Bentall Centre putting retail-management communication and safety first with Shop Alert

27th May 2014

Retail management communication plus staff and customer safety – a case study

Up to 12,000 people an hour visit The Bentall Centre – a large shopping complex in the middle of Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.
And on a Saturday during the height of the Christmas shopping period, the number of people occupying the four-storey centre at any one time can be four times that figure.

With up to 1,000 retail staff on duty, the Bentall Centre is, without doubt, a lively and busy place to be. It goes without saying, that the safety and security of its shoppers and staff is paramount.

Therefore, in 2006 The Bentall Centre invested in an innovative tenant communication and security system that has transformed the way the centre manages its security, ensuring it meets industry regulations as well as operating efficiently and effectively.

Central to the Centre’s operation is the ‘Shop Alert’ system which covers every one of the 85 units – shops, cafes, restaurants – in the centre. This sophisticated security regime involves a team of 15 full-time contract security under the watchful eye of centre director Bob Ritchie.
At the retailer end the Shop Alert system features a small black box with a key pad and display screen fitted in a readily accessible location and connected to a dedicated computer and software package in the centre’s control room.

This facilitates quick and easy two-way communication between the retail staff and the security team. Its benefits mean retail staff are fully engaged in the system – they like the way it works, the ease of use, the reassurance it offers. At the same time, it enables security staff to work more efficiently and responsively to any security issues or alerts.

Key features are:
• Communication and major incident management – instant messaging between the security team and retailers
• Security management – intruder monitoring, including each tenant’s intruder alarm and disabled assistance alerts
• Guard Tour – security, cleaning and maintenance staff location identification and pre-set tour completion logging.

Key benefits are:
• Communication with retailers in response to anything from a lost child, to forged bank notes and stolen credit cards, is instant, discrete and accountable. The arrival at the loading bay by customers collecting bulky items by car can also be advised so that shop staff can respond immediately.
• Simple one touch silent requests for assistance in the event of an incident within the shop provides complete peace of mind for retail staff
• Fast, interactive major incident management software operationally proven to greatly reduce the time taken to search for suspicious packages and if necessary evacuate the centre
• Quick and smooth evacuation of the centre if necessary – typically six minutes to evacuate 30,000 people from The Bentall Centre.

Importantly, security staff resources are concentrated where they are needed. For example, retailers not responding to a centre alert can be followed up while other members of the security team deal with the issue to hand.

In some shopping centres, evacuation may not involve the entire centre. Such is the sophistication of the system, phased evacuations are possible and indeed, shop managers can be advised to ‘invacuate’ – marshal shoppers and staff to the back of a unit to avoid an incident taking place in the shopping centre mall area.

Retail staff turnover can often be high – it’s the nature of the retail business. And for this reason, it’s important the tenant communication system – while extremely clever and intuitive – is easy to use and readily understood by new staff coming in.
Training, led by the security team, is foremost at the centre – every new member of retail staff is taken through how the system operates, the processes involved, the advantages it delivers to both them and their customers.

All of which reduces not only administration but also fosters positive relationships across the centre between retailers and the security team which supports them consistently throughout the year.

The Shop Alert system is installed at over 50 shopping centres across the UK.

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