Doors, Exits, And Access In Retail Facilities

Locking in a loss prevention strategy in retail facilities calls for careful consideration of each opening based on its specific requirements.

By Jan McKenzie

It’s an understatement to say that preventing retail theft is difficult. Doors and openings, as well as closets, cabinets, and storage areas are all common targets for thieves. In the retail loss prevention world, there’s a huge range of business types and applications involved. From large, multi-business shopping malls, to stand-alone grocery stores, convenience stores, and every type of big-box or little-box storefront imaginable, theft and loss prevention are a very real concern at all levels, and there are many appropriate solutions.

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And just as varied as the applications, there’s a broad range of approaches to security and access control within this market. Some customers are focused on security at almost any cost—such as drugstores and pharmacies; some businesses just need moderate “keep everyone honest” level of security. And while some want very noticeable visual deterrents, others want the most discreet, least visible systems possible.

If we look at something like a convenience store, we can see the complexity that owners and managers face in deploying retail security programs. Typically, there’s a manager or a franchise owner/manager, who has multiple key rings, each with dozens of keys for securing gas dispensers, propane tanks, the carwash, and the beer storage area with multiple padlocks. There are keys to everything that locks in the store, from cigarette cases and alcohol coolers, to the desk that has employee information—there’s a huge number of items to be secured.

And then there are the exits.

To add the complexity, unattended exit doors are a common target for thieves. Unscrupulous visitors use exit doors to avoid detection by cashiers or other employees. These could include secured storerooms, emergency exits, stairwell doors, receiving dock doors, rear exits, and many others. Exit alarms are used to alert on-duty personnel that an emergency exit, or secured door or area has been opened or entered. And if an employee exits and re-enters through an exit door to put out the trash, will the door re-latch properly? If it doesn’t shut appropriately and re-latch, that’s a real problem.

Delayed Egress models are also available that will sound an alarm, but will not open for a pre-determined number of seconds, giving employees time to investigate. These systems are ideal for deterring theft in for many types of retail establishments. And in some cases, visual deterrents can be effective. Often if a door looks ominous, a thief will walk away instead of trying it.

Take A Strategic Approach

The best advice for designing and planning the door openings, hardware, and lock system for a business is to consult an expert early in the process. A professional can help deploy a strategy that uses technology to cut down on mechanical keys, which will make adding and resending access fast and easy. A move away from mechanical key management is a good move. By developing a relationship with a reliable consultant or a reliable manufacturer, the end-user is way ahead of the game.

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For businesses with multiple locations, it’s important to work with a security professional to set a standard that can be replicated at each location. This allows for the leveraging of better pricing, because a system is purchased in multiples, and allows for better service, because the system is a known system, and the same provider will be able to service the system from location to location.

A comprehensive range of technologies with increasing capabilities is available to address today’s retail security requirements. From mechanical keys to intelligent openings, it’s important to pair the appropriate locking technology to the specific requirements and risks of each opening. Because every opening is different based on its usage, employing a single technology throughout a facility isn’t the most effective. Careful consideration of each opening based on its specific requirements allows proper selection of access control, enhancing the security of a facility and keeping costs in line.

Here’s a quick overview of available systems…

Mechanical Credentials

The key system is often one of the greatest sources of vulnerability in a facility’s security. Key control and choice of key technology are essential considerations. Though much has changed in cylinder mechanics and how facilities secure their doors, key systems are still the backbone of retail security. The most basic level of protection is a typical mechanical cylinder with a legacy key system. This key can easily be duplicated and thus offers very low level security. Varying levels of protection to enhance legacy key systems are available, including: patented key systems that protect against unauthorized key duplication; geographic exclusivity that further restricts how a key can be duplicated; and lock cylinders listed to UL 437 that offer protection against picking, drilling, and physical attack.

Intelligent Keys

Intelligent key systems incorporate features into retrofit cylinders that upgrade the security of existing hardware. This enables powerful scheduling and accountability and eliminates the expense and inconvenience of rekeying due to lost keys or personnel changes. Battery-powered intelligent keys and cylinders that install into existing hardware eliminate the need for wiring or door/frame prep. The keys can be programmed to expire based on security needs, and access can be updated through remote or mobile programmers, or directly through the key using a Bluetooth Low Energy-enabled mobile device. They can be used in nearly any application and provide a cost-effective solution to enhance security and accountability.

Keypad Access Control

Keypad access control systems introduce the convenience and flexibility of pin code credentials. Keypad locks offer basic access control capabilities and are typically programmed by visiting the door. Keypad locks come in a variety of forms but essentially most can be used as a stand-alone keypad lock, or be upgraded or expanded to use Data-on-Card or standard wireless technology. Keypad access control systems provide an affordable and scalable solution that allows users to manage locks locally, and add and remove users without issuing keys.

Offline Access Control

Offline lock sets are battery-operated, stand-alone units, requiring no wiring from locks to a CPU. Offline locks offer an economical solution for customized access control without the cost and complexity of a networked system. Offline locks and cylinders provide an affordable option for customized access control. Programming is accomplished through the use of a PDA or data transfer device and PC-based software, and can support many hundreds of users per door, and provide detailed transaction history and audit trail.

Data On Card

Data on card technology enables comprehensive access control without the cost and complexity of wiring every door or the need for IT support/equipment. Online openings are limited to just a few central locations, and every credential presented receives updated access rights. With data on card systems, the credential carries system data, and the credential holder becomes the network that manages access control simply by going about their daily routine. Access rights are updated when a credential holder presents their credential when entering the building.
Intelligent WiFi Access Control Solutions

WiFi locks and exit devices provide complete access control in locations where it would be difficult or cost-prohibitive to install a wired lock. With no wires to run, installation time is significantly reduced—the device is installed on the door and configured to communicate with the wireless network. Intelligent WiFi solutions also provide for real-time door status monitoring and real-time, configurable alarm notification.

Online Access Control Components

A broad range of access control security solutions are available for a variety of standard, perimeter and auxiliary openings. With electromechanical locking solutions that offer protection from light to heavy duty and specialty applications that extend to perimeter gates and interior cabinets, these systems complement offline and online credential authentication.

Exit Door Systems, Alarms/Delay

Retail store owners and managers have a primary responsibility: making sure their environment is safe and secure. The need to keep unauthorized individuals out without inhibiting the daily freedom of movement of employees and customers is of the highest priority. There are several approaches on how locking solutions can help accomplish this.

Appropriate door hardware is one critical element that contributes to a secure environment. Each opening has different needs and understanding the benefits and challenges of each locking solution is crucial. Doors with exit devices or “panic bars” are of special concern. Typically used on the perimeter, these doors often serve as the first line of defense against intruders and also tend to take the most abuse.

loss prevention McKenzie is director of national accounts for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions based in New Haven, CT and resides in the Austin, TX area. The National Accounts Program is focused on Retail, Hospitality, Commercial Real Estate, and Multi-Site end-users. As a vertical specialist, McKenzie’s role holds increasing responsibility managing customers with global and multi-property enterprises. She has been in the industry for over 30 years and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration.