Urban Renewal. (Working Wise)

By Gips, Michael A. | Security Management, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Urban Renewal. (Working Wise)


Gips, Michael A., Security Management


If you're in the market for a rattan doghouse built to resemble an antique discovered in Avignon, France, Anthropologie is your place. This high-end retail chain caters to the upscale woman's market. Anthropologie's parent company, Urban Outfitters, serves a younger unisex demographic, selling such irreverent items as a Jesus action figure and foldable stereo speakers. As different as these stores may be, they share a problem: the need for good security personnel.

At Anthropologie, with 31 stores scattered across the United States, and Urban Outfitters, with about 50 branches in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, contract security officers are used in stores that are under construction and those that are about to open, explains Mike Marquis, director of administration (security and loss prevention for both chains fall under a common administration department). Product is stocked about two weeks before a store opens, he says, making a tempting target for construction workers, other contractors, or employees who are on the premises in the last frantic days before opening.

Officers are also deployed at operating stores with shrink problems. For example, an officer is posted at the front door of an Anthropologie store in South Beach, Miami, a location prone to "grab and run" thefts. Marquis also assigns guards to certain stores with heavy traffic during the Christmas rush.

Until about mid-1998, Marquis contracted with a patchwork of guard service providers strewn across the country. He found the services to be inconsistent and often unreliable. Last-minute requests for guard help often went unheeded, forcing employees to extend their hours.

The problem, he concluded, was that his small department didn't have reliable contacts across the country. When a new store would open, Marquis would call the on-site construction manager and ask him to fax the guard service section of the local yellow pages. Marquis would then decide on a provider based on a "2 or 3 minute call," he says.

Because Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie continue to expand-12 more stores are expected to open in 2002--the problem was not going away.

Marquis called Chuck Fisher, an old acquaintance who had opened SecPro Services, Inc., Bellmawr, New Jersey, a firm providing guard and other security services. SecPro doesn't maintain a large staff of officers on call; instead, the company has developed a trusted network of guard service providers across the country to whom it can allot work. …

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