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Gearing up for Christmas

December 5, 2021 by Alistair Enser

Retailers have been getting busier over the last few months, and consumers starting Christmas shopping earlier than usual helped push up October retail sales in stores and online by 0.8%. This may not seem much, but it is the first increase since April this year.

That was up from the prior month, and the Office for National Statistics says the figure is 5.8% ahead of pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. This growth was led by consumer spending in non-food shops, such as toy and sports equipment retailers, with sales volumes up 4.2%, which suggests the Christmas shopping has started early! To put that in perspective, car fuel sales fell by 6.4%, as they returned to more typical recent levels following the panic buying in September.

Consumer confidence is up and sales of toys, clothing and other items suggest retailers are heading for a bumper Christmas. It could be that some are making purchases early in the fear of continued shortages of items, while supply chains are already weak because of Covid-related logistics issues, labour shortages and not enough truck drivers.

With that, we have seen a marked increase in enquiries in our lone worker solutions in the retail and logistics environment. These include solutions such as Reliance Protect’s ID Ultra, our next-generation lone worker personal safety device that was awarded the ‘Best Use Of Technology’ accolade at the British Security Industry Association Awards 2021. This solution connects vulnerable workers to our monitoring centre and provides an immediate response in the event of slips, trips, falls, threats and attacks. GPS and Wi-Fi technologies locate users; GPS outdoors, and Wi-Fi indoors where GPS signals may struggle to reach the device – and even permit two-way audio communication.

What’s more, we are increasingly seeing interest in retail and logistics not only in protecting workers with a traditional lone worker device but, as the technology has become more accessible, in body-worn video devices with live video and audio stream capabilities for incident management. It would appear from a few stories in the press that attacks on delivery drivers, specifically targeting high-value items such as cigarettes, alcohol and electronics, are a significant concern for firms at present, and they are investing technology to keep them and the goods they deliver safe.

Within retail stores, including a lot of smaller, local shops, we are also seeing increased interest in providing body-worn video to staff to make them feel safer in the light of growing physical and verbal threats – threats that are entirely unacceptable. Last week was ‘Respect for Shopworkers Week’, when retail trade union Usdaw raises awareness of the threats that retail staff face: its most recent survey of shopworkers shows that a staggering 89% have experienced verbal abuse, 64% have been threatened by a customer and 11% have faced physical assault.

With consumers frustrated by empty shelves and longer than typical queues at tills, I fear the potential for more incidents remains high. Retailers, therefore, need to be doing everything they can to keep their workers safe and motivated. As part of this, we are being increasingly asked whether we can link body-worn video cameras to retailers’ own CCTV and security systems, so they effectively serve as mobile CCTV cameras. If you are interested in seeing how this can be achieved, don’t hesitate to contact us at protectsales@reliancehightech.co.uk.

Finally, this week we are attending the Security and Fire Excellence Awards in London, where Reliance High-Tech has been named a finalist in the ‘Security Installer of the Year’ category, having won the award last year. We are also nominated for ‘Security Project of the Year’ and the ‘Champion of Champions’, a new award for 2021.

Winners will be announced at a gala event in London on 23 November… and I hope to bring you more news on this soon!