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10 ways to avoid costly security mistakes

When it comes to turning a profit in the jewellery industry, there is much to be considered beyond closing sales—owners must also be mindful of how to keep expenses to a minimum. While virtually businesses of all types focus on direct material, direct labour, and basic overhead costs, jewellers have the added, unique responsibility of protecting extremely valuable merchandise from being lost or stolen.
Photo © Getty Images E+/Eva-Katalin/1058388658

When it comes to turning a profit in the jewellery industry, there is much to be considered beyond closing sales—owners must also be mindful of how to keep expenses to a minimum. While virtually businesses of all types focus on direct material, direct labour, and basic overhead costs, jewellers have the added, unique responsibility of protecting extremely valuable merchandise from being lost or stolen.

Indeed, while shoplifting undoubtedly plagues all retailers, including grocery and department stores, how many pieces of fruit or pairs of shoes would need to be stolen to equal the value of a single high-end luxury watch?

Crimes occurring within this industry are on the rise. Fortunately, there are preventive measures jewellers can take to reduce the risk of becoming a target. What follows are 10 ways to protect both your bottom line and the security of your business.

1) Do your research

The first step to ensuring your jewellery business is sufficiently protected is having a keen understanding of where, exactly, your merchandise is coming from.

Requiring and checking references, requesting identification, and reading reviews online are simple, but critical steps to help ensure you can trust a prospective buyer/seller. Additionally, there are many digital services and resources available to provide extra assurance. Zing platform’s Diamond Marketplace, for example, offers free and transparent access to inventory from suppliers around the globe and can connect you with trusted, verified sellers.

This added assurance can also help reinforce consumer confidence. Customers are more concerned than ever with the origins of watches, diamonds, and precious gems. Knowing, with confidence, these pieces are ethically sourced makes people feel good about their purchases. Ensuring your merchandise comes from ethical sellers will keep your customers coming back for future jewellery purchases, which is essential to your bottom line and your reputation.

2) Lock and key

It is always better to be safe than sorry, which is why you should always keep merchandise display showcases closed during sales presentations and remove keys from showcase locks.

When having a client consultation, it is completely understandable for your focus to be on the customer in front of you—unfortunately, this may create an open invitation for theft. Veteran criminals need only a few seconds of distraction to slip their hand in and grab a watch or diamond ring. In some instances, thieves have even been known to get away with an entire tray of jewellery! Remain vigilant to thwart criminals in advance.

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3) One at a time

Showing multiple pieces of jewellery at once may seem convenient (even efficient) when you are making a sale, but this practice makes jewellers more vulnerable to a switch theft. Indeed, the more merchandise a customer is allowed to handle at one time increases the chances a fake item could be swapped for an authentic piece.

Switch thefts can go unnoticed for several days. As such, it is advisable to examine each piece of jewellery with a loupe before and after a customer handles it. This practice will immediately identify if an item has been switched.

Some clients might be insistent on trying on multiple items at once. To help them understand this practice is a security measure enforced by your security company, tasteful signage for display in your showcase can be downloaded for free online.

4) Lock up the goods

Never leave merchandise in display showcases overnight or cover showcases with a cloth. These practices invite criminals to commit three-minute burglaries.

Regardless of the type of merchandise in your case, your most secure option is to put everything in a safe overnight. If criminals do not see any pieces in your showcases, they might simply move on to an easier, more lucrative target.

5) Check your system

Criminals have a penchant for tampering with alarms. For jewellers, this means there is danger in relying too heavily on these systems, or assuming that, if you have an alarm system in place, it must be working correctly. Additionally, if alarms or notifications are not responded to quickly, criminals may take this as a window of opportunity.

Ensuring regular maintenance of your alarm system (as well as your surveillance and other electronic security features) and consistently responding to alarm signals are solid deterrents for criminals. For added assurance, jewellers may consider enhanced systems to make sure all alerts are responded to, whether they are a false alarm or not.

6) Safety glass

Smash-and-grab robberies have become more prevalent and are lucrative for criminals. Often, these individuals will case a store for months and create a sophisticated plan, allowing them to be in and out in less than a minute with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise.

However, these time-sensitive plans can be drastically reconsidered if it takes longer than expected to access merchandise, which is why it is always recommended to have burglary-resistant glazing material applied to your showcases. While this material is not invincible, it is durable enough to slow down criminals and make them rethink their plans.

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7) Avoid the unknown

If you aren’t scrutinizing the circumstances of a purchase or taking steps to confirm the identity of the buyer, you might be asking for trouble. Never ship merchandise to unknown customers making credit card purchases.

While any sale can be enticing, consider the context:

  • Is the shipping address provided different from the billing address on the credit card? Why might this be?
  • If the merchandise isn’t unique, why is this customer going out of their way to get it from you?

Be vigilant and practice due diligence to verify every aspect you can of potentially suspicious purchases. Doing so might make for a slow or tedious process; however, protecting yourself and your business by ensuring you are focused on legitimate customers makes this worthwhile. 

8) Triple-check rush requests

It is advisable to examine each piece of jewellery with a loupe before and after a customer handles it. This practice will immediately identify if an item has been switched. Photo © iStock/Getty Images Plus/jacoblund/1069611624
It is advisable to examine each piece of jewellery with a loupe before and after a customer handles it. This practice will immediately identify if an item has been switched.
Photo © iStock/Getty Images Plus/jacoblund/1069611624

According to Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA), there have been numerous reports of scammers calling retail stores and putting in requests for high-value items to be shipped overnight.

In these situations, callers typically know a lot about the company they claim to be from, as well as a great deal about the retail store they are calling. Ultimately, the criminal is hoping to divert the package from the address of the original order to an address of their choice.

To protect your merchandise, it is recommended to contact your carrier and enable specific security settings on your account to restrict package redirects to a limited and predetermined list of named store employees. Taking this proactive action will help ensure your packages are not intercepted by criminals. Fortunately, there are several industry-specific platforms available to help Canadian jewellers verify addresses, insure shipments, track packages, and more.

9) Document incidents

Maintaining a list of unusual or suspicious incidents in your store can help you stay a step ahead of potential criminals. Create a running document or spreadsheet that can easily be searched and filtered by date, description, or any other variables you choose to track. Reviewing your surveillance footage daily is much less costly than an insurance deductible or replacing stolen merchandise.

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Whenever you encounter suspicious activity on your premises, immediately inform your staff, as well as  Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC) and the police. JVC can assist law enforcement in determining whether similar incidents have occurred in the area recently and can even identify thieves before anything happens. As added security, it is also wise to establish code words or phrases to slyly alert staff of suspicious activities in your shop.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This adage is incredibly true when it comes to tracking suspicious incidents in a jewellery retail store.

10) Know your coverage

While most jewellery retailers are familiar with the basics of what is protected under their insurance policy, questions may remain about what, exactly, is covered when it comes to some pieces (such as watches, which are not always grouped in the jewellery category) or certain types of theft and scam.

To sufficiently prepare for the worst, it is crucial to know exactly what is and is not covered under your policy. Staying informed in this regard will help you react quickly and take the necessary action to protect your business. Credit card fraud, for example, is not covered by most insurance policies, so it is imperative to have iron-clad verification checks in place.

Be sure to work with a broker who is an expert in jewellers block policies. These professionals will make sure your business has enough insurance coverage to protect inventory, as well as the business’s personal property.

Go forth with knowledge

The ways in which criminals try to breach security grow by the day, especially as technology advances. While we may not be able to foresee every single mistake or theft, staying current on security protocols and implementing (and practicing) sound procedures results in a safer, more secure business. Not only will this protect your merchandise and your business, but it will also help you build trust with your customers, leading to stronger and longer-lasting relationships. 

For resources regarding safety and security when carrying or working with jewellery, visit JewelersMutual.com. For more information on reliable burglar alarm systems, subscribe to the Jewelers Mutual Clarity blog at jewelersmutual.com/clarity-blog. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group is the only company specializing exclusively in jewellery insurance in Canada and the United States. It is licensed in Canada and all 50 states.

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