Black Friday is a unique day for retailers. While the “black” in Black Friday represents profitability, for retail security professionals, the “black” could just as easily represent the sense of foreboding brought on by the promise of long lines, anxious shoppers, crowded stores, an abundance of merchandise on display and all of the safety and security risks that come with all of this. How will you know if you are ready?
According to the National Retail Federation, a record 226 million consumers shopped in stores and online between the Thursday and Sunday surrounding Black Friday last year. And that is likely to increase in 2012. As recently as October, NRF pointed to an increase in spending in September of this year and expressed guarded optimism regarding consumer spending through the end of the year. There are many uncertainties this year surrounding the fiscal cliff, gas prices and the economy in general. However, there is good reason to believe Black Friday will once again bring crowds of shoppers, all looking for a deal.
As this day approaches, security professionals must take the lead in preparing for crowds and addressing the need to protect assets, limit losses and ensure a safe environment for employees as well as shoppers. This requires careful planning, monitoring of plans to ensure they are deployed effectively and precise execution. Taking it one step further, all of this must take place with the overarching goal of providing an enjoyable customer experience that encourages shoppers to spend time—and money—in the store.
Safety and security
In 2008, a worker was trampled to death during the opening of a Black Friday sale. In response to an increase in crowd-related injuries, including the 2008 tragedy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration created Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, a road map for offering a safe environment during a large customer event such as Black Friday.
Many of OSHA’s recommendations for safety cross over into security. For example, ensuring employees are trained to manage crowds and are stationed appropriately in addition to placement of trained security or police officers. These precautions simultaneously ensure the kind of visible presence—of employees and security personnel—that can serve as a deterrent to theft.
OSHA’s recommendations are key, but implementing them is just the beginning. To ensure safety, security of assets and uncompromised implementation of business best practices on Black Friday, begin now by conducting a pre-event audit, including the following elements:
• A store-opening checklist is beneficial at any time, but on Black Friday, it can help ensure that every employee knows exactly what is expected of them and every process is documented and optimized when the doors open to eager, impatient crowds. This limits confusion and increases the probability of a safe and successful event.
• A test of all alarm systems and video surveillance cameras will facilitate identification of any equipment that is not functioning properly and confirm that cameras are capturing images in critical areas, allowing for adjustment or repairs as needed before the big day arrives.
• Confirmation that OSHA Crowd Management Safety Guidelines are being followed will also help ensure that employees have been assigned duties that are specific to the event—for example, additional greeters to accommodate the crowd or security personnel at front doors or emergency exits.
• A review of the inventory receiving process will minimize the opportunity for loss due to mislabeled, damaged or incorrectly processed items. Limiting the probability of a breakdown in process is key to avoiding shrink on even the most ordinary of days—its importance during an event like Black Friday cannot be overstated.
When exceptions arise during this pre-event audit, ensure immediate resolution by sharing photographic evidence, attached to audit questions, with those responsible. Retrain where necessary. Black Friday can act as a magnifying glass, bringing otherwise “minor” issues to the forefront and multiplying their effect simply due to the nature and scope of the event. Don’t wait for Black Friday to shine the light on threats to safety and security.
About the author
Andrew Wren serves as chief executive officer of Wren Solutions, a loss prevention technology provider helping leading retailers reduce loss and increase profits. Wren is responsible for corporate and product strategy, leveraging his more than two decades of security technology expertise. To learn more about Wren Solutions, visit www.wrensolutions.com.