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How to Balance Open Floor Plans with Security Concerns, and More of Your Questions Answered

Plus what’s generally acceptable in non-compete agreements for employees.

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How do you balance the trend toward open floor plans and side-by-side selling with security concerns, given the recent surge in smash-and-grab mob robberies?

Retail always involves striking a balance between establishing a comfortable environment for customers and protecting your staff and merchandise. The point at which that balance is achieved tends to move, however, depending on the prevailing security threats, and jewelry store owners are once again reevaluating the optimal layout given the surge in store invasions. “Even though cases are not much of a barrier, they do function as some deterrent,” says Gerry Gonda, a designer at Retail Space Planning. Gonda says that impact-resistant glazing on glass surfaces and installing thicker break-resistant glass in windows and display cases are now seen as mandatory. Also up for review include the prominent placement of security systems, mantrap entryways with buzzer-activated doors, private viewing areas with security, a security officer and station and the incorporation of retractable metal awnings over all windows. “We have even been requested to explore the use of a total store fogging system,” he says.

Gonda notes, however, that while possible reduction in your store’s insurance premium may offset some of the cost, you are still faced with the task of comparing risk versus cost, he says. “Unfortunately, incorporating every preventive measure mentioned will not offer you 100 percent security. However, by instituting some of these measures along with sound store policies such as never leaving a display unlocked or unattended, you are beginning to institute a safer working environment for both you and your employees” he says.

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What do you do when a customer asks if you have an item they saw online but you don’t stock it? Let them walk? Order it in?

If it’s do-able, definitely offer to order it for them. Mention your expertise and industry connections, so you will be able to identify a good deal and source it quickly while guaranteeing authenticity and value. This
will go a long way to improving customer service and possibly allow you to gain a customer for life instead.

I have asked a potential new hire (an office manager) to sign a two-year non-compete agreement, but she says she doesn’t want to sign for longer than six months. Is there a standard acceptable term?

Yes, one year is pretty standard, says Suzanne Devries, president of Diamond Staffing Solutions, adding it’s difficult for a non-compete agreement to hold up in court for more than a year. And numerous states take an unsympathetic view toward any efforts to limit a worker’s rights to earn a living. “Make sure you have a good labor attorney look it over, or write it for you, or it will not be worth the paper it’s written on,” she advises. This might also be a good time to ask yourself why you think you need such a long period of protection. Our advice is to focus on what you can do to grow your business and stop worrying about imaginary threats. Business is about execution. Get that right, and you won’t have to be concerned about people stealing your customers.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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