How can convenience store owners best protect their businesses and themselves?
With modern smart commercial security solutions, feeling safer running your business may be easier to manage and more cost-effective than you think.
In this blog we'll cover:
- Crimes against convenience stores: the facts
- What Can convenience store owners cand do to protect themselves?
- How effective is CCTV as a deterrent against retail theft and staff attack?
- Can you use CCTV as evidence?
- How to get more from a commercial security system
Despite there being close to 50,000 convenience stores in the UK, employing around 412,000 people, and generating sales of over £44.7bn over the last recorded year, the convenience store has been a much-undervalued staple of our communities.
It’s fair to say most people don’t give their local convenience store much thought, but it’s always there when they’ve run out of milk for that cuppa, or they want to get a Sunday paper without having to get in the car.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, the convenience store has taken on a new, more important role as people try to shop closer to home and avoid supermarket queues. In the first lockdown, convenience store sales soared by 30.1% - according to a Food Foundation and Peas Please Report in 2020.
Whilst sales are looking positive for many convenience stores, especially those located in residential areas, owners and staff face an increasingly worrying trend: a rise in crime, especially violent crime.
Crimes Against Convenience Stores: The Facts
The Crime Report 2020, produced by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), estimates the cost of crime to this sector at an enormous £211m, which equates to £4,543 per store.
The crimes convenience store owners and staff are most concerned about are theft by customers and violence and verbal abuse against staff. And they are right to be concerned when you consider the figures presented by the ACS. The ACS estimate:
- there were over 50,000 incidents of violence against people working in local shops in 2019, with 25% resulting in injury.
- 29% of independent retailers have experienced violence over the last year and 9,704 of these included the use of a weapon.
- 83% have experienced verbal abuse with 20% of that being hate-motivated
In what other sectors would we consider this to be acceptable? For the majority of people going about their working day, the thought that they might have a violent encounter is inconceivable. Yet for retail staff, it is a daily threat and one that is growing.
Figures from the ACS Covid Impact Survey conducted during the first lockdown in 2020 showed that 40% of retailers had experienced an increase in violence and abuse since the start of the pandemic; so that’s another 20,000 incidents of violence to add on top of the 50,000. Whilst supermarkets can afford to employ security guards to help protect staff and police COVID-19 regulations, this isn’t a realistic option for small convenience outlets.
Apart from being the result of enforcing COVID-19 regulations, violence towards staff frequently stems from them intervening in shoplifting, another area of concern for convenience stores.
There were 1.1m incidents of theft last year, with meat, confectionery, and alcohol being the most commonly stolen items. If you were to divide the cost of these thefts between stores, it would equate to £1,670, which is not an inconsiderable sum for any small business.
In addition to these figures, burglary remains an issue, with 8114 incidents (excluding ATM ram raids) last year costing a total of £17m.
The majority of these crimes are committed by repeat offenders, with the largest proportion being motivated by drug or alcohol addiction. This is a society-wide problem that isn’t solvable by retailers. Ultimately, store owners have to take measures to protect themselves, their staff, and their business.
What Can Convenience Store Owners Do to Protect Themselves?
Convenience store owners haven’t been slow to implement security measures. In 2019 it’s estimated they invested £209m in crime prevention; that’s £4.5k per store.
The key investments have been in commercial security have been CCTV, external security, and cash handling & storage. In addition to these new investments, convenience store owners also rated intruder alarm and staff training as top crime prevention measures.
Both the ACS and police provide useful, practical advice for managing crime in convenience stores, but with CCTV top of the list for convenience store owners, let’s focus on this aspect, as it’s also probably the one least-best understood.
For most convenience stores, a two-camera system will be sufficient. One camera should cover the entrance and the other the till but make sure the angle of view is correct and check the lighting is adequate. Cameras will act as a deterrent, but you also want them capable of providing vital evidence, so good quality images are important. To achieve this, you need a camera that provides a minimum of six frames per second. Furthermore, ensure recorded images are similar quality to live images and all images have a time and date. All recorded images must comply with GDPR regulations.
You could buy the equipment and set it up yourself in a bid to save money, but you might be surprised at just how affordable a professionally installed CCTV system can be nowadays.
Our smart STANLEY Interactive system has been designed specifically with small businesses in mind. It provides a fast, cost-effective means of managing business security – CCTV, intruder detection, lights, and more. There are three packages to choose from: Intruder Detection, Video Surveillance (CCTV) or Total Security which provides both intruder detection and video surveillance with additional smart features. The Video Surveillance package comes with two cameras and a recording device for up to 30 days of storage (although a secure, 24/7 cloud recording option is also available), so is ideal for convenience stores. Further devices can be added as required.
We supply, install and maintain the equipment, with the customer managing the system through the handy STANLEY Interactive app, which can be used wherever they are. This means store owners can remain informed about their property at all times and take action when required. With the Video Surveillance package, for example, users can view live and recorded footage from the shop at any time and from anywhere.
And that's just CCTV, we haven't even mentioned one of the most vital safety tools for any shop-worker - panic alarms. Which are placed discreetly behind the counter and can send an instant alert to emergency services at the press of a button.
How Effective is CCTV as a Deterrent Against Retail Theft and Staff Attack?
Commercial electronic security has a deterrent effect, especially when it comes to theft. CCTV is ideal here to keep an eye on suspects, especially if they are in an area of the store that is not clearly visible from the till.
However, where it really can’t be beaten is when it comes to providing evidence in a prosecution. When you’ve clearly captured someone in the act, there’s no denial. According to the Government Response to their 2020 report, ‘Call for Evidence – Violence and Abuse Toward Shop Staff’, work between the police and a company specialising in technological innovation in security, including CCTV, had resulted in approximately 150 arrests for 1,500 individual offences. Where prosecutions had followed, there had been a 100% conviction rate.
Unfortunately, less than half of all retail crime is reported by retailers to the police.
When it comes to shoplifting, one of the main reasons behind this is that shoplifting where the value of goods stolen is less than £200 is dealt with under s176 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. It is treated as a summary offence and not necessarily dealt with by the police. To put it plainly, there’s a feeling amongst some retailers that it’s not worth the bother. In fact, some retailers consider this to a contributory factor behind increased brazenness among offenders who are confident it won’t result in a criminal offence.
But there is good news:
- The Crime and Policing Minister has advised PCCs and Chief Constables that the theft of goods valued up to £200 from a shop should be prosecuted as a criminal offence. An offender can therefore still face a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment for a single offence.
- To help ensure that the police have the resources they need, the Government is recruiting 20,000 officers over the next three years.
- In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service is receiving an extra £85 million to ensure the criminal justice system can support the work of these extra officers.
For retailers, this should provide encouragement to arm themselves with a comprehensive commercial security system, report theft to the police, and provide that essential evidence.
How Can You Get More From a Security System
Any form of commercial security equipment purchase generally falls under the ‘grudge buy’; you don’t want it, but you absolutely do need it. That’s understandable when it's money that is leaving the business without generating any return.
But what if a commercial security system could help in managing a store better and even help to increase revenue? Then it goes from being a grudge buy to a valuable cost-effective investment.
Not all security systems can do this, but STANLEY Interactive has business insight data built into it. Not only can convenience stores benefit from the primary security aspect, but they can also use it to monitor which are the busiest hours, enabling more efficient staffing. It could also be used to track the impact of promotions on customer traffic; what promotions have worked best and are worth repeating?
Even better, store owners don’t have to extract the data, instead, it can be delivered through the simple app in daily or weekly reports for maximum convenience.
It's time to take action
With theft and crime against shopworkers sadly on the rise, more store owners than ever before are turning to commercial security systems in the bid to protect their staff and their business. When you are a time-poor small business owner, as is the case with nearly all convenience stores, you need that system to be a good balance of cost-effective, quality, and easy to use. A smart security system, such as STANLEY Interactive, gets the balance right.
For more information on STANLEY Security’s STANLEY Interactive smart security service for convenience stores, go to www.stanleysecurity.co.uk/services/smart-business-security and feel free to ask us any questions you may have in the live-chat box at the bottom of the screen.