For retail stores, hiring security guards for crowd management and loss prevention is a regular part of the holiday shopping season. Tensions run high during holiday shopping, but it may be tough for some shoppers to get their hands on the hottest toys and best deals if the COVID-19 capacity limits and social distancing rules are still in place — which could lead to unpleasant situations.
Though online shopping is on rise, there will still be shoppers who want the in-store experience, and 41 percent of them don’t plan to start their shopping any earlier than normal. That means stores will still experience a holiday rush, but might carry less inventory than in past years due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. This could make it even more difficult for the shoppers who show up in person.
This is the time to begin preparing for the rush and figuring out how to manage eager (and often aggressive) shoppers while maintaining pandemic safety protocols.
Preparing for a COVID-19 Holiday Shopping Season
The good news is that you’re partially prepared! You’ve already taken the precautions necessary to keep your store operating during the pandemic, including determining new capacity limits, marking out spaces on the floor to help people keep their distance, using arrows to direct traffic, setting up hand sanitizing stations, and instituting rigorous cleaning protocols. Now you have to consider how you’ll do all of that when there are more shoppers wanting to get in your store — especially when many of them may be after the same items.
Your Checklist for Managing the Crowds
The holiday season will be here before you know it. OSHA has outlined some crowd control guidelines to help you prepare:
- Identify Potential Dangers
This includes the typical arguments over who saw what item first, line cutting, parking lot incidents, theft, and more, but you will also want to consider the weather and the pandemic-associated risks of people being close together.
- Create a Staffing Plan (and Emergency Plans)
Determine how many employees you need and where they need to be positioned in the store for the best client experience and asset protection. You should also create an emergency response plan and make sure they know their roles in it. You’re probably used to creating job postings during the holidays, but 2020 might require more temporary hires and more thorough job descriptions to ensure your new staff understand what’s expected of them in these unusual circumstances.
- Train Employees Thoroughly Ahead of Time
Keeping lines moving and customers happy means every worker needs to know his or her role inside and out. Each should be empowered to handle as many issues or hiccups as possible. Also, make sure they can easily communicate with each other.
- Use Signs and Rope Lines
Help customers find what they’re looking for with clear signage, and post signs all along the line with information about COVID-19 safety precautions, sales and where they’re located, and reminders about any expectations or rules you have within the store if you’re expecting a queue outside. This helps keep customers organized, prepared, and busy while they wait. Use tape on the ground to help with social distancing.
Hire Professional Security Officers
You will want to have police officers or security guards ready to help with crowd control. Maintaining a law enforcement presence can discourage your shoppers from making poor decisions in the first place, and the guards can identify and diffuse difficult situations before they escalate.
How Armed and Unarmed Security Officers Can Help You During the Holidays
Your security guards serve various purposes at your store. Their presence helps keep people in line, but your guard service is there to take action when required and relieve your store employees from mediating altercations and enforcing rules. This frees your staff to do what they do best: help customers find what they’re looking for and complete their purchases.
Your unarmed or armed security guards can:
- Enforce social distancing
- Serve as gatekeeper at the door to prevent a rush or an over-capacity situation
- Remind people to wear masks
- Ease tense situations between shoppers
- Help keep children and parents together
- Watch out for and stop theft
- Watch for customers carrying concealed weapons
- Remove a difficult person from the store
- Serve as first responder in the event of an emergency
You know you need them. The next question is what to look for when hiring security guards. Here are a few tips to help you with the process:
- It’s important to work with a security company whose guards are vetted, experienced, and highly-trained.
- Make sure armed security officers have received thorough training in the use of their weapons.
- You’ll want to work with a local agency that can offer personalized attention. There are many security companies that offer services throughout the United States or around the world, but a local agency has a vested interest in the community it serves and knows client satisfaction is important if it wants to maintain a reputation for having top-notch security officers.
Hiring Security Officers: SMART Security Pros
Our armed and unarmed security officers are off-duty or retired police officers and former military personnel with a wealth of experience in situation de- escalation and crowd control to help ensure the safety of our clients. They’re thoroughly trained and prepared to help you during the holiday season and beyond on a part- or full-time basis. Contact SMART Security Pros today to discuss holiday shopping security services, or to speak with an expert about all your other retail security needs.