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December 1999

Managing: Security

Security Practices for the Holidays

Make sure your employees know how to make this a safe season as well as a profitable one

The most important aspect of your operation is: (A) profits, (B) marketing, (C) security.

The answer may be debatable, but if you don't have good security, the rest doesn't matter. "They all go hand-in-hand," security expert Hugh Mitchell said at the PrimeTime Fall Marketplace & Conference in Las Vegas, where he presented a seminar sponsored by the magazine and coordinated by Charlotte Preston Catalysts, White Bear Lake, MN.

Security grows more important as society becomes more violent and children grow up with lower regard for life, said Mitchell, who is director of security at Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma City, OK. The time to prepare is before it happens. Once you're face to face with an armed robber, it's too late to do anything but pray, he said. "There are no guarantees, but there are ways to prevent this," he said.

Store Design

To circumvent crime, make your store unattractive to criminals. When Mitchell's boss, Gary Gordon, closed three stores and built one superstore, he hired a security expert to help with the design. Columns in front are spaced so a vehicle can't ram the entrance. A nearby rose garden conceals concrete posts that would hamper a quick getaway. There is only one door for customers, and the path to that door is an obstacle course of zig-zagging display cases that would deter a grab-and-run burglar.

The back door (for employees only) has a sign indicating any robbery attempt will be met with armed resistance. Cameras inside and out give Mitchell a bird's-eye view spread over four monitors. Should the unthinkable happen, he can press a button to lock down the entire store (which he would do only if it wouldn't put customers and employees at risk).

Operations Tips

In addition to store design, here are some other protective steps to take:

  • Hire someone specifically to orchestrate and manage security (salaries begin around $30,000).
  • If you can't afford to hire someone for this position, choose an employee to be trained in security in addition to his or her other responsibilities.
  • Have your security person dress in a suit rather than uniform, which can intimidate customers.
  • Teach your security guard to greet everyone who comes in (allowing a chance to size up customers) before passing them on to a sales associate.
  • Alternate your times and routes on your way to and from work. Give certain people keys to the store and others the combination to the safe so a criminal can't kidnap one person and get access to both the store and the safe after hours.
  • Always open and close with at least two people, with one person watching from a distance.
  • Never, ever open early or stay late for a customer. Blame it on your insur-ance company if they complain.
  • Use pick-resistant locks on showcases and glass with metal trim or clips so no one can use suction cups to lift off the glass.
  • Use closed-circuit TV to see if any customers pay undue attention to security cameras or cash areas.
  • Use a code phrase to notify other employees if something doesn't seem right in the store. At Samuel Gordon Jewelers, for example, the phrase is "Robert Case called about his watch." Robert stands for robber, Case stands for casing the store and watch stands for watch out.

"If you show criminals that you take security seriously, they'll most likely find someone else to rob," he said.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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