Security Guideline for Beauty Supplies
Stores that thieves and robbers dislike
Cost of living rises, and the business slows. You must love when a customer walks into your store, but there are reasons that you cannot wholeheartedly welcome every one of them. Since the New Year, the retail theft is on the rise probably because of the economic downturn. Everyone is wearing a facial mask, so you cannot tell who is a robber and who is not. For last two years, beauty supply business owners were on a high alert because of the shocking footages of lootings and riots.
Is it impossible for theft and other retail crimes and the beauty supply business to part their ways forever? How can you protect your store from them? Are there preventive measures? If you were to become a victim, what can you do afterwards? BNB Magazine went deep to find a security solution tailored for beauty supply retail stores.
PART 1. Inflation gives rise to criminal activities
From shoplifting to flash mob robbery
Walgreens, a large pharmacy store chain, permanently closed five of its stores in San Francisco last October. The cited reason was the increased rate of retail theft that was five times the national average during the prior months. In Atlanta, grocery chain Kroger had to shut down a store temporarily because of a thief stole the copper wire from its electrical system. There were series of flash mob robberies targeting Nordstrom, Best Buy, Louis Vuitton, and Home Depot in the yearend where a group of people simultaneously rushes into a store, grab merchandise, and run away. Flash mobs used to be harmless events where random people gather at a specific place at a planned time to perform a predetermined act and, after the brief group performance, go their ways, but now it is being used for criminal activities. According to security firm Aegis, flash mob robberies are widespread in California and Chicago, and prosecutors stopped pursuing shoplifting cases under $1,000.
After the Covid-19, “audacious” criminals are sweeping the retail industry. According to National Retail Federation (“NRF”), three-fourths of retailers saw an increase in organized retail crime last year. However, different groups came up with different loss estimation. The Retail Industry Leaders Association reported that last year’s loss due to retail theft amounted $70 billion, and the NRF estimated that the organized retail crime caused damages amounting to about $700,000 per $1 billion in sales. Another organization called California Retailers Association stated that the San Francisco and Oakland area alone suffered 3.6 billion dollars in loss annually.
As the retail industry has various subsectors and groups, it is unrealistic to have an accurate number for the damages caused by retail crime. It is especially true for the beauty supply industry that represents only a fraction of the retail industry. While every region has its own association, most beauty supply retail stores hesitate to report the incidents of crime, which hinders proper tally. However, some incidents in larger scale have been reported in the news media, and we also conducted our own phone interviews with victims of retail crime.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, protesters flooded the streets across the United States, and more than 140 Korean-owned beauty supply retail stores suffered loss from looting. The looting and vandalism started in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota and spread to Chicago and others cities across the country. Many of the damaged retail stores had to undergo complete renovation due to the destruction, vandalism and fire. A beauty supply business owner in Chicago vividly remembers the day, which was one of the earliest days of protests.
“It was the first day of demonstration in Chicago. I was fairly optimistic but out of precaution told the employees to shut down the business early. About 4 pm, after the store closure, the alarm went off loudly. I could watch the looting and vandalism through security camera feeds, but I couldn’t do anything but calling the police. The police station and even 911 weren’t answering calls. According to a friend of mine who was at the scene, there were police officers standing nearby but they could do nothing but watching. When I went to the store, there was nothing left. They swept it clean.”
The owner had to close his Chicago store, which he ran along with another in Wisconsin. For about a year, he emotionally suffered severely.
There are many retail businesses that just ran out of business due to the shock and damages from the looting. That was not the end of the story. Same year in October, about 16 Korean owned beauty supplies in Philadelphia reported loss during numerous riots. Looters broke into businesses in the late night through the entry or window during the protests and loaded their cars with merchandise in an organized manner. Storeowners who already experienced the two periods of mass looting have concern for repeated incidents “whenever there is a slight excuse that can kindle a riot in the middle of the economic downturn.”
- Armed RobberiesAlthough not as frequent as theft, beauty supply retail stores do become target of armed robbery. Robbers tend to target cash business with loose security. Especially, if you are running your shop at a standalone building on a quiet street especially in the slums, you are likely to be a target of robbery. According to the Portland Police Department, armed robberies typically occur at and around the opening or closing of business and lunch hours. It is most vulnerable because the business likely has a smaller number of employees while in possession of a large amount of cash. Of course, the nighttime and the off-peak time when there are less customer traffic are also dangerous.Robberies can happen in a straight manner where the robbers ask for money right after entering the premise or another where they come in disguise of customers, shop goods or purchase goods, and then ask for money. Most of the time, they come in pair including a lookout instead of acting solo. Some business owners with decades of retail experience can tell right after the person enters the store. When asked how you respond, the vast majority of the owners said, “give them what they want.” They know the safety should come before the money.
There are business owners who react proactively. A small beauty supply store inside Jobber Market LA experienced five incidents of robbery in last year alone. Every incident was recorded, and in each incident, the criminals played out like a flash mob. Black individuals ride Uber scooters in group, enter retail stores and make threats with weapons, and steal goods. The business owner who had injured his head while physically confronting criminals who wielded a heavy stick is now responding them with a tit for tat tactics. “If you keep firearms in a store, there are chances of a shootout, so I keep saws and sickles. It’s a threat. I successfully kicked them out a few times. Along with some Latino businesses nearby, we were acting in collaboration, so nowadays it seems the word of mouth keeps the occurrences down. Still I am on a high alert.”
Although these proactive measures could be a mode of self-defense, the involved risk is high. We should already keep it in mind that the life and safety should be our top priorities.
- ShopliftingThe National Association for Shoplifting Prevention estimates one in eleven people who walks in the retail store shoplifts. For beauty supply retail stores, shoplifting has become a part of business operation, so it is estimated that at least 1-3% of the gross revenue is lost due to shoplifting. From small eyelashes to pricier wigs, a wide range of items and of prices is subject to various types of shoplifting. One would pretend shopping alone and put goods inside their clothes or bags; a pair would come in to distract the employees and steal goods; and some replaces price tags or fakes returns.As the facial mask becomes an ordinary practice due to Covid-19, shoplifting became more prevalent. In winter, when one walks in wearing a hat, a mask, and a thick coat of hoodies to commit shoplifting, your security camera footages will not help identifying the individual. One business owner came up with a store policy “Hoodie Off” and asked customers to take off their thick clothes before coming inside the retail store, but with little legal support, it is not easy to enforce the policy against customers in defiance.
While interviewing retail business owners, we repeatedly heard that they felt the increase of shoplifting around the New Year. The persisting Covid-19 and economic downturn coincided with inflation, and many government subsidies that supported families last year have ended. Retail storeowners largely agreed that this year will see more incidents of retail crime.
Year 2022 in spotlight
In this circumstance, we discovered an interesting research founding. Richard Rosenfeld, an American criminologist, argued that inflation is the strongest economic predictor of crime rates in his paper “Crime and Inflation in Cross-national Perspective.” According to him, inflation increases the likelihood of high rate of crime.
To some extent at least, the time of crisis is of increased theft and robbery. In fact, after the financial crisis in 2007, the massive unemployment and hike in fuel price put a serious pressure on consumers, and shoplifting skyrocketed. The acceleration of inflation since last year is understandably to cause more worries. Last December, Customer Price Index has increased 7% compared to the same month previous year, which was highest in 39 years. Many factors existed including the supply chain restrains due to the pandemic, rising energy cost, labor shortage, and increase in demand, and these situations will likely last through the mid 2022.
From shoplifting to flash mob robbery, the criminal activities around the New Year illustrate that people are taking more and more desperate actions in response to the weight of accelerating inflation, end of government support, and hardship of making a living. The ultimate victims of the desperate actions will be retail stores. Therefore, BNB Magazine suggests the following security guideline that could prevent some of the loss caused by shoplifting and robbery.
PART 2. 3-Step Security Guideline for Beauty Supply
Make thieves and robbers dislike your store
Step 1. Preparation
Every year, about 10,000 commercial robberies take place in America. To put it in a timely perspective, commercial robbery happens every 4 minutes. The best way to deal with robbery is prevention. You should keep in mind and implement the following basic tips to increase security of your store.
- Remember to lock up You should not forget to lock the side and back doors all the time. It is better to have a single doorway as an entry of the store.
- Install security alarms 24/7 monitoring and regular maintenance of alarms are important. You should place signs to notify that security system is on.
- Never leave any employee alone Your business becomes an easy target of robbery if you have only one person tend the store. You should put two or more employees in charge of opening and closing the store.
- Discuss robbery scenarios with staff Regularly educate staff about how to respond in emergency, how to use the alarm, and etc.
- Have security cameras Install security cameras in the entrance, parking lot, front and back of cash register, and blind areas. Mere presence of a camera in the corner can keep one’s impulse to shoplift in control.
- Keep low cash onsite You should maintain a certain level of cash in the register (should be sufficient to facilitate typical business transactions because too low can trigger suspicion) and designate a place to put surplus of cash.
- Make sure you store is well-lit Not only the inside of the store but also the front and back areas should be well-lit. High visibility decreases the likelihood of being targeted by robbers.
- Hire the right staff Sometimes the enemy is inside. You should hire responsible and reliable people, and do not share too much information with employees.
- Be careful when making bank deposits Go to the bank at daytime, and you should change your hours and routines for bank deposits to avoid being an easy target. Take off uniforms and name tags, and avoid revealing that you are carrying cash.
- Keep updated with the news You should stay tuned with the local criminal reports so that you can soundly predict likelihood of criminal activity in the area.
Source: Store Hub
+ Plus Tips from beauty supply business owners
Have a clean floor with wide aisles.
Shoplifting is deterred when you have a clean and well-organized store. It makes easy to notice an item missing. Even though you have organized items well, narrow aisles get crowded easily, opening opportunities for shoplifters. When aisles are closely packed, the security cameras do not have enough coverage.
Although wider aisles are always better, smaller retail stores have restrictions as to space. In this case, you can consider raising the shelf height. A business owner whose belief is “the smallest retail store can still have every product” raised shelves to 8 ft high nearly touching the ceiling for their 1,600 sqft store. Large items were placed in unreachable areas, so the small store could be packed with a wide variety of goods. The owner told us that the store had relatively low loss in theft maybe because of the wider aisles.
Do not block the windows
There are stores that completely block their storefront windows with brand posters and banners. Although it might has promotional effect, low visibility from outside likely encourages the criminal activities. There are many positive impacts when you let the store highly visible from the outside. You can show off all the items to the shoppers outside and attract them, and robbers are discouraged from entering such an open space, and shoplifters become conscious of outside eyes. For customers, they can shop at a brighter atmosphere, which makes the shopping more comfortable and possibly leads to bigger purchases for increase of sales.
Bullet proof window
You hear quite often at beauty supply stores an employee complaining, “somebody shot through the window.” If your storefront is all windows, you might consider stronger glass for your safety. Although it increases your setup cost, you should think in terms of the total value of the merchandise sitting in the store all the time. You should be able to invest big for the long run.
A business owner replaced every window with tempered glass after an incidence of robbery. The cost was twice that of typical glass but provided invaluable peace of mind to them. Not long after, something triggered the security alarm of the store, after which security camera footages were reviewed. In the video, robber suspects attempted to break in with bricks and clubs, but when the glass did not break, they gave up and moved on. Tempered glass is thermal treated and rapidly cooled with air blown to the surface, so it is more than five times stronger than standard glass and breaks in fine particles to prevent skin injury.
Bulletproof glass goes one step further by stacking multiple layers of glasses and high penetration film, so the glass is thicker and the film stops the spinning bullet to prevent penetration with a single shot. In Louisiana, some retail stores’ casher counters are protected with bulletproof glass. Nowadays, bulletproof plastic made of polycarbonate is heavily researched and arriving at the market.
We know the safety is first, but replacing unbroken glass is not an easy decision to make. In this case, you can alternatively consider bulletproof films. You can Google it using various terms like window security film, anti-theft film, and so on, and just purchase a right size of the film and apply it to the inner side of the window glass like tint films for your car.
LED display in front of the store
A retail store in Georgia placed a 152″ LED display in front of the store on the street side. Although it is for promoting the business, the benefit of having it is that you are free to insert any phrases. You can advertise sales events and seasonal items as well as you can put up signs like “HELP!” that may grab attention from cars and people passing by in case of emergency.
It is a temporary measure for an emergency. In the midst of widespread riots, many stores closed the doors and boarded up the storefront with plywood to prevent looting. A story says that a business owner boarded the store up and down whenever there was a report of protests scheduled just to keep the business going. Although it is a lot to prepare for, you cannot be too cautious.
Hiring security officer
“In near future, every beauty supply retail store will have a security guard unless something changes”, says a business owner. It is very effective to deter shoplifting and robbery. However, the cost of hiring a security guard runs high. Security guards are paid two to three times the average hourly pay of store clerks.
There is a tip though. A retail storeowner in Memphis said they hired a police officer after going to the police department and explaining the circumstances instead of calling an agency. Off-duty police officers come to the store and work part-time. In this case, you pay half the cost because you are not paying the agency or insurance for the security guard. They can wear police uniforms, which can raise a red flag for the repeat shoplifters, and if there is an incident, you might expect to have more support from the local law enforcement. “Many store owners are reluctant to hire directly because of language barrier, but if you ran a beauty supply more than ten years, I’m sure you can manage it.” Having a good relationship with law enforcement is a good thing, too,” the business owner hinted.
Generating goodwill with customers
This is one that goes above all of the previous tips. If you have great relationship with customers, for shoplifters and robbers, they will likely have someone in their network who says “not that store.” Similarly, a business owner talked against going hard against a shoplifter caught red-handed because it might create ill feelings and cause more crimes. Rather, you can try saying, “if you really need it, just talk to me before stealing it. I can give it to you for free.” There were reports that they come back as a paying customer. Today’s shoplifter might become tomorrow’s customer.
Step 2. Response Phase
Tips on how to handle a robbery
The most important thing to remember is “Don’t be a hero.” Most robbers intend to get monetary gain but not to harm someone. If you resist, you might place an employee or customer in danger, so you should stay calm and do as the robber says. Your safety is more important than money or merchandise, so follow these steps.
- Give what the robbers want promptly. Delaying them in a hope that police will soon arrive is simply putting your life in more danger.
- Just do what they ask, but do not talk or give more than they ask.
- Do not look straight at their face, and keep your hands visible to them at all times.
- If you need to make movement, explain it first to them. If an employee working in a different room might come in soon, make it known to them in advance.
- The best defense is observation. You should collect as much information as possible including their physical characteristics, way of speech and habits, transportation (direction they left, car models and make, license plate), weapons, and so on.
- When they leave, do not follow them. Lock all doors and call the police.
- Preserve the evidence. For a chance of obtaining fingerprints, do not touch anything that could be touched them.
- If you have a witness, request to stay until the police arrives. If that is not possible, ask to your customer to leave their name, address, and contact.
Source: guardianalarm / StateFarm
How to respond to a shoplifter
Generally, shoplifters act suspiciously. Typical red flags are avoiding eye contact, spending more time on looking at employees and exits than merchandise, and repeatedly entering the store without making purchases. You can simply close your eyes because “there is no store that ran out of business because of shoplifters.” However, in case you witness someone stealing an expensive item, you should know how to properly respond to it.
- To accuse a person of shoplifting, you should have a reasonable ground. You should wait until the person exits the store without paying, and then make a move.
- If you decided to confront the shoplifter, make your approach after they exited the building. You can bring extra hands in case the suspect fights back or runs away.
- After making your approach, you should first tell them that you work for the store and then request a search for stolen goods.
- Bring them back to the store, and make sure there are any other stolen goods; see how much the goods cost.
Caution! Do not use physical force throughout all the steps above.
Source: “Retail Survival of the Fittest” by Francesca Nicasio
How to respond to flash mob robbery
Flash mob’s strength lies in the number. When tens of robbers enter the store and make a scene, employees in all likelihood cannot find times to react until culprits leave the store. NRF recommends repositioning employees to minimize the loss from flash mob robbery. Position your employees in the most valuable area or near high priced items. When a flash mob occurs, violence can ensue. So, do not attempt to take control, and simply instruct employees and customers retreat to a safe area. As a storeowner, you should protect everyone’s safety. Leave the rest to the law enforcement and security cameras.
Step 3. After the incident
The important thing is to preserve the scene and leave all the evidence intact. Until the police arrives, you should write down all information you gathered during the incident but do not share them with others. You do not want all different memories mixed up and resulted in a twisted story. When the police arrives, explain in detail what happened and do not discuss the robbery with other people unless the police gives you permission. The amount stolen should be kept confidential until the police investigation confirms it, and you should document all stolen goods in detail. Police report becomes an important evidence for insurance coverage afterwards.
Everyone agrees that you should carry a good insurance. However, beauty supply businesses typically do not have full inventory coverage. When all items are included in the policy, your premium can be quite high. Thus, the usual term is a certain amount (i.e. tens of thousands of dollars) plus extra. When your entire store is completely looted, the insurance payout will be far less than enough to cover the loss. Smaller stores without sufficient coverage can get really tangled up. Here comes a quick guide from an insurance company as to how to determine policy limit, what kind of polices protect theft and robbery in beauty supply stores, and so on.
+Tip Filing insurance claim through public adjuster
Public adjusters appraise the damages caused by an accident or a natural disaster before filing an insurance claim or disaster relief claim. In other words, the insured can hire a public adjuster who will represent the insured in filing claims with insurance companies and request proper amount of compensation. In most cases, they will get a portion of the total insurance payout as their fees. The benefit of hiring a public adjuster is that the payout tends to be much higher (it’s statistically more than eight times). Hence, if your robbery resulted in a sizable financial loss, you can consider making insurance claims through your state’s public adjuster.