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Following the merger of Dixon and Carphone Warehouse, the combined company sought to develop a new approach to security and loss prevention

When Dixons and Carphone Warehouse completed a £3.9bn merger in 2014, it integrated two well known high street names to create one of Europe’s largest electrical and telecommunications retailers. Renamed Dixons Carphone, the company has interests across the continent and is the UK’s last remaining large scale business of its kind with a bricks and mortar presence.

New age

Online shopping, home delivery and click and collect have become commonplace and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the value of online sales increased by 8.9% in March 2016 compared with March 2015. The omnichannel is now firmly established and this means that traditional high street stores need to adapt their approaches to attracting customers.

Dixons Carphone is at the forefront of this and, in early 2017, the company’s CEO Seb James, announced his aspiration to ‘reinvent retail as we know it’. In order to revolutionise the shopping experience, Dixons Carphone has brought its Currys, PC World and Carphone Warehouse brands together under one roof at its 3-in-1 stores.

The company’s 3-in-1 megastore at Hedge End in Southampton, which opened in September 2015, is truly the shape of things to come. It has a number of innovative features, with smaller, interactive exhibits that are designed to draw people in. 

For example, the vacuum cleaner section has three types of flooring, so customers can try out which device would work best for their home. In the audio section shoppers can switch the music between different speakers, while headphones are displayed in a way that allows people to get hands-on to compare and contrast what’s on offer.

The next step

Every element of the store’s design and layout has been analysed, scrutinised and reconfigured to offer customers the best possible experience and increase sales. A key part of this new process is the way that security and loss prevention are approached – something that has proven to be just as radical as the store concept itself.
Cardinal Security had worked closely with CarphoneWarehouse for a number of years and now operates with Dixons Carphone across all of its outlets. For Jason Trigg, Cardinal Group’s CEO, the Hedge End store is an exemplar of how retail security needs to be approached in the modern age. He said: “There has been a distinct reluctance, or inability, to move on from the “cops and robbers” mindset that has prevailed for decades. 
“However, we are seeing a massive change in the way that retailers operate and we have worked closely with Dixons Carphone’s loss prevention team in order to introduce a new intelligent guarding model that does away with the customer denial approach and integrates the duties of a security officer with technology, electronic systems, and the data they produce.”

Instead of taking the traditional approach of having uniformed security guards at the entrance, the store utilises a covert Security Specialist in the form of Dan McKee. Asked to explain how his role differs from a typical security guard, McKee said: “I adopt a customer service based method to deter theft. For example, I will approach store visitors and ask them whether they need any help in a polite and friendly manner. Genuine customers love this approach but, for obvious reasons, potential thieves hate it. Furthermore, the store encourages a culture whereby all staff are part of the security and loss prevention team, and I work closely with them and offer guidance in this area.”

The appliance of science CCTV has been used in retail outlets for decades, however, far from being considered a proactive tool, it has been used retrospectively, often when it is to late and stock has been stolen or the barriers at the front of the store have been activated and the offender is long gone. In order to help him do his job, Dan McKee has real time remote access to the CCTV system via a tablet, which he can use to study customer behaviour, while analytics platforms provide direct alerts about any suspicious behaviour, such as someone being in a particular area longer than is considered usual. 

Suzanne Borg, project manager in Group Loss Prevention at Dixons Carphone, explained: “Having products on open display brings with it certain security concerns that we are addressing through the use of sophisticated technology. Customers want to touch and experience products, and no longer want them locked down or behind cabinets, so we have to accommodate their desire to do this. However, this brings increased risk – so early warning technology is central to mitigating it and thwarting those with criminal intent.”

As a result, Amberstone’s smart shelves have been installed and when product is picked up McKee receives an alert via a headset, directing him to the area and product concerned, while specific items, such as vacuum cleaners, have tags that also relay information. As well as significantly reducing losses, it allows him to play a key role in the customer experience, helping to sell more and lose less.

Prevention is better than cure

Organised shoplifting gangs are a major concern for retailers and these groups of professional thieves travel the country stealing products to sell on.

Dixons Carphone uses a range of electronic security technologies such as number plate recognition and facial recognition that identify known vehicles or offenders.  
The profiling of individuals and their behaviour is crucial in order to recognise the difference between good and bad customers. With data sharing and analytical tools, Dixons can share information and allow ad-hoc tasks to be added centrally from regional field or head office teams, while ascertaining which products are being targeted. They also use analysis of online auction sites and recent store thefts to profile the risk against the year, month or day to gain a better understanding of when thieves are likely to strike.”

Train to gain

As a vital part of the senior management team at the store, Cardinal Security has provided Dan McKee with investigative, evidence gathering and statement writing training that he uses to hold morning briefings. Staff are made aware of any current risks and work very much as part of a team, and this holistic approach to security is highly effective and deters both organised and opportunist offenders.

Like all other aspects of modern retailing, the security function at Dixons Carphone has to deliver a return on investment. Part of Dan’s job is to use the technology based tools at his disposal to constantly assess risk and report back while the data provides a clear picture of the cost of his employment and what he returns. This is measured through shrink reduction, assistance in increased sales, greater staff safety and a focus on stock loss reduction. This dynamic approach builds a comprehensive risk model and creates decision making and business rules out of the back of it.

The new store concept, combined with this innovative approach to security and loss prevention has had some notable successes. High risk product sales, including headphones, increased in the first year of opening; while McKee was directly involved with the arrest of an organised gang leader, who was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison.

Onwards and upwards

These are good times for Dixons Carphone, which saw its trading over Christmas beat forecasts as it reported its fifth consecutive year of growth. As it redefines retailing, the company’s Suzanne Borg recognises the role that cutting edge security techniques will play in its on-going success, and has concluded that Dan McKee is the embodiment of the modern security officer and is integral to what is being done at Hedge End. 

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