Consumers are becoming more concerned about security while shopping, especially at night or in higher crime areas. Retailers, in turn, are addressing the problem by implementing a host of core programs, from enhanced lighting to closed-circuit television camera monitoring, to make customers feel safe while in the store and the parking lot.
Retailers are also seeking to boost staffing levels and improve employee responsiveness to customer needs to ensure a shopping experience that attracts consumers to their stores.
In a special report, SN interviewed retailers about their perceptions of customer safety and the steps they are taking to improve security and staffing in their stores.
The issue of store security, and customer perception of safety while shopping, is a big one. A recent national survey of 1,000 consumers, sponsored by SN, for example, revealed that 40% of those polled were concerned, at times, about personal safety while shopping in supermarkets, and 50% were concerned in the parking lot.
"Customers are concerned about their safety. We just remodeled a store and the lighting in the parking lot now is very, very good. Customers have made comments about how much more secure they feel," said Jim Hansen, director of security at Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash.
"I think customers have become more concerned about safety," said Barry Robinson, executive vice president of operations and retail technology at Harvey's Supermarkets, Marietta, Ga. "We've noticed a decline in late evening shopping. We've taken some security steps to make sure customers feel safe whenever they shop at our stores." Here are some of the steps retailers are taking to enhance shopping security at their stores:
corporate VP of risk
and insurance services
In stores located in the inner-city areas where crime is an issue, we have our own internal security force. Those security officials are there during the whole time the stores are open.
The other big thing we've done is improve our parking lot lighting. Bright lights deter crime. If I'm a criminal, I'm going to go to a parking lot where I think I can do it the easiest. In some of our high crime areas, we have outside cameras located in the parking lots, so if something is going on, we can see it and respond.
In most of our stores, we now also have a pickup option for customers in which employees will hold the groceries until customers drive up to the store. If you have a lot of groceries in front of your face and you're fumbling for your car keys, you are giving someone a better chance to rob you.
director of security
Consumers are concerned about their safety. We just remodeled a store in Spokane and the lighting in the parking lot is now very, very good. This store is in an area more susceptible to crime than some of our other locations, and the customers have made excellent comments on how much more secure they now feel parking at night.
Another thing I want to do in one of my stores is use closed-circuit cameras at the front door with a big television monitor by the door as well. When people walk in the store they will be able to see themselves on closed-circuit TV. I'm hoping it gives them a sense of security by letting them know we're paying attention to who's coming and going into the store.
Uniformed guards are something we have also used at times in some store locations, for instance in stores featuring concert ticket outlets when there is a big concert coming to town. We don't routinely use guards or off-duty policemen, but when we do the customer response has been very good. People like to see them in the store.
manager of operations
Lawrence Bros. Management Services
One of the most crucial things is to have a parking lot that's very well-lit. People have a comfort level with lighted parking lots, so the more light the better. Another main issue is having enough staff inside the store after dark. Some supermarkets don't keep as big a staff after hours as they probably should.
We have security officers in certain locations where there might be a customer or employee safety issue. In certain [store] areas there have even been some drive-by shootings. I think people are now beginning to take more responsibility for their safety.
I think if we can create the perception among consumers that we have a well-staffed, well-lit store with visible security, that perception is also communicated to potential criminals.
We have closed-circuit television systems in four of our supermarkets. They are extensive systems with 25 or more cameras in each store that monitor the courtesy booth, the front door and back door areas and the perimeter aisles. We're very well covered in that respect.
Barry Robinson executive vice president of operations
and retail technology Harvey's Supermarkets
I think consumers have become more concerned about safety. We've noticed, in some stores, a decline in late evening shopping. We've taken some security steps to make sure customers feel safe whenever they shop at our stores.
One thing we do chainwide is to keep our stores brightly lit, inside and out. It gives the customers a feeling of security. For us, that's the place to start.
In selected locations we are using some uniformed security guards and have begun to install CCTV monitoring systems. The cameras are for both in the stores and the parking lots. Eventually, I think CCTV will be used in all our stores.
director of retail operations
Schultz Sav-O Stores
A few of our stores are located in inner-city settings where there may be a deterioration of neighborhoods. We have some store security in some of those urban settings and we have camera systems in almost all of our company stores. But generally in Wisconsin security has not been much of an issue. We've only had some isolated issues with somebody grabbing something out of a purse or something like that.
We have taken some steps to eliminate security risks from our stores, though. For example, we now secure cigarettes behind the courtesy counter to help deter shoplifting.
CCTV also can be a deterrent. The cameras are widespread because we use them for other reasons as well, for surveillance of employees and other shrink control methods.
We try to make sure there's a certain number of employees at all times, which helps ensure the safety of the employees as well. We don't have too many situations where there's just one or two people in the store departments.