Holiday Shopping Rush Highlights Major Retail Security Vulnerabilities

retail window display

For retailers, the sight of jam-packed stores during the holiday rush can be a mixed blessing. While the boost in sales is always welcome, the need to expand staff—including temporary employees—puts added strain on retail security systems. And as a recent survey suggests, many retailers maintain a false sense of security about how they’re protecting their stores and their data.

The report, conducted by Osterman Research in November, is based on a survey of large retailers throughout the United States. Among other things it highlights the discrepancy between permanent and temporary employees, especially in terms of access control and security.

Retailers remain uneasy about seasonal employees

In the U.S. alone, retailers are expected to add approximately 755,000 temporary or “seasonal” employees during the last three months of the year. The need to keep up with a higher number of transactions also opens up more opportunities for data breaches and other security issues, the study says.

Part of the problem is the sharing of access credentials, which makes it difficult for retailers and security management to pinpoint activity at the employee level. And the logistical challenge of properly vetting and training seasonal employees only exacerbates the problem, especially for larger retailers.

Retailers are particularly worried about temporary workers, with 32% of them being considered risky or very risky

In fact, according to the survey, respondents see 78% to 84% of their employees as somewhat risky, risky or very risky from a security perspective. Retailers are particularly worried about temporary workers, with 32% of them being considered risky or very risky.

This suggests that retailers are willing to accept a certain amount of risk with who they hire. But, as the study points out, the high volume of employee turnover in the industry doesn’t give retailers much of a choice.  With a 60% average turnover rate annually, it’s easy to sympathize with retailers, even if employees are responsible for 32% of the $40 billion in retail theft.

As if that weren’t enough, the National Retail Federation expects holiday return fraud alone to cost retailers $2.2 billion this year, a jump of 15% from last season. In many cases this kind of fraud happens in collusion with employees.

The holiday shopping rush doesn’t have to become a security nightmare for your business, though. You can take several steps to strengthen your retail security and minimize shrinkage from employees and customers.

Retail loss prevention tips

Keep your security cameras in plain sight – this helps deter would-be thieves and lets everyone know you’re sensitive to security threats.

Don’t skimp on training – you may not be able to affect a seasonal employee’s loyalty to your business, but you can help them pick out shoplifters and avoid the kind of transaction mistakes that lead to losses.

Beware of gift card fraud – the growing popularity of gift cards can leave your business open to fraud, especially from employees who exploit technological or procedural weaknesses. There are many different types of gift-card systems, so be sure to identify the unique risks associated with yours.

Educate staff about your return policies – return fraud is particularly high for retailers around the holidays, so make sure your policies are understood and enforced, and that you identify suspicious activity such as returns without a receipt.

Take special care of your most valuable products – high-value items, especially of the smaller variety, are prime targets for theft. You can take extra steps to safeguard these products with the help of specialty locks. Designed to provide extra protection of sliding cabinet doors, the Medeco showcase lock features a solid-steel locking bar, anti-spread housing and a key program that prevents unauthorized copying of keys.

The Medeco Showcase Lock is a simple but powerful tool to protect some of your most valuable retail items. It is specifically designed to maximize security for sliding cabinet-door applications like display cases.

The Medeco wireless cabinet lock with Aperio Technology is another effective form of security for retail environments. In addition to connecting to an access control system, it provides audit trails and monitoring for a clear picture of employee activity.

Implement role-based access control – stockrooms are also susceptible to employee theft and retail shrinkage, but you can improve accountability and security through the use of role-based access control. Large retailers—and supermarkets in particular—face the challenge of controlling and monitoring access to inventory, but the right product can make the process much more effective and efficient for management.

eCylinders let you control access to sensitive areas of your retail environment, whether you want to limit access to certain people or times of day. They also make rekeying a quick and simple process, so you don’t have to worry about access credentials falling into the wrong hands.

Get a professional security assessment of your retail environment – if you’re worried that your retail security isn’t what it could be, you can talk to us about evaluating your security needs and coming up with a detailed proposal. Our security access experts will find a budget-friendly way to help you mitigate exposure to retail loss, so you can focus on helping customers.

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