At this time of year, it's not only the shoppers who come out in force, the criminals are also planning their Christmas.
Whether they are desperate for cash in December to pay for their Christmas in advance, or in January when they have a big credit card bill looming, opportunist thieves will be on the look out to earn some seasonal funds from you and your company.
So if you are a business owner, here are my top tips for protecting yourself:
1 - Cash
This may seem an obvious one, but I can't tell you the amount of shops I have been in to and they have opened the till to reveal hundreds of pounds in cash. I understand that there will be days where there will be a constant stream of customers in your shop, but try and put a system into place to protect your cash.
Install a lockable cash box with an envelope slot by the till so that large notes can be quickly deposited. This box should also be secured either to a wall or floor. Make sure the keys to the box aren't near the till !
Have two staff members collect cash from the till on regular occasions and take the cash immediately to the safe. Always make sure collections are done at random times. People watch for patterns !
When you are banking, again make sure it is done at random times and days. Where possible, have two people take it to the bank and it has to be people you trust. It could even be close friends or family members who call in to collect your takings and take them to the bank.
File your banking slips next to your daily takings sheet as soon as you get them from the bank. If there is a paying in slip missing, you want to know about it as soon as possible.
2 - Personal Possessions
Most of the thefts I have encountered from retail premises haven't been from the company itself, it's from the personal possessions of the staff. Usually handbags, but also coats and staff lockers.
I recently went to meet a friend of mine for a coffee, he is the manager of a large retailer in Cheshire. I won't name and shame him, but when I arrived at the shop, he pointed me in the direction of the staff canteen to wait for him while he finished off what he was doing.
The staff room was connected to the public area of the shop by only one door. There was a digilock code on the door, but it was switched off so that anybody was free to enter without a code.
What I saw when I walked in amazed me.
There was an iPad charging on one socket, and somebody else had their iPhone charging on another socket. There was an unzipped handbag on the table and on top of the fridge there was a wallet and a set of keys. Included on the set of keys were the keys for the shop.
Common sense is a major part in protecting yourself from crime. Always make sure you think about what you leave lying about and how accessible it is to a dishonest person.
Where possible, lock as much as you can in your car and keep your car key on you. Even if it means separating the key from the rest of the bunch.
3 - General Advice
I have learnt a lot from my 20 years in retail, here are some other pieces of advice from stories I have heard that have genuinely happened.
Always make sure that all non-essential doors are locked. I know a shop owner who would be visited by a rep at the same time every week and they would spend nearly an hour chatting in the car park each week. He would always lock his front door to make sure nobody could get in while he was outside. Problem was that he never locked his back door and inevitably, somebody entered the rear of his premises while he was out with the rep and emptied his till. A few local lads who had been monitoring his comings and goings were eventually arrested for the crime.
Be vigilant from the minute you open the doors. I was once told that most shoplifting happens between 9am and 10am on a Monday morning. This is because we are all too busy discussing the weekend and slowly going through our e-mails and weekend post to be noticing what is going on out in the shop. We know when we are busiest, and so do the shoplifters!
Do regular stock takes. Where possible, try and count as much of your stock as often as you can. If one item proves easy to steal, the thieves will be back for more. If one particular item is disappearing, move the rest of that stock to a better location, ideally by the till.
Don't get distracted. Be mindful if somebody comes in with a strange request that means you need to go outside or out the back of your shop. If a visitor is genuine, they won't mind waiting around or coming back if you are busy. Always check ID and ring their office if you are in doubt. Not everybody in a uniform or high visibility vest is on your side.
I'm not trying to frighten anybody by this, I just want everybody to have a happy and profitable Christmas. By using some of the tips I have given you here, it will keep you one step ahead.