Tips for Convenience Store, Retail Owners, Managers and Workers

Crime Matters

Crime Prevention Bureau(CPB)


In many retail businesses, front-line employees are at risk from violent incidents. In most operations, the public has free and easy access to the store and employees frequently need to deal with people they do not know. In addition, retail businesses typically keep cash readily available, display tempting and sort after merchandise, remain open for extended hours, and employ relatively young workers.

Key risks

The following are key risks faced by many retail businesses:

  • Robbery and assault;
  • Shoplifting;
  • Abusive and difficult customers; and
  • Unwelcome members of the public;

When a potentially violent incident occurs, in the heat of the moment employees may put themselves at risk. It is critical that employees understand that their safety is the first priority, and money and merchandise can always be replaced; people cannot.

Risk Controls

Retailers can reduce the potential for robbery, shop theft and violence through a combination of physical and procedural control measures, which may include the following:

  • Careful store design;
  • Use of security devices — general and personal;
  • Employee education and training; and
  • Employee scheduling and procedures for working alone.

The most effective combination of control measures will vary depending upon the type of retail store, location, and individual business practices. The local Regional Crime Prevention Office can assist retailers to come up with effective combinations of controls measures.

The following advice aims to provide practical guidance on how the problems might be tackled using and an approach that need not be expensive or complicated. Much of the information and guidance contained will be relevant to all businesses and can be adapted to suit individual needs.

Physical controls

Physical controls may include the following:

  • Clear store lines of sight by using low shelving or mirrors, or by positioning the sales counter near a window so employees can see out and the public can see in;
  • Barriers such as wide counters or partitions that separate the employees from customers;
  • Good lighting; and
  • Security CCTV surveillance cameras.

Procedural controls

Procedural controls include training, safe work procedures, and scheduling. These all have an impact on how vulnerable employees are to potential robbery, shop theft and violence. Retailers ought to do the following:

  • Provide employees with specific training on handling robbery, shop theft and violence;
  • Provide specific written procedures for working alone;
  • Provide specific procedures for higher-risk situations such as at opening, closing, and handling cash; and
  • Consider employees scheduling i.e. how many staff are on shift and who they are.

Store design/layout

Poor location of cash tills and sales displays, blind spots, poor layout and counter design can all make customers less visible and target items more accessible. Consider including the following store design features and security devices to strengthen risk control measures:

  • Barriers such as, Plexiglas and wide counters to keep employees out of reach of the customers;
  • Low shelves to ensure a good view within the store, making it difficult for thieves to hide;
  • Using a safe with a time lock to store cash and other valuables;
  • Place expensive items behind the counter or in locked displays to discourage shoplifting;
  • Cash register/ point of sale layout should be near a window with clear views from outside so the cashier is easily visible to the public;
  • Raised flooring to allow employees clear views of the entire store, and more than one exit to avoid being blocked;
  • A secure refuge area such as a lockable office;
  • Mirrors that allow employees to see who is in the aisles or out-of-the-way parts of the store;
  • Visible CCTV security cameras deter individuals and record all activities in the store;
  • Communication devices for employees to summon help in an emergency including panic alarm buttons, personal alarms carried by employees at high risk, and cell phones;
  • Door alarms to alert employees when someone has entered the store;
  • Good lighting both inside and outside the store;
  • Low landscaping outside the store for good visibility, especially near entrances and exits;
  • Use security guards as a visible deterrent; and
  • Use signage advertising controls such as “Security cameras in use” and “Shoplifters will be Prosecuted” to deter would-be thieves.

Preventing Violence

Activities such as, opening and closing the store, handling money, and working alone, carry a greater risk of robbery and violence than other activities, and employees may need to follow a specific safe work procedure to reduce the risk. The following describes tips and guidelines to develop safe work procedures:

Opening and Closing

  • Employees should be especially vigilant and follow opening and closing procedures;
  • Work in pairs at opening and closing, especially when doing the rounds at the end of a shift; and
  • Ensure that there are no customers in the store if handling cash and that all entrances and exits are secure and locked.

Handling Money

Have safe work procedures for handling money in the store or when making bank deposits. The following guidelines may help when handling cash in the store:

  • Make sure cash handling areas are located away from entrances and exits;
  • Locate sales counters so they are clearly visible from inside and outside the store;
  • Keep as little cash in the cash register as possible;
  • Place large bills in a drop box, safe, or strong room that is out of sight;
  • Fit counter safes with time-delay locks; and
  • Ensure that employees comply with guidelines when making bank deposits, such
  1. Avoid making bank deposits at night;
  2. Vary the time and route for making deposits;
  3. Do not carry money in bags that make it obvious you are carrying cash or that are marked with the company logo; and
  4. Make deposits with a co-worker, if possible. The co-worker should face away from the depository to keep an eye on other people in the area.

Working alone

From a crime prevention perspective working alone is not recommended. However, should this be unavoidable procedures for working alone should be developed and include the following:

  • Specific time intervals during the shift when someone will check the well-being of staff;
  • A specific end of the shift check; and
  • Actions that will be taken if the employee cannot be contacted or does not phone in at the appropriate time.

Employees working alone should follow guidelines, such as:

  • Keep busy with tasks away from the sales counter when there are no customers in the store;
  • Offer a friendly greeting to people who enter the store;
  • Make direct eye contact but do not stare as prolonged eye contact, especially if there is a group, may be seen as a challenge or confrontational;
  • Watch out for anyone who is loitering, and ask if they need assistance;
  • Ensure that emergency phone numbers are close by — next to or on the phone;
  • Do not leave back doors open and unattended;
  • Keep the store neat and clean;
  • Do not empty garbage at night, as bins are often located in secluded areas; and
  • Stay alert and call the police if you see any suspicious activity or people around the store.

Written procedures should not be complicated and focus on minimizing the risk for employees. Including front-line workers in the process of developing procedures for minimizing risk is strongly recommended because employees often know more about the risks, and have good ideas about how to reduce them.