebody€™s home€”you will notice. HFB

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