Crime is a big issue for us as unfortunately my store is located in quite a rough area. We tend to get a lot of teenagers attempting to shoplift from us, and I don't like to challenge them or encourage my staff to as it can be incredibly dangerous. There are often fights outside the store and stabbings and shootings are not unheard of in this neighbourhood. I once had to call the police after a shoplifting incident but they did not come until the next day, which I was quite shocked about. I take a range of preventative measures such as never having just one person working in the store, and we have security cameras and a panic button, but I don't think that they act as much of a deterrent.
Preventive steps Ray Poyser Costcutter Derby Size: 12,000 sq ft
My store is not in a particularly rough area so I don't have as much of an issue with crime as some of the other retailers. However, that doesn't mean that I ignore it as you never know quite what is going to happen or who is going to turn up on your doorstep. Because of that I take quite a few measures in order to prevent problems. I make sure the area outside is well lit and that staff keep a lookout for any unusual customer behaviour. I also have 14 security cameras in and around the store. Many thieves are opportunists so all you can do is take as many precautions as you can, particularly in and around festive periods when stores are prime targets as they are carrying more stock.
Constantly vigilant Derek Taylor Diamond Stores Derby 800 sq ft
Crime occasionally rears its ugly head around the store and as a retailer you have to be constantly vigilant on this front. Luckily, I've never had to call the police with a problem, but last week my ATM machine alarm went off by accident and they were there within 15 minutes, which I found hugely encouraging. The worst time for crime tends to be at the end of term when the schoolchildren are bored and start to binge-drink. We keep a record of all the refusals for underage sales and also try to be as vigilant as possible, which seems to put them off. You have to be so careful, though - policing matters yourself puts you in the front line and that can be incredibly dangerous.
Groups of youths hanging around outside or inside stores are a major problem for 84% of independent retailers, according to our latest survey. Shop owners have put up with antisocial behaviour inside their stores for many years but when it's outside, eight out of 10 retailers think it definitely or probably affects their business.
"It can be very intimidating for old people when there's a group hanging around outside," says one retailer. "It can also make my staff feel uneasy," he adds.
Many feel problems are worse at night when young adults are often drinking, smoking or, in some cases, taking drugs. "It can get a bit rowdy at night, which is not good for me or my customers," adds another retailer.
Nearly 40% of shop owners have called the police, but, in a damning indictment, nine out of 10 are not happy with the response - or, in many cases, the lack of response. "The police don't want to know," says one retailer.
Antisocial behaviour is also an issue for independents. The answer for most is to fend for themselves. Nearly 70% of those quizzed by The Grocer have taken measures to combat antisocial behaviour. For some this means CCTV, while others are concentrating on increased staff training.
Another retailer we spoke to is taking the softly softly approach. "We try to talk to them and treat them nicely," he says. "This seems to be working at the moment but the weather has been bad, so that may be why."
Often, abuse and general antisocial behaviour result from a refusal to sell cigarettes or alcohol to underage teens.
Retailers have come up with some ingenious ideas to combat antisocial behaviour outside their stores. Classical music played outside stores has proved hugely successful for the Co-operative Group, while some Spar retailers have trialled a so-called Mosquito machine that encourages youths to move on with a high-pitched whine only audible to the under-20s.
The most unusual deterrents are perhaps the fluorescent pink lights that highlight acne - a scheme trialled successfully in Guildford and now being considered by officials in Scunthorpe. North Lincs County Council hopes the lights, commonly used by beauticians and skin specialists, will humiliate spotty teenagers into moving on.
The Grocer survey highlights the fact that retailers in rural locations or small communities often have far fewer problems. "I know all the kids around here, and their parents, so I can easily keep them in line," concludes a retailer running an outlet in a small community.