We trade in what is classed as a deprived community and often encounter challenging customers. Keeping my staff and my family safe is of paramount importance to me so security is central to how I manage my business.
I cut my retailing teeth in Blantyre and there were lots of problems. Locking up, we would regularly be the target of intimidation. My response was always the same – involve the police and bring charges against the offenders. In the first year we were involved in more than 30 prosecutions. We always attended court to give evidence as although this took up a lot of time we had to show that we would not be intimidated.
This stance means that I have been involved in several ‘risky’ incidents. One day a customer came into the store with a single barrelled shotgun. Holding this to my head, he demanded to jump to the front of the queue. I informed him that if he wanted to be served he would need to queue. It wasn’t long before he ran out, and a few days later he apologised for his behaviour and has been no trouble since.
This man, like the rest of our customers, understood that we will not be intimidated, but that we do not hold grudges. We will bar customers who behave badly in the store, but only for short periods.
The other incident involved a shoplifting drug addict who pulled out a hypodermic syringe with its needle when challenged. It took some time, but I was able to safely negotiate with her and take back my stock. Again the message was clear – we would not be intimidated.
Here are some of the things that we do to stay safe:
- Before buying the shop we researched the area and possible risks.
- We removed grills installed by the previous owners; my view is that it is much safer to connect with our customers.
- All staff are trained; store security is not just about me, it’s a team effort.
- We keep cash in tills to a minimum.
- We have a good quality CCTV system.
- We have a good relationship with the police and invest time into the community.
Our community can be a difficult place to do business, but I think that over the 23 years that we have been part of it we have made a difference as well as reducing our own day to day problems.