Top Retail Safety Considerations for Black Friday

Top Retail Safety Considerations for Black Friday

Last updated: September 26, 2012Perry Kuklin

Consumers think about wish lists and shopping lists on Black Friday weekend. Meanwhile the top priorities of retailers are the safety, security, and profitability of their stores. In this article, we highlight the top retail safety considerations for Black Friday with help from the National Retail Federation’s crowd management guidelines. 

Plan where you can, and be prepared for the unpredictable

There is no way for retailers to truly predict the size of their Black Friday crowd or how this group of people will behave. But you can be proactive and prepare for possible undesirable or unexpected outcomes.

Do you have a contingency plan in place if: The power goes out? There is inclement weather? Fighting or violence of any kind occurs? Merchandise sells out? The crowd is larger than anticipated? You need an evacuation route other than the main doors? Law enforcement must be engaged?

Knowing that there will be a great number of potentially more aggressive or over-excited customers, retailers are advised to plan for the “expected” and have extra staff on hand and on call, additional security in place, and extra signage and stanchions available to create order inside and outside the store.

Know your territory, your clientele, and your limits

For mall-based retailers, mall management is responsible for managing parking lots and common areas outside of stores. However, if a specific store expects long lines to take over these shared territories, it’s necessary to partner with management to ensure that the logistics of lines and crowds are well-managed. Chaos can spell bad news for the individual store, surrounding stores, and the mall itself.

Discuss options for enhanced security presence, line configuration, clear signage, and extra stanchions. Non mall-based retailers, such as those in strip malls or stand-alone shops, have the same concerns, but they must coordinate their own logistics when it comes to crowd control, line formation, scheduling security and law enforcement, and managing loss prevention.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

As the retailer, you are in charge of your store – not the customer – and to keep it that way it’s crucial to apprise all employees, from managers to clerks to security guards to janitorial staff, of how your facilities are to be organized and maintained throughout this heavy shopping day. Devise a chain of command so, if an incident arises, one manager will serve as the ultimate decision-maker on any urgent issues, and all other associates know their roles.

Black Friday training sessions should be scheduled to give employees the confidence to know what to do in an emergency, understand internal procedures, and confidently handle potentially aggressive shoppers, violence, and, of course, overcrowding. Employees should also be familiar with the placement of promotional items and merchandise in order to safely direct customers.

Beyond these measures, communication to customers is just as crucial to a smooth-running operation. Maintain expectations about wait times and product availability to keep chaos at bay and provide your customers with accurate information whenever possible. Display legible, visible signage pointing out entrances, exits, store times, restrooms, and the locations of major sale items. Invest in extra stanchions and immovable barriers to manage customer flow and orderly checkout lines.

Think through logistics from entrance to exit

When developing a Black Friday “plan of attack,” designate entry and exit points. Manage crowd levels and maintain a comfortable customer flow by determining which doors will be open and who, if anyone, will monitor these doors.  Allow for some space at your main entrance so that there is room for people to shuffle around once the doors are open and the surge officially begins. Propping open doors can also decrease safety hazards and maintain customer flow. Creating a site map that clearly marks promotional items, the location of cashiers, information kiosks, and even security can help keep shoppers calm and orderly.

Additionally, placing the hot-ticket merchandise in locations throughout your store will help dissipate the crowds and alleviate bottlenecks or congestion. Again, utilize signage to let your customers know where items are located and how to get there so they can easily make their way through the store and avoid confusion and frustration. Be constantly aware of the number of customers entering the premises and do not allow additional customers to enter until the maximum occupancy level drops.

Carefully devise the queues

You may find yourself making some adjustments to your queue in the middle of Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean a plan of attack shouldn’t already be in place. Pre-determine your waiting line system, set it up before any customers arrive, and have back-up plans in place should your store face larger-than-expected crowds or extreme weather conditions that force more people indoors. Ideally, stanchions will be arranged in a serpentine formation with a reasonable number of breaks and turns to maintain flow.

Also, it may be in your best interest to operate a single-line queue using electronic queuing to keep customers orderly and entertained and the line moving at the most efficient pace possible. Think about queues outside of your store as well as inside. If you’re a stand-alone retail operation, will you need to light the parking lot or provide portable bathrooms to accommodate early birds? Who will be keeping an eye on the queues in and out of your store – store associates, security, or someone else?

Line monitors can build rapport with customers who have been waiting for some time, and any bad news that needs to be delivered will be better received from a familiar face, and more greatly appreciated from someone who’s become a welcome acquaintance. After all, on Black Friday, though people may be competing for the same merchandise, they’re all essentially in it together. A Lavi crowd control expert can provide you with guidance to safely manage your retail location’s busiest November shopping days.


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