OPTEX UK Sales Manager, Mathew Oakley explains why effective in-store security doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag.
In its latest survey, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimated that theft cost the retail sector £953 million in the 12-month period to April 2023. When members of the BRC across ten major cities were asked, they reported a 27% rise in theft, and perhaps more alarmingly, just under half (44%) rated the police response to serious retail crimes as poor or very poor.
In response, retailers lobbied the UK Home Secretary, urging for more policing resources to help control the rising level of crime, and major retailers like John Lewis are reported to be working with the police to share more CCTV footage and other intelligence with them. Meanwhile, the industry spent £700 million on increasing security for their stores.
New technology can be expensive, and today, there is an extensive array of available systems and products to help protect retail businesses. Finding the right solution, however, can be a real challenge. The individual security and operational requirements of each retail outlet need to be carefully considered to define the right level of security and the most appropriate technologies. Balancing the need for additional protection against the cost of installing new systems is a question the security industry can help UK businesses answer.
Retail stores come in all shapes and sizes, from local convenience stores to high-street supermarkets to out-of-town department retail malls. When retailers review their existing security, many will be thinking of ripping out all the old systems and replacing them with new ones. But for many retailers, they may not need to make all their existing security hardware obsolete. A security expert can help assess which parts of the system, from cameras to alarms to access control panels and sensor technology (which are improving all the time) would benefit from an upgrade.
For convenience stores and corner shops, PIR-activated cameras, along with foggers, could provide the right solution to repeat offenders and shoplifters. In-built sensors can detect movement and trigger cameras for video verification and recording of events, and the information passes directly to the police. The sensors can also activate audio systems or release fogging to delay and deter all but the most determined thieves without having to call the police. Alerts can be sent to mobile phones of store owners or receiving centres to keep owners or security teams, and customers, focused on what really matters.
If a potential intruder is detected outside the store, the sensors can guide cameras to point to the exact location for closer inspection by security teams, shop owners or the police. They can also provide more accurate detection of people loitering around a doorway or storefront by recognising and not triggering a false alarm caused by a cat or fox wandering down the street, or people about to cross the road or waiting for a bus.
Larger stores may have customer parking, where potential repeat offenders can hang around, waiting for the most opportune moment. Sensing technology is particularly useful in dark car parks. Their performance is not affected by changing light or environmental conditions and so they can accurately detect unwanted intruders day or night. The system can also be set up to monitor the building and trigger a video recording or an audible alarm when needed.
If the retailer already has a sophisticated internal camera system, it may be that all they need is a slightly more sensitive detection system, in which case upgrading the sensors could be the answer. The latest FlipX range of sensors from OPTEX, for example, is a Grade 2 and Grade 3 sensor range with bespoke pyroelectric elements that adapt to the human shape and in-built algorithms increase the system’s detection accuracy, which means stores can seamlessly and cost-effectively upgrade their security systems.
Similarly, the FlipX range has a unique lens that can be ‘flipped’ to provide both wide and narrow detection in a single sensor. By simply rotating the lens through 180°, it can be used to protect narrow supermarket aisles up to 24m long or a wide, open area like a lobby or a high-value retail store to 15m at 85°, providing enhanced flexibility for installers and end-users alike.
While utilising sensors or a combination of technologies may provide the ideal security set up for some retailers, others may find that installing a software solution that can bridge all those different technologies together into one coherent and integrated system is the answer. Better yet, these solutions can be extremely cost-effective and can be tailored to each location.
Cloud-based software solutions can provide upgrades to existing security hardware quickly and cost-effectively. One such system, OPTEX’s CHeKT solution, for example, uses open protocol software that integrates with multiple third-party video and sensor technologies. It is both backward and forward-compatible, creating an IoT solution that doesn’t require infrastructure upgrades.
CheKT uses ONVIF standards, which enable multiple camera and sensor types to communicate with each other at a single retail site. Smart technology can also be integrated into existing security systems if required. It means retailers can retain existing hardware and create a completely bespoke security solution.
Such cloud-based technology can also grow as the business grows. All the current on-site technology can be updated remotely and replaced over time as it becomes outdated. Through the cloud, multiple stores across the country or different geographies can be optimised individually, at a reasonable cost, and without disrupting day-to-day activities. The choice, affordability and flexibility of security systems available to businesses is also increasing as more companies offer a subscription-paid software-as-a-service solution.
The level of security that is potentially available today is incredible. Although not every retailer, convenience store, or high street shop needs a hugely expensive system or to completely overhaul their existing system, upgrading security can prevent or protect the business against the rising tide of theft and the resulting loss of revenue.
Modernising an existing system also enables retailers to easily share CCTV footage and other intelligence with the police so that together, they can control crime rates better. With new, flexible technology, upgrading store security can be relatively easy and doesn’t have to feel like high street robbery.