Is your small business safe this holiday season?

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

By Lexie Lu

‘Tis the season for people to buy gifts, but also a time when theft goes up, and businesses suffer losses. There are many different risk factors for companies during the holiday season. The last thing you want is to work hard for additional sales only to have them negated by theft or losses due to cybercrime.

The National Retail Federation reports the average cost of a single shoplifting incident is about $546.67 but can be more if your items are higher-ticket pieces. In a year where you might already be struggling to turn a profit, such losses can add up and hurt your business for months to come.

You can take steps to protect your business from devastating losses. Gear up for the holidays before Black Friday hits, and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.

-Invest in physical security

With special sales and more shoppers out and about, the risk of fights or someone getting angry and trying to attack one of your workers increases. Unfortunately, the world is on edge at the moment as we navigate COVID-19 and other crises.

Be prepared for people to grow belligerent if you’re out of something they feel they must buy or if another shopper snatches the last one out of their hands. People have even attacked workers for asking them to put a mask on. Stationing a security guard in the store during peak hours is a smart move, protecting everyone and your store from damage.

-Add surveillance cameras

There is nothing worse than accusing someone of theft, and it isn’t true. Whether you’re worried about employees stealing money out of the cash drawer or you think customers might try to sneak off with merchandise, a camera gives you cold, hard evidence to recoup your inventory and prevent future theft.

Another option is adding cameras at entry points and alerting the police and management if someone attempts a break-in. The combination of a camera and an alarm system may dissuade them from attempting a burglary in the first place.

-Be aware of local events

Keep up to date on local unrest or big events drawing more traffic than you’re used to. You may need to step up your security. If you’re in a big city where potential riots might break out, you may need to board up windows and find ways of protecting your livelihood. Look into removing some of your more expensive inventory to an off-site location, if possible.

Stay updated on the news and set your phone to get alerts from local stations. Notifications are also valuable during natural disasters where damage might occur to your inventory. Security is about more than just protecting your business from people — it also means protecting your investment from all types of losses.

-Pay attention to online security

Gartner reports global cybersecurity spending will hit $123.8 billion this year. The risks of having your information stolen online are huge, especially for small businesses that might not have advanced security.

There are a few things you can do to protect your company. First, train your employees on the dangers of the internet. Have them choose difficult-to-guess passwords and help them understand phishing, viruses and not giving out personal information to scammers.

You should also store any customer information with a cloud-based server. Using a third party provides you with access to their more advanced security measures. Also, be sure to keep software updated and invest in virus protection. With a little prevention, you can avoid financial or data loss.

-Monitor employees

According to the California Restaurant Association, 95% of surveyed restaurant employees admit to theft in the workplace. How that looks varies from taking a few bites of food to outright stealing cash. There are also ways of stealing without actually taking something, such as fudging timesheets.

You likely hire extra staff during the holidays to cover the busy times. However, you may not fully trust people who haven’t been with you for a while. Let’s face it: Some of them may steal. Adding cameras and having a manager on duty helps dissuade workers from taking what they shouldn’t.

-Stop generosity with your stuff

People love to be generous during the holidays, which is an excellent thing unless they go overboard with your stuff. What does this look like for most businesses? If you run a restaurant, perhaps one of your servers gives her cousin a free meal as a gift. The meal isn’t zero cost to you, though. You had to buy the food, pay the kitchen staff and pay the server who gave it away.

Talk to your staff about what is and isn’t acceptable. While you may want to be generous with them and provide extra perks to make up for working during family holidays, you also need to set firm boundaries about what you will and won’t allow. Don’t leave room for any gray areas. Employees must OK any giveaways with management.

-Unplug appliances

When not in use, unplug space heaters or electronics. The last thing you need during your top revenue period is a fire putting you out of commission. Train employees to disconnect these items or put them on a power strip that shuts off with an automatic timer.

Talk to your neighbors

No matter what your business’s location, you likely have neighboring establishments. Reach out to them and discuss concerns for the community. Keep them informed if anyone causes issues and share info. Even just getting together for a few networking sessions may give you additional ideas on how to keep your business, your workers and your customers safe during peak times.


Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and writer based in Williamsport, PA. She co-founded the blog, Design Roast, a resource for web designers and marketers, in 2015. She specializes in graphic design, web design, branding, UX design, and mobile app wireframes. She earned her BA from Lycoming College. While not working in her home office, she enjoys walking her goldendoodle, cooking for friends and family, and watching way too much HGTV. Lexie’s work and writing can be found on well-known sites such as, Website Magazine, Marketo, and Envato. Feel free to connect with her on Design Roast or via Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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