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The FM’s Role in Store Security

Facilities managers can help create safe retail environments for employees and customers.


By Jason Henninger

While facilities management and asset protection are distinct responsibilities, there is a natural overlap where security is concerned. The physical aspect of security—bollards, cameras, alarms, shatter-resistant films on glass and so on—is where FMs influence how secure a building is. These features are only useful when properly understood and maintained.


One area where FMs can have a real impact is protecting a site from being vulnerable to large, sudden crimes. Over the past few years, these types of crime began to rise. Organized groups carry out sudden, blitz-like smash-and-grabs, either swarming en masse through the door or, in other cases, driving through a wall. These dramatic types of crime work because they overwhelm and bewilder, seemingly coming from out of nowhere and disappearing quickly. Such large-scale operations have cost retailers millions.

Hannah Beavers, Signet Jewelers
Hannah Beavers, Signet Jewelers

“As criminals are getting really creative with how to defeat our security measures, we’ve had to get just as creative, which has been challenging,” said Hannah Beavers, Manager of Store Maintenance at Signet Jewelers. “You get to flex your creative muscles.”


Subverting Theft


While very little is guaranteed to dissuade a truly dedicated criminal, the security provisions of a retail site add layers of difficulty for the would-be thief, most of whom are deterred by the inconveniences. “Anything that will slow down the criminal is a good thing,” Beavers said. A good example of this is to have a door that locks upon a certain in-store capacity to stop the flash-mob-style perpetrators from getting enough of their group in to overwhelm the employees.


Bollards are a significant help, too, keeping the “drive-thru” method to a minimum. Some mall management may be reticent to install bollards because of their appearance, but there are ways to use them without creating an intimidating or overly industrial look.


Beavers pointed out Target as an example. “I like what Target does with the big red balls,” she said. “They’re out front and really fit their branding and messaging. It’s a very practical security measure, but then it’s also a little fun and whimsical. So, I think there’s an opportunity to make those a little bit less industrial looking while still maintaining their functionality.”


Her statement contrasting the look and function of security equipment speaks to a larger concern. Namely, how do you maximize the store’s security and anti-theft measures without diminishing the pleasure of the customer’s engagement with the brand?

Alan Donohoe, Louis Vuitton
Alan Donohoe, Louis Vuitton

“We have to think of the client experience first, to make sure that when you walk into a Louis Vuitton, it’s a Louis Vuitton and not Fort Knox,” says Alan Donohoe, Director of Store Planning and Preservation at Louis Vuitton. “We have to continue to provide that experience for our clients but also protect our assets, which is really hard to do with a luxury company.”


Donohoe said that choosing the right shatter-resistant films for glass is a good example of a security feature that does not affect customer experience but does a great job of frustrating those who hope to smash a window with a rock and steal thousands of dollars of merchandise.


Putting it into Practice


How to achieve this balance depends on several factors, not the least of which is how the company defines its brand.


Target, to use the previous example, does well with the bollard design outside, but inside the store, aisles of high-theft products are in locked cases. This is obviously not the feeling Louis Vuitton would want for its customers. For jewelers like Signet (whose brands include Jared, Zales, Kay and others), a higher-visibility security presence is reasonable and expected—locked cases, for example, are the norm—but, at the same time, the customer’s comfortable experience is of particular importance. No one wants to shop for an engagement ring while feeling like Big Brother is standing over their shoulder. At the same time, Beavers stressed that the safety of employees and customers alike can never be compromised, so creativity is necessary to balance all the requisite elements.


Another factor to consider is that security needs vary on the physical location of the store. Malls and freestanding stores have different points of vulnerability, and the FM’s autonomy in acquiring necessary security features may be affected when working with a mall or department store’s own loss prevention and maintenance departments. Regional differences in the prevalence of crime types may also affect security specifics.


Donohoe said that while FMs may not always have direct training in security, their knowledge set is certainly beneficial for understanding security concerns. “Anybody who has been doing this for even a little bit of time understands how the store works,” he said. “An assets protection person thinks like a security guard, but facilities managers understand retail more. If they are good at their job, they understand the needs of the business first and see where we might be able to provide solutions that will fit both the retail need and the asset protection need. I think people in our position are in the perfect space to make that happen.”

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