Retailers need to pay specific attention the conduct of daily operations in their attempts to reduce the risk of theft and robbery. Addressing policies and procedures related to cash security in detail helps to minimise the most commonly sought after and highly prized targets of prospective thieves.
Cash is immediately transferable, difficult to trace and conveniently easy to carry. Attractive to both internal and external thieves, cash is the focus of this section.
Ensure Security During Store Open and Close
As outlined earlier, store opening and closing times are generally the most vulnerable times for retail stores. The combination of low numbers of staff, few passers-by to observe goings on, and bulk cash handling can be attractive to potential thieves both inside and outside of the organisation.
It is relatively straightforward to ensure security during store open and close although for small businesses the most obvious approaches may be more expensive than desirable.
Never allowing a staff member to open and close the store alone is a priority. If however it must be done this way due to the expense and inconvenience of having two staff, it is advisable that the staff member opening arrive early to let themselves in, lock the door behind them and only open the door to customers once all morning banking has been completed and the day’s floats have been counted and allocated to registers. The reverse can be done at the end of the day for close. The rule of thumb is to remove and at least reduce opportunity for thieves.
Where possible it is also advisable to keep external visibility of cash handling at store open and close times to a minimum. If banking and float preparation can be done in an office or back room that is preferable. If it must be done on the floor, using blinds or screens on doors and windows that can be in use outside of opening hours can help reduce the visibility and therefore the likelihood of the store being targeted for robbery at these most vulnerable times of the day.
Oversee Security of Cash and Registers
During opening hours cash flows in and out of registers, often in full view of customers. In busy periods and in stores that take high proportions of cash, the volume of cash in registers can build up quite quickly which creates the need for efficient and discrete methods of clearly cash from registers throughout the day.
Retailers have various methods for cash collection or register clearing. Some supermarkets stores employ internal vacuum powered tubes that effectively suck up the contents of cylinders prepared by checkout staff and deposit them in a central office location somewhere in the store. This is quite an old school approach with many other supermarkets and large department stores using specially prepared pouches that hold cash and a til report that provides a breakdown of the contents.
Regardless of the method, of most importance is the security of the process and the discretion with which it occurs.
When evaluating the security of cash and register procedures retailers can ask themselves:
- When do we clear registers of cash? e. at certain times, when a certain amount is reached, when the supervisor is available
- Is this always appropriate?
- Is it easy to predict?
- Who can see when registers are cleared? e. customers, other staff
- Is it easy for customers to tell what is occurring?
- Who clears the registers and where do they go to deposit the cash?
- Does anyone supervise the process?
- How is the cash transported? e. sealed pouch, unsealed envelope
- How is the amount enclosed recorded?
Asking these questions and more can help retailers identify where opportunities may exist for staff and customers to take advantage of weaknesses in the system. It also follows to ask similar questions in review of procedures for end of day banking and the counting of floats for the following day’s trading.
Remembering that removing and at minimum reducing opportunity is one of the keys to tackling theft helps retailers to improve their cash security procedures.
Manage Security of Non-Cash Transactions
Although not as much of a target for opportunistic thieves as cash, non-cash transactions still need to be protected through security measures.
The risk here is twofold. From the retailer’s perspective, non-cash transactions are still revenue and as such need to make it to the bank intact and complete in order for them to reach the business bank account. From the customer’s perspective, non-cash transactions generally contain significant amounts of personal detail that in the wrong hands may be used in further crime such as credit card fraud.
Credit card fraud is becoming more prevalent in certain retail sectors where products purchased have a high level of desirability and can be sold on for cash. Many luxury retailers are targets of organised crime groups that use fraudulent credit cards at varying levels of sophistication. Each credit card provider will have specific guidelines available as to the checks required to ensure card authenticity. Most retailers will be provided with such information by their bank and can even provide training materials to support staff in their ability to identify fraudulent cards.
Staff should ideally be trained that non-cash transactions are best treated with the same level of security as cash. The only difference being that they do not need to be cleared from the register until the end of shift balance.
As technology advances, so does the methodology for the processing of EFT and credit cards. Even where no physical receipts are required and EFT machines generate their own reporting, sales staff and cashiers still need to ensure transaction accuracy and follow the correct protocols for processing.
Safety and security is everyone’s business.
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