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keeping-store-safe

Business Know How: Keeping Your Convenience Store Safe

While owning and operating a convenience store is an exciting and potentially profitable venture, it carries with it an inherent level of risk. And this risk is not limited to financial loss.

Convenience stores have long been favorite targets for robbery, as well as less dangerous – but equally frustrating – crimes such as loitering and shoplifting.  In addition, with hundreds of people rushing in and out every day, the possibility of simple accidents always exists.

But owners are not without options.  For every potential danger facing a convenience store owner, employee or customer, there are several common-sense steps owners can take to keep people safe and stores profitable.

Prepare for a robbery ahead of time

One of the most effective means of mitigating the danger and potential loss associated with robbery is to have a solid plan in place before anything happens, and invest in the equipment and training necessary to carry that plan out.

Store set-up 

Arrange the position of displays, signage, window heights, counter heights, and both interior and exterior lighting to maximize visibility.  This will allow employees to keep a sharp eye on anyone inside or near the store, and will allow those outside the store to see in, discouraging crime.

Surveillance 

A quality CCTV system with highly visible cameras and signage informing customers they are being recorded acts both as a strong crime deterrent, and as an aid in prosecution should a crime occur.

Employee training 

Train all employees thoroughly regarding security procedures, how to react during a robbery, how to note suspicious behavior prior to a crime occurring, and how to properly handle cash and products so as to lessen the chance of making your store a target.

Cash handling 

Preferably, equip your store with a drop safe on a timer, which automatically secures all large bills, leaving only a small amount ($50 or less) in the drawer at any time.  Post signage clearly indicating employees have no access to the safe.  When making bank deposits, do so inconspicuously and at various times during the day, so no obvious pattern can be noted.

Prevent robberies by reducing loitering

Often, robbers will “case” a store hours or days before perpetrating a robbery.  Once they have decided to move forward with their crime, they may come in and spend time browsing the aisles as they work up the nerve to actually commit it.

Do not tolerate loitering 

Display signage that warns people not to loiter outside your store, and call the police if anyone ignores this warning.

Do not inadvertently encourage loitering 

If possible, remove things from the store or property that encourage people to “hang out” in or around the store, such as video game machines and pay phones.

React appropriately if a robbery occurs

If a robbery occurs, it is important that any employees in the store at the time know how to handle themselves and the situation so as to minimize the possibility of violence.

Have a plan 

As noted above, training is vital.  All employees should be comfortable enough with the procedures to be able to handle a stressful situation without breaking down.  Post a height chart by the door to aid in later identification.  Make sure everyone knows how to instantly open the cash drawer.  Do not keep weapons in the store as your employee is the only one likely to suffer if they pull a gun on a robber.  Teach your employees to be “good victims.”

Be a good victim 

A robber is going to be very nervous and agitated.  They are unlikely to desire a confrontation, they just want the money.  To remain safe, stay very calm.  Do not resist the robber in any way. Don't lie or try to stall the robber.  Do not stare at them or make any obvious observations indicating you will be identifying them.  Simply give them what they want as quickly as possible and allow them to leave the store.

Be a good witness 

After the robber has left and the police have been called, take time to note down everything you can recall about the incident, the individual involved, and any vehicle they may have used.  Every detail could be important.  If other employees or customers were in the store at the time of the robbery, ask them to do the same, or obtain their contact information so police can speak to them later.

An unexpected danger: Storefront car crashes

On average, about 20 cars crash into the fronts of convenience stores every day, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M University.  The high number of cars pulling in and out of a store parking lot every day, combined with the common nose-in perpendicular parking spots designed for convenience makes this an ongoing potential danger.  

While financial loss is of obvious concern, serious injury or even death are a possibility since a car crashing through the front of a convenience store will likely end up right where the customers are lined up to pay for their purchases.

Change parking configurations

 If possible, adjust the orientation of the parking lot to eliminate parking spots directly in front of the main store, facing the building. (This may not always be practical or possible.)

Eliminate “tire stops” 

Short, beveled concrete beams placed at the end of a parking spot seem like they should work to help stop a car moving too far into the space.  Instead, however, they tend to serve as a ramp to launch a car up and over the curb and into the front doors or display windows of the store.

Install adequate crash barriers 

Steel and concrete posts (or bollards), appropriately installed between the parking spaces and the front of the store, can stop a car on impact, preventing a much more serious accident.   

Prevent slip and fall injuries

While seemingly less serious than robbery or dramatic car crashes, simple slips trips and falls account for over 65% of all injury-related workdays missed by employees, costing employers over $70 billion annually in lost productivity and compensation, according to statistics compiled by Consolidated Floor Safety.

That's nothing to ignore.

Keep the store and lot neat and clean 

Eliminate trip hazards, de-clutter aisles, and remove any trash in the parking lot routinely.  This not only provides a more appealing shopping environment, it also helps prevents accidents.

Stay on top of snow and ice removal 

If your store is in a cold climate, keep plenty of ice melt handy along with shovels or other snow-removal equipment to keep the walkway and parking lot safe for vehicles and pedestrians.

Clean up spills immediately 

Make sure any spills are cleaned up immediately, and proper “wet floor” signage is displayed any time the floor has been mopped.

By staying aware of potential threats, and acting proactively to control or prevent them, convenience store owners can maximize the look, feel, and profitability of their stores.

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Debbie Williams

About the author

Debbie is a freelance writer for all titles in the Dynamis stable including BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com as well as other industry publications.

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