Security at Retail: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?
Standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower one day recently, looking longingly and nostalgically at the darkened entrance to Le Jules Verne, and taking in the barricades and heavily armed police and military presence, I could not help but wonder at how comforted I was that the security presence was obvious and unambiguous. I’m not sure we would have gone up to the Alain Ducasse restaurant, if we’d been allowed to. But the choice was not ours, nor was it anyone’s choice even to walk beneath the tower, two weeks after the Paris massacres. The entire plaza was cordoned off.
The teeter-totter balance between feeling confident we’re protected and comfortable enough to enjoy our lives is also the one retailers, mall managers and builders, movie and restaurant chains and sports teams and arenas are going to have to confront in the months and years ahead. How would it make us feel to see armed guards at the entrances to our malls, shopping centers and stores? How might it change our shopping behaviors, our entertainment preferences, our choice of restaurants and other gathering sites to see an obvious quasi-military presence. Or, to imagine that our fellow shoppers, diners, movie-goers might be packing their own protection?
The codes and cues that telegraph to our psyches that we’re safe and secure have been disrupted. Quite possible corrupted. Do we believe that a decline in Black Friday store sales is simply burn-out from too many Thanksgiving nights spent fighting for door busters at Walmart? Do we imagine that online sales are skyrocketing simply because we’re suddenly realizing it’s easy and we can trust Amazon to get the stuff to us on time?
We can debate the need for gun control. We can champion mental health awareness. We can develop counter-terrorism protocols. Yes. We can and must as a society. But, those are steps beyond the immediate control of brands, retailers and venues. Let’s go further than telling store personnel and customers to “shelter in place.” Let’s decide that “It won’t happen here” isn’t working as a strategy and get focused. Tommy, Ralph, Donna: What do you want your sales people to do if they hear a shot fired? Penney’s, Bergdorf’s, Target: What changes have you made to your store architecture to allow a cogent plan for immediately shepherding shoppers and staff to safety? Simon, Rouse, Traubman: Come ON!