It is that time a year again, when shoppers and shoplifters converge on our retail outlets looking for that all important deal or steal.
Peak shopping season
This year, the National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending will rise 3.6% from 2015 to more than $655 billion. While the peak shopping season used to be defined as the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, the Christmas Creep now begins shortly after Halloween, if not before. According to a recent survey, the holiday season generates 34% of annual sales for retailers but accounts for 37% of annual losses—representing a $6 billion problem for retailers during the holidays alone. Of those losses, the biggest source comes from shoplifters at 39%, according to the 2016 National Retail Security Survey, although employee theft is still a huge problem particularly during this time. By most accounts, the last quarter can represent a make or break year for retailers of all types and sizes. Coupled with a savvier consumer looking for the best deal, every dollar of profit is magnified in its importance.
Another subtle change that has emerged over the past several years and continues to gain traction is the Omni-channel approach to shopping. Most consumers will use a combination of online, mobile, and in-store shopping on their path to holiday purchases. This means retailers not only need to secure their brick-and-mortar locations, but their digital assets as well.
Loss prevention solutions
So where should you focus your loss prevention efforts during this critical time of the year? Let’s start with loss prevention technology.
Outsourcing the monitoring of
Some of the more effective LP solutions encompass video, video analytics, cash control and POS exception monitoring systems. But these solutions only work well when they are working properly. Proactive and pre-scheduled inspections of all of your LP systems and components are essential. With the adoption of IP technology across the board, a camera could drop offline, and when you go to retrieve the video, you find it is not there. Cameras need to be checked for focus and angle, and the lenses need to be cleaned, particularly on outdoor units. Health checks on DVRs and NVRs can provide insight to hard drive performance and storage capacity. Deploying remote video monitoring applications can help to extend your LP resources.
Outsourcing the monitoring of your security systems to a third-party provider allows for alerts in real time of a potential failure or even to anticipate a problem before it happens. It is also important to adjust your holiday open and close schedules to accommodate seasonal hours. Deploying an enterprise account management tool for your intrusion system can help you adjust your hours for individual locations or across your enterprise and receive alerts if something goes amiss. If your account management solution has a mobile component, you always have the ability to be connected and informed.
|Protecting your networks and websites is as important as protecting your brick-and-mortar locations|
Protecting digital assets
Staying with the technology theme, the next area of focus should be protecting your digital assets. At a time when consumers are as likely to shop online as in-store, protecting your networks and websites is as important as protecting your brick-and-mortar locations. A recent survey by NRF revealed a 50/50 split between online and in-store shopping this coming season, with many consumers planning on doing both. Updating your firewall or anti-virus software is critical in protecting your customer’s information along with your POS data. If your software is more than a couple of years old, or you do not routinely update it with the latest patches, it is probably not as secure as you think. Network security is also vital with the recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
Internet of Things
Many of these attacks have been traced back to common Internet of Things devices like IP cameras and peripherals such as printers. Many of these devices have limited or non-existent security measure on them. DDoS attacks typically target websites by inundating them with traffic from many different sources, causing them to fail crash. Given the number of consumers who plan to shop online this coming season, this could be devastating to a business. It’s no wonder cyber criminals target websites specifically to cause chaos on very busy days. To combat this type of crime, consider resetting factory-issued passwords on peripherals and create new stronger ones, use a managed or monitored cyber security solution if possible to alert you in real time if suspicious activity is detected, and use a strong firewall at the network level to protect devices that can’t run protective software from making unauthorised connections.
While preparing for the holiday rush encompasses every aspect of your organisation, we hope that these few simple reminders and suggestions give you pause for thought.