With the government providing a long list of rules for jewellery retailers to abide by, store owners would be forgiven for not considering the impact coronavirus might be having on crime.
Security, however, is something that must be taken seriously, with the global pandemic posing new risk factors for retailers stocking high value goods. That’s why Professional Jeweller partnered with Warrior Doors to host a virtual roundtable with industry leaders before stores reopened. Here are some insights from the second part of the discussion.
(Please note, this conversation took place the week before stores reopened.)
How do you feel you can deliver a luxury experience whilst adhering to the government guidelines?
Stuart McDowell, retailer director, Laings (SM): For us, with the perspective screens and things, it’s really been about trying to make the showrooms feel as natural and as normal as possible. We will have greeters on doors and I think that’s so important at the minute. Even when I walk into my local Sainsbury’s you have somebody who’s trying to boost your self-esteem with a smiley face so I think that’s imperative for us all, just to have that warm welcome as people come into the store. But we will have restrictions. We won’t be able to serve champagne and things like that at the beginning, but it will be more about smiling with our eyes and keep on smiling really more than anything else.
Attila Sereny, sales manager, Leonard Dews (AS): I think it’s important to communicate with the customers to make sure that they understand why we’re taking all these steps and why we are doing it is to ensure that everyone’s safe. We probably won’t be serving drinks at the beginning, but we will try to offer the same customer service.
Craig Bolton, executive director UK, Watches of Switzerland Group (CB): The same. We won’t be offering any hospitality from a point of view of drinks in the first few weeks, we’ll monitor that as we go. I think the customer experience is driven off the individual though and it’s much more about how that person’s treated when they’re in the store and then ultimately how we follow up with that client after they’ve left. It’s the personal touch that makes the customer experience, it not necessarily about the added benefits of offering a glass of champagne or a cup of coffee. I think people are really understanding right now and therefore will give everybody a bit more credit for what they’re trying to achieve. So it’s all about making people feel really assured when they come into the store and being really positive with them and making the experience really positive.
Fantastic. Now I want to hand over to Brett to share some of his expertise on security.
Brett Barratt, managing director, Warrior Doors (BB): We’ve touched on one of the main concerns, which is the risk of customers wearing masks. The task will be getting people to remove the masks who have put them on genuinely because it makes them feel safer, but needing to be aware that on the other hand there could be someone who wants to deceive you. I would say when people book an appointment with you, that would be a great time to say, if you don’t mind when you come to the shop could we just ask you to remove your mask so that we can see your face – we will keep our distance and then you are more than welcome to put it back on afterwards if you want to. Signage could also help communicate that message.
Secondly, pre-Covid, the big risk we were seeing was the use of vehicle as a weapon, so that’s something I would like to touch on. As a company, we calculated something like 19 vehicles as a weapon attacks on shops over a two year period prior to going into Covid, and vehicle as a weapon is a term used when terrorists go and drive into a crowd of people. One of the jewellers that we were looking after had six incidents in six years. The last time they reversed a seven and a half tonne plant truck into the shop during working hours. They ran the shop four times before they actually got in. Thankfully they had a safe room at the back of the shop, so everyone was safe in the safe room before the vehicle finally came through the shop. They actually caught the gang of six and they got something like 94 years, which was huge, you don’t normally get those sentences today – but that’s what it is, if you’ve got people in the shop when someone drives into that shop, what’s the difference between someone driving into a group of people on a bridge to kill people because of a religious notion and being prepared to drive into a jewellers shop while there are people in the shop because they want to steal gold or watches? To me there’s no difference, both of them putting lives at risk and should be treated under that same umbrella. It’s something that we’ve seeing a big increase of and it’s something that we’re really conscious of particularly with some of the bigger jewellery shops. What we want and what we want as a business is to maximize vision and visibility without compromising security. So we have been designing into Warrior Doors’ products vehicle mitigation technology (VMT) to add an extra layer of security. We’ve got some really clever designs now that we’ve developed over the last few years. It’s just one of the things we would really like to make everyone aware of. That risk still is there. I haven’t seen now for a long time an incident where people are attacking shop doors with hammers and axes – they are just driving a car straight into it.
CB: London was the motor bike guys. Driving a motorbike doesn’t have the same effect of course, but that’s the last time we had any sort of attempt and that was with hammers and axes on the doors. I remember it happening in Southampton actually – someone drove a bin truck into a jewellery store.
SM: Yeah – it was bizarre. A guy fell out with his employer and had a tough time in life and just decided to go AWOL one day.
It’s interesting you say that because Brett brought it to my attention that with people being made redundant and fearing for the future, the crime rate is expected to rise. From a staff point of view, what can the staff be looking out for when it comes to vehicle-as-a-weapon crimes?
BB: You’ve just got moments to see something like that and what we are trying to do is give staff time. So by putting vehicle mitigation in place is you’re buying time. As good as security is, if someone’s determined enough – the bigger the vehicle they’re going to use and they will eventually get in. So what we’ve done for years and advocate massively is the safe areas for staff and customers to go to. So what we’re trying to do is buy the time for staff and customers to get safely into the back. We’ve actually done work with Leevans Jewellers in Leeds, and a car transporter truck reversed into the shop while the owner was in the window. Had they not had out window in there she probably would have been killed – the vehicle would have just come straight through the existing window they had. Thankfully no-one was injured during that raid because of what we had designed and put in place. It’s about making sure that staff feel safe – some people are worried after an incident like that and feel like they can’t come back to work after. Having a safe room can really help make them feel secure.
CB: I think the snatch incidents that we have seen over the years are much more prevalent actually. For us, the whole snatch-and-grab thing is a real problem because it is the individual guy, sometimes doesn’t look at all like a thug, if there is such a look. I just think, how do you legislate against that? It’s a tough one to stop.
BB: Well, moving on from the vehicle as a weapon, this is one of the benefits of interlocking doors. We haven’t had one incident of a snatch and grab in any of our shops since we’ve put interlocking doors into them. One jeweller in London managed to catch a wanted man after a guy came in looking to snatch a Rolex, but realised it wouldn’t be so easy because there was more than one door to through. And these sliding doors are very successful in places like the jewellery quarter for instance because every other shop is a jewellery shop and you’ve got to try and get people into your shop, because you want shoppers and it’s a real tight competition so you want to make it feel like you are drawing them into your shop, but when you have the two doors to go through it makes people think twice about coming in and snatching something. You can even see people sometimes trying the doors and when they realised they won’t be able to get in and out easily, they move in. So the two doors is really a way of reducing the risk of snatches down to virtually nothing.
CB: It’s a difficult balance because you’re right, you’re trying to create an environment that’s as inviting as possible. Take the Glasgow Arcade, we almost had a locked door policy at Mappin & Webb but I changed that because the Arcade is about browsing, it’s about going in and enjoying the experience, but if you’ve got to get through a couple of doors you are just going to go on to the next jewellers that looks a bit more inviting, so it is that balance between the British retail way of shopping where you look in the window and casually walk into a store and locked doors on Bond Street. Double doors to get through can be off putting. Likewise, shopping malls is where we’ve had most of our snatchers and we tend to have no doors at all in shopping centres, we tend to have a shutter that comes up and down. I think it’s kind of horses for courses. If you could have what you are proposing everywhere, I think it could really work from a security point of view but just impractical in some locations.
BB: In some places yeah I agree with you completely. In shopping centres one of the products that we’ve got that’s available already is where the cabinet’s themselves are interlocked. So we’ve got an attack resistant glass on the cabinets and the cabinets themselves are interlocked, so only one cabinet can be opened at a time. One of the things with a snatch is one person will ask to look at something to distract the staff – so if you can’t physically open more than one cabinet at a time that can really reduce the risk. And then it is still about the safe room in those shops, because if something does happen then your staff and customers are still safe.
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