Securing a Healthy Shopping Centre Environment

What are security officers doing to keep shoppers safe during a health crisis?

Local restrictive measures will remain in some form or another for the foreseeable future and as these restrictions continue to fluctuate depending on local Covid rates and the tier system, shopping centre managers will continue to take the necessary steps to keep people safe. While their doors are open, security officers will be doing their bit to protect people, and their presence will be essential to re-assuring visitors that every precaution is being taken to provide them with a Covid-safe shopping experience.

The evolving role of the Security Officer

The role of the security officer has undoubtedly evolved as a result of the pandemic. The primary aim of protecting people and businesses remains, but the measures necessary to perform these tasks are now so much broader. Effective communications with customers and retailers remain key, helping shoppers to feel safe and comfortable with new regimes and protocols, but without adding fear or diminishing the customer experience. When restrictions are lifted, and footfalls rise again, ensuring the shopping environment is protected whilst offering a welcoming, friendly and helpful presence will help to restore public confidence.

The officers who welcome customers are brand representatives for the shopping centre and require all the skills of front of house staff. Gone are the stereotypical domineering security officers, instead they are friendly approachable. In addition to their day-to-day security duties, Axis Security officers are on-hand to guide and offer assistance to shoppers, and to effectively communicate Covid safety standards set by centre managers, this can include:

  • Proactively encouraging visitors to us the QR code for track and trace;

  • Ensuring sanitising dispensers are topped up for use around the centre and encouraging customers to use hand sanitiser and hand washing facilities;

  • Reminding visitors to wear face coverings whilst being sensitive to those who may be exempt due to health issues;

  • Prompting customers to follow walkways and social distancing guidelines;

  • Managing queues and congested areas such as doorways, entrances and exits, and maintaining pedestrian and parking access for disabled shoppers;

  • Working with neighbouring businesses and local authorities to take into account the impact processes including queues may have on public spaces such as car parks and high streets;

  • Dealing with disagreements that may be encountered due to restrictions;

  • Supporting the cleaning teams by doing an extra wipe down of major touchpoints as the security officers make their patrols.

Security visibility and the professional and polite way in which officers manage customer, client and retailer requirements during this difficult time, will play an active role in encouraging high footfall.

Social distancing

Another evolution has been the increased use of technology to monitor and manage the number of people in a shopping centre at any one time. Whereas before, the technology was being used to monitor footfall and meet wider health and safety regulations, today it is helping to support ‘social distancing’.

Technology is not the only means by which social distancing is being upheld. At the Mercury Mall in Romford, for example, our team implemented a one-way system and deployed line markers to remind customers of the distances they need to maintain. Where social distancing is not possible, we have learnt the importance of face masks, which became compulsory in shops last summer. Encouraging mask wearing often comes with challenges, for example, an Axis Security officer encountered a customer who forgot their face mask when trying to enter a shopping centre, but rather than turn this person away, potentially causing frustration and embarrassment, the officer instead sought out to find a face masks for them and others to use.

Reassurance for clients, customers and officers

For our shopping centre clients, the support from Axis account managers as well as the expert advice and knowledge on hand from our Health and Safety Manager, Business Continuity and Risk Director, and Compliance Manager is a great comfort to help ensure centres’ are abiding by government guidelines, security measures are maintained and that front-line staff are cared for.

Our security officers continue to receive professional training and coaching, with many courses from The Axis Academy now delivered online to ensure that even those on remote sites receive the latest guidance. Customer and employee monthly visits also continue as normal, albeit now via a video call, nevertheless, the technology is there to allow management to interact with clients and officers to ensure that employee welfare requirements are being met and client KPI’s are maintained.

For customer and retailers, not only do these measures help keep them safe, but they also play a part in encouraging the public to return to shopping centres. While the UK economy will struggle, we are all hoping consumer confidence will return. People will still be feeling the effects of the pandemic, however, so we have a duty to help shoppers to feel safe.

Like all other key workers, security officers have and continue to remain at their posts to help protect people from not only physical threats but the invisible and ever-present risk of Covid-19. It is the security teams that are prepared to go the extra mile who add the greatest value to our shopping centre customers.