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Who’s minding the store this holiday season?

There is no bigger time for retail than the December holidays. Beginning long before Thanksgiving, nearly every retail store boosts personnel levels with temporary workers to prepare for the holiday rush. But with higher levels of inventory and greater numbers of employees and shoppers, another thing that amps up during December is theft — and adding seasonal workers can add to that risk.

The 28th Annual Retail Theft Survey, conducted by Jack L. Hayes International Inc., cites a startling statistic: One out of every 38 employees stole from their employer in 2015.

With as much as 75 percent of retailers’ annual business coming in December, without the right security in place employee theft can seriously damage gains from the holiday season.

Here are some ways to reduce shrinkage this month (and all year long).

Start at the warehouse

Everyone thinks of retail theft as happening at the store, but the bulk of the inventory is actually located remotely at the warehouse or distribution center, where it is then loaded onto trucks to be transported to the various retail outlets.

Unlike the store, these facilities can be locked and secured, allowing only authorized personnel in. But this doesn’t mitigate the issue of internal theft. In a good, better, best, scenario the least sensitive doors would be secured with a key, the next most sensitive via card access (which provides an audit trail of who has been where, when), and the most secure using biometrics to be absolutely certain who can pass through these doors.

This is just as true for transporting goods to and from the store. Trucks are frequently locked down with padlocks, but these can be easily cut with a bolt cutter. Even worse, some criminals attempt to coerce the drivers to cooperate with the theft. One loss prevention manager I spoke to recently noticed a pattern of the same truck getting hit over and over again. He finally figured out the driver was helping the thief.

Rather than a using a hard key to secure these goods, portable electronic locks or even biometric locks are available. Employees and drivers are less likely to steal if they know that they can be personally tied to the exact time of loss.

“Open” security at the store

The final destination of retail goods is, of course, the store that will sell them. Securing these facilities is always tricky because (for most stores) there is no locking the front door during open hours. And in December store hours are often extended, providing even more of a window of opportunity for theft.

Almost all stores these days have theft deterrent/asset tracking systems, but access control and biometrics can play a crucial role here, too.

To make sure only an authorized employee opens the store, and that they are not copying or sharing their keys, many facilities find that a card access system is a better option. Biometrics is also a great choice here because the credential can’t be “shared” and you have absolute certainty who entered, when. This is also true for areas where inventory is stored.

Another way to add security is to integrate a surveillance camera with the access control at the door, triggering a video recording every time the door is locked or unlocked. Today’s cameras and software also incorporate analytics such as facial recognition, which can become another form of biometric technology, to identify both criminals and VIP shoppers entering the store. An evolving trend is to have all this technology onboard the camera, making this option more cost-effective than ever before.

From the warehouse to the point of sale, December is a critical month in retail. Make sure you have the best security all points to ensure that this month is your best — not your worst.

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