Stores must work with the police and each other to create strategies to defeat criminals, says Kishor Patel

The attempted robbery and subsequent death of an alleged robber at a florist's shop in Manchester last month has rather been forgotten in the wake of the riots that rocked the country.

But this sad incident, just as much as the recent unrest, illustrates how serious a problem retail crime remains despite the dramatic fall in the number of burglaries and robberies in the past year [ACS]. And it underscores how critical it is for retailers to have policies in place for dealing with crime. Your life could depend on it.

Kishor's Tips
1) Keep staff fully trained and vigilant
2) Get involved in local crime prevention partnerships
3) Keep up to date with modern security methods
4) Report every crime and log the details
5) Don't be a hero by putting yourself in danger
To do nothing is not an option. The criminal is getting smarter and so must we. The ACS figures suggest that some of our crime prevention measures are actually having an effect, but there's no room for complacency. We have to remain vigilant, train our staff and have well-defined strategies for staying safe.

Marauding looters aside, criminals generally favour remote premises with poor security and easy escape routes. So retailers need to think about how they can deter criminals through the implementation of CCTV equipment and alarms. Shop layout and outside lighting are also effective deterrents.

Robberies typically take place at opening, closing and cash collection time and, recent events excepted, thieves tend to operate more in the dark winter months than in summer. So the message from crime prevention experts is: be extra-vigilant during these times.

In our area, we have regular business forums to discuss crime and its prevention. Similar to the Pubwatch scheme, we exchange police photos of known offenders, compare recent CCTV footage to identify criminals and invite the police to advise us on security. Modern, tamper-proof technology and rapid advances in communication mean we need to listen to the experts to keep ahead of the game.

The looters may have used mobile communication to good effect, but so do we. We send group texts to one another when we see anything suspicious. This has the psychological benefit that we're doing something together we're not alone. We invite the Neighbourhood Watch and Street Watch organisations to meet, and encourage the police to walk through stores.

The results of this collaborative approach have been impressive. Gary and Sue from our Toddington branch were members of their local Street Watch initiative, and it was so successful that crime dropped to almost zero and the police decided it was no longer needed in that area. Talk about being a victim of your own success!

Above all, combating retail crime comes down to training. It's about alerting staff to dangers without making them over-apprehensive. It's about encouraging them to be vigilant without becoming intrusive. And it's about being assertive without taking the law into your own hands. Whatever the circumstances, we coach our staff to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable and once they do, we flood the store with additional members of staff to subtly ward off any potential offenders. We discourage our people from discussing any aspect of the trading figures with friends, family or customers, and we also train them on how to react to crime.

We remind them that offenders fall into three categories nervous, ruthless and unpredictable and that they should therefore exercise extreme caution if faced with a threatening situation. Our message is: keep calm, keep quiet and co-operate.

It works in practice. Armin, 0ne of our managers (winner of the IRN Store Manager of the Year Award 2010), was recently witness to a till-snatch in his store. As he approached the criminal, he was faced with a knife so, wisely, he moved away and, when it was safe to do so, sounded the panic alarm to warn customers and staff. And then he quickly alerted the police, telling them in which direction the robber had made his escape.

Business Barometer
Have you or your staff ever been subject to a violent attack at work?
Yes: 31%
No: 69%

Have you ever had to restrain a member of the public for threatening or violent behaviour?
Yes: 35%
No: 65%

Do you keep any kind of weapon at work to protect you from such attacks?
Yes: 15%
No: 85%

Do you provide any training for staff to cope with violent members of the public?
Yes: 44%
No: 56%

How reassured do you feel by your relationship with the police?
Very: 56%
Slightly: 31%
Not at all: 13%

New in my store: Colin Landsburgh, Spar Carnoustie

Location: Carnoustie, 10 miles north of Dundee
Type of store: Large c-store
Main suppliers: CJ Lang (Spar Scotland)

How often do you get new products in? Every week.

What new products have you started stocking recently? Golf umbrellas. The Scottish summer has been lousy this summer and we've had the Ricoh Women's Open Golf in Carnoustie, so it was a very successful line to bring in.

Is any one product selling particularly well? Lenor. We've been doing a lot of up-selling. Spar is doing five litres of Lenor for £3 and we are selling that at checkouts about £300 worth a week.

Are any products selling particularly badly? If anything, we're probably struggling with some of the luxury items like cheesecakes and luxury yoghurts as people buy cheaper products.

Have you delisted any products recently? I delist products every day. Spar is pretty good at bringing in new lines so I am constantly reviewing our ranges. Yesterday I did a review of our confectionery range and delisted a list of products, but that was to make way for new product development coming in from suppliers.

Are there any other products you've got your eye on? Spar has a new own-label range called S Budget. It's based on its S Budget range in Austria, so this is Spar buying into what the company's European counterparts are doing. It's a broad range from cheeses and rice and pasta to non-food.

Propertyof the week
The freehold for Lincoln's Village Store and Post Office in the idyllic Suffolk village of Westleton has been put on the market with an asking price of £475,000. With a well-connected location on the A12, the village has good links to London and Great Yarmouth and is just a couple of miles from the beautiful Suffolk Heritage Coast.

The business enjoys sales of more than £250,000 a year, in addition to a Post Office remuneration, and comes with extensive owner's accommodation comprising three double bedrooms. A large stockroom at the rear of the property offers potential to extend or convert into a tea or coffee shop. After running the business for 16 years, the current owners have decided to retire.

For further information, contact Melvyn Eke of Christie & Co on 01473 256588.