Jamie Barnfield, Sales Director, IDIS Europe
The UK high street has never been under such extreme pressure and now, more than ever, video surveillance technology can deliver much-needed help. In this article we look at what help we can give.
First, there’s no doubt that times are tough in the sector. It was reported just last week [9 September] in The Grocer that over 125,000 retail jobs have been axed and almost 14,000 shops have already closed so far this year.
Analysis by the Centre for Retail Research showed that 125,515 retail jobs – including a previously-unaccounted 32,598 positions at independent retailers – have been axed and 13,867 shops have permanently shut across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. And things could get tougher when the furlough scheme ends next month, with Retail Sector warning another 700,000 jobs are at risk.
The high street was already reeling from the online onslaught and the emergence of more fleet of foot e-tailers without the overhead of bricks and mortar.
Shoplifting or ‘shrinkage’ is up to around £5 billion a year, taking an average of the highly authoritative British Retail Consortium annual report on crime together with figures from the Home Office and the Association of Convenience Stores’ The Crime Report 2019.
Then came COVID-19.
And even as non-essential stores began to reopen with additional costs of reconfiguring stores for social distancing, perspex screens, floor signage and enhanced security guarding – the further whammies of face masks, local lockdowns and restrictions hit hard.
In recent months, many have crashed into administration including Laura Ashley, Oasis, and Cath Kidson, which are set to disappear from our high streets forever, while others such as Debenhams have reached agreements with landlords to keep better performing stores alive.
At the same time, other major chains are proactively announcing company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) which are a UK-specific insolvency process. Importantly these leave directors in control with opportunities to fight back, to reinvigorate their businesses, to negotiate with creditors and turn things around.
Opportunities to fight back
One such opportunity lies in the adoption of a new generation of IoT and security solutions, which can be transformative for retailers: tackling shrinkage and organised crime, increasing safety, reducing costs, boosting sales, and enhancing the customer experience.
Essential in this COVID era are systems which can reduce the cost of security officers or the need to re-deploy instore staff to ensuring compliance with government regulations – for example, counting people and controlling the numbers coming into shops, or monitoring social distancing and face covering wearing to help prevent the spread of the virus.
A dashboard that displays occupancy in real time is the ideal way to show when customers can enter the store. These can also be used for safety as well as promotional messaging as customers queue. Larger retailers may want to consider configurations that issue verbal warnings when customers or shop assistants get closer than the designated social distance.
Together these technologies will help build confidence that returning to malls and high streets is safe and that retailers are taking all necessary steps to comply with government guidelines, and doing so efficiently, without putting their own staff at risk of infection or aggression.
Enhancing the customer experience
Systems integrators and installers have an opportunity to guide retailers through the benefits of video tech, showing others are already using it to increase profitability, automate processes, improve the customer experience (CX), and increase safety and security.
Simple and low-cost IoT devices and sensors connected to video surveillance can deliver better protection of merchandise and property by enabling a more rapid responses to alarms (especially out of hours), reducing the risk of full-blow incidents or emergencies that have the potential to impact business continuity, increase operational costs and insurance premiums.
When selecting video tech, it’s important for retailers to ensure that it can deliver valuable customer behaviour intelligence and analytics in a simple and centralised manner. This can with make a big difference when it comes to optimising shop layouts and in-store promotions, converting browsing into sales and enhancing the overall customer experience.
For smaller operations and retail chains with 100s of stores, simplicity and cost will be key, so consider easy plug-and-play appliances that will work with existing cameras. This can avoid both costly and complicated software, staff training, and the need to install lots more cameras.
Some manufacturers even offer appliances that can plug into cost-free video management software (VMS) making it easier to build a business case and secure the budget for introducing the wealth of benefits such systems offer.
Additionally, with simplicity come the bonuses that it is quicker and easier to install and use and cheaper to maintain.
Discreet yet powerful surveillance
Micro dome and Power over Ethernet (PoE) cameras and compact NVRs with built-in PoE switches can be ideal for luxury retailers where experience is vital and overt security and additional cabling is unwelcoming. They can discretely nestle in confined spaces while offering the power of full HD performance in live view and playback.
The best even come in a range of subtle colours to blend aesthetically into boutique, restaurant, and other luxury settings.
Compact fisheye cameras cover a wider area with a single 360° panoramic view, allowing users to pan, tilt and zoom right to the periphery without losing the image quality needed for investigations. This naturally reduces the number, and therefore cost, of cameras. And it lowers operating costs, especially if dewarping can be conducted remotely eliminating the need for loss prevention managers to travel up and down the country to conduct investigations.
Shrinkage is still the biggest problem faced by retailers and sadly, it is all too often staff who are the perpetrators – so help them realise how quickly an upgraded surveillance system can pay for itself.
Video integrated with Point of Sale (PoS) makes “sweethearting” more difficult as cash desk activity on the till is matched to what is showing on the screen or video. Card fraud and sneaking out that premium bottle of booze or designer pair of jeans as staff leave work via staff rooms and lockers can be minimised by installing cameras in these often unmonitored areas.
It will certainly make the job of the loss prevention manager easier. It also, again, helps reduce insurance premiums.
In short, discrete video tech offers retailers the eyes to deliver consumers a COVID-safe, engaging, secure yet friendly shopping experience that will keep customers coming back for more. And that, above all else, is what retailers need in these torrid times.