securing the front line

Combining both top-of-the-line technology and in-depth training, Circle K is taking strong steps in the field of cash management.

Cash management and securityare essential components of anyc-store operation. Retail venues of all types run high risks of robbery—from both internal and externalsources—but c-stores face a higher riskdue to the inherent nature of the business. For example, stores tend to beopen 24 hours and have smallerovernight staffs to deal with the largevolume of customers that occupy thestore during later hours.

For these reasons, through the years,potential robbers perceived c-stores as”easy targets.” But strong advances insecurity and cash management areenabling retailers to take more elaboratesteps to protect their stores, employeesand cash.

There is a plethora of security andcash management technologies availablefor retail operators, but determiningwhat kind of equipment is right for protecting a store can become a confusingand costly endeavor. After all, even if astore has the most advanced securitytechnologies, how effective will it be ifstore associates are unable to use it?

Finding the Tools for the Job
According to Kirk Luke, director ofloss prevention for more than 300Circle K stores on the West Coast,effective cash management and securityis only as reliable as the retailer’s dedication to his goals.

“Cash management is an ongoingproblem with any company,” Lukesaid. “When looking at any program,you need to look at what the outcomewill be and then how do you get to thatpoint in your program.”

Luke, who has been working inretail loss prevention for 22 years,believes several things need to be examined when determining an effective cashmanagement system: the stores’ cashlevels, controls, opportunities for internal theft and external robbery deterrents. Other factors need to be evaluated as well, such as the amount of cashkept in the register, camera systems,lighting and visibility, the set up ofentrances and exits, full-sized windowdisplays and any kind of fencing or barriers around the stores that couldimpede a robber’s escape.

Only after determining the effectiveness of these innate conditions on astore-by-store basis will a retailer be ableto figure out a trustworthy securitymethod to fit each location’s needs.

“Security is not just looking at yourphysical surroundings, but what couldhappen from a global perspective,”Luke said.

As for Circle K, it’s already figuredout what works best for its operations.The company has implemented a variety of cutting-edge security technologies, such as color cameras with digital video recording(DVR) and a point-of-sale (POS) interface. Many stores alsouse POS safes with bill validators, and some utilize POSequipment with cash controls that require the manager toreview void, refunds and “no sales” in order to preventshrink.

Interactive video security methods have also become animportant facet in a retailers’ cash management repertoire. InCircle K’s case, Westec’s iVR surveillance equipment hasbeen particularly helpful in monitoring the safety of somelocations. Employees have access to panic buttons—which canbe located in a variety of places, such as around the employees neck, under the counter, even in the cash register drawer—that alert the Westec’s monitoring center when a situationarises. A security expert at the monitoring center then usesthe camera and voice-over technology to remotely secure thesituation and call the appropriate authorities if necessary.

Interactive security has not only been effective at helpingCircle K with outside threats, but it has also played a largepart in deterring employee theft as well.

“It not only gives a comfort level for our employees, but italso has a ‘Big Brother’ effect, so to speak, since employeesnever really know if someone is dialing in and watchingthem,” said Luke.

While there are a number of hi-tech, intricate security technologies that can be used to control cash management, Lukestill suggested that the most efficient and successful steps tosecuring a store still lies in proper training and management,both at an in-store level and beyond. Even a store loadedwith security cameras can be unsafe in incompetent hands.

“I’ve had managers tell me that if they’ve had more cameras in their store, they would be able to control shrink. ThenI look at stores that have 12 cameras and their inventories areout of control. The challenge is to get store management touse the tools that loss prevention has provided them,” Lukesaid.

Training for Safety
In order to maintain the safety of store employees and customers, Circle K’s loss prevention department has developeda strict no resistance mantra for employees to follow in thecase of a robbery: “Do not fight, chase or confront.” Resistinga robbery attempt could lead to an employee’s termination. Inlieu of resistance, employees are trained to make eye contactand take notice of suspicious people entering the store.

The no resistance policy is just one aspect of safety that isimplemented. Store managers typically go through a rigoroustraining regime in order to learn effective methods for deterring and eliminating potentially dangerous situations beforethey become volatile. This training, orchestrated by Luke andthe loss prevention department, shows managers how tomake stores and employees less attractive to potential securitythreats, as well as methods on how to escape a robbery situation with minimal consequence.

On top of cash management techniques, interview skillsare often injected into the training curriculum. These interviewing skills, however, aren’t used for hiring purposes, butfor catching employee theft.

“I love it when a district manager calls me up and tells methat they just caught an employee stealing and got them toadmit to it,” said Luke. “By teaching district managers the artof interviewing and giving them the knowledge and confidence to empower themselves, they excel.”

Another method used to supplement store security is aseries of monthly newsletters Luke distributes to the stores.These newsletters are usually filled with tips that store managers can utilize with their staff in order to keep the store running safely, helping to reduce theft on all levels.

Even as technology advances and new gadgets are developed to keep stores and employees safe, Luke insists that atthe end of the day, it’s a staff well trained in loss preventionthat will have the biggest impact on overall cash management.

“The c-store industry is no longer just selling gas, beer andcigarettes,” Luke said. “If you are not training your employees on homeland security, counterfeiting, credit card scams,property damage claims, workers’ compensation, responsibleretailing and liability issues, you can lose thousands of dollarsper store.”

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