Front view of a retail shop
Retailers will tell you that they work the first three quarters of the year to break even on their expenses. It’s only in the fourth quarter (and during the holiday season) when they will realize a profit… or not. It’s a crucial period for them.
The holiday shopping season is nearly upon us. Here are some tips for keeping your business safe during the holidays.
Website security is critical every day of the year, but during the holidays, when hackers seem to be more intent on stealing credit cards and infiltrating websites to steal personal data, business owners need to be extra cautious. Are you ready?
When was the last time you conducted a website security audit? Is your website HTTPS-enabled (this means that personal data and credit card numbers are submitted on the website using an encryption key, making it less likely to be intercepted)? Do you have an intrusion detection system? Are your software programs and anti-virus protection updated? Do you have strong passwords? Are your employees trained to be careful while accessing your site to fulfill orders?
Data breaches can be devastating to a small business’ reputation. Malware and viruses can shut down your site during your busiest time of year. What can you do in the next couple weeks to protect your online business?
If billing and shipping addresses are different, if the email address looks suspicious, if there were several failed attempts to enter the credit card number or if the card was declined multiple times, a transaction should be flagged and the purchase put on hold until you can gather more information from the customer. Many e-commerce software systems can automatically spot these types of transactions for you, and all a customer will need to do is answer a few more questions to prove that it’s not a case of fraud. Most customers will appreciate your extra due diligence to protect them.
Large chain stores have security cameras, door alarms, ID scanners, and personnel watching the exits. Smaller stores may not have this kind of expensive equipment or manpower, but they still have the ability to prevent loss.
Evaluate your store layout. Make sure it is well-lit and employees keep things tidy. Messy shelves or dressing rooms make it easy for shoplifters to take merchandise without leaving a void for an employee to notice. Can staff see all areas of the store from their station? Carefully placed mirrors might help. Put more expensive items in a locked display case away from the door so customers must ask for assistance to access them.
Keep accurate records of stocked merchandise. Inventory software that tracks purchases will not only help you reorder merchandise in a timely and efficient manner but can also help you identify theft if you seem to be ordering more merchandise than your software says you sold.
Well trained employees – and plenty of them – are really your best defense against shoplifting during the holiday season. Make sure employees know how vital their role is in preventing theft by being observant and aware of suspicious customers and situations. Training employees to greet every customer who walks through the door and to offer assistance is not only good customer service, but it also casually lets the customer know “I see you” and “I’m watching.”
If theft becomes a problem, it may be worth the expense of security cameras or alarms. Install cameras up high to prevent vandalism, cover a wide area and avoid obstruction. While you may deem them unsightly, do not be afraid to place cameras so they are visible. The mere presence of the cameras may deter shoplifters, and honest customers will likely not even notice them.
Sophisticated graphic design software makes it relatively easy for thieves to reproduce legitimate-looking blank company checks. Gone undetected, these forged checks can cost a business thousands of dollars.
HOMEBANK offers a business service called Positive Pay that prevents a forged or altered check from clearing a company’s bank account. HOMEBANK Business Banker Hunter Baggett, who works from our Hannibal branch, explains:
“Most companies write checks weekly or bi-monthly. This includes payroll checks, vendor payments, etc. At the same time, while they have their accounting software open, they will produce an Excel spreadsheet that lists all the checks written for that pay period – check numbers, to whom the checks were written, the date and the amount – and then they submit this list to the bank.
“When a company check is submitted to the bank, we compare it to the list to confirm its validity. If anything is different from what is on the list – name, amount, signature – we notify the business and get permission before cashing the check.
“Positive Pay is like a burglar alarm. You won’t know if you’re ever going to need it; you never want to use it; but you are sure happy to have it when your company comes under attack. It’s just another level of security,” he concludes. Call Hunter at (573) 248-2130 for more information.