Because of the large number of customers, employees, and merchandise in continuous motion in the retail market, retailers must use various tools and technologies to meet security challenges. Alarm systems, surveillance cameras and access control cards have become an expected part of the security landscape.

The growth potential in retail security is an obvious opportunity for electrical contractors (ECs). For example, the 2011 Global Retail Theft Barometer’s (GRTB) worldwide shrinkage survey said that loss prevention and security costs for the year in North America totaled more than $13 billion. The investment drivers for price-conscious retailers over the next five to seven years, according to Frost & Sullivan, include retailers’ increased focus on loss prevention; the need for flexible, innovative solutions and improved customer service; increased demand for integrated systems and remote monitoring; the use of security solutions as business and management tools; and the decreasing cost of the latest technology in the security.

Best practices
In terms of physical security, the primary tools used by retailers are cameras and electronic article surveillance (EAS), which, also according to the GRTB survey, is used on 51.5 percent of all product lines in North and Latin America.

“Cameras have been the mainstay of retail loss prevention for years, and we’re now starting to see the integration of cameras into smaller retail applications because fairly sophisticated systems with DVR capabilities are affordable today,” said J. Patrick Murphy, president of LPT Security Consulting, Houston.

Technology also is making inroads into retail applications because of the employment contraction since the recession.

“Retailers have been broadening their use of technology for security, including burglar and fire alarms at the door, antishoplifting systems, access control, video, and computer and mobile phone technology to assist in communication,” DiLonardo said, adding that higher end systems used by retailers now even include cameras that are dedicated to and integrated with specific cash registers and that feed data to loss-prevention staff.

“In addition, in higher end CCTV systems analytics software is used to target movement in high theft areas of a store or department and alert loss-prevention staff to possible suspicious behavior,” Murphy said.

In the end, retail clients are looking for suppliers who can provide full, customized integration of network security and video systems that give loss-prevention staff a comprehensive view of the activities that affect the business.

“Merchandise shrinkage, organized retail crime and internal theft all threaten retailers’ profitability. Companies will seek out those suppliers or installers who can solve these critical issues,” said Jose Gonzalez, director of design for Checkpoint Systems Inc., Philadelphia.

A blue-light special
To help assess risk, ECs can work with loss-prevention experts and become knowledgeable about the specific security products retailers require and how they are applied, programmed and timed.

“A chain of 500 nationwide stores, for example, needs the contractor’s expertise to specify, install, tune and service their security systems,” said Bob DiLonardo, principal at Retail Consulting Partners LLC, Clearwater, Fla. He added that equipment manufacturers are looking for assistance. “There are only a few companies in the security business with the infrastructure to create, install and maintain their products. They need the contractors’ expertise to expand their market share.”

Murphy believes ECs can break into the retail security market by actively seeking partnerships with major security system integrators in the market in those cases when they are specifying the equipment.

“The opportunity here for contractors is to lend their expertise during the design stage; improve the schematics; and demonstrate better, more cost-effective ways to wire the system; and find economies for the retailers,” he said.

The challenge is getting started. Murphy advised contractors to start with smaller projects through the integrators’ local branches. When bidding, ask questions, anticipate problems integrators don’t usually think of and demonstrate cost-effective solutions.

As the retail security market continues to migrate toward increased technological sophistication, customers will expect their systems to provide high levels of integration and complete business intelligence to perform aggregation, analysis and reporting.

“Contractors need to help retailers grow their business by linking all their data points to provide a full picture of the operation that will assist them in developing good business solutions,” Gonzalez said.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.