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Retail Best Practices: Promoting Safe Locations for Customers and Employees

By Krisha Brooks, GMR

Whether the facility is a restaurant or retail storefront, owners and managers can agree sufficient lighting plays a key role in exterior facility safety. On a superficial level, lighting plays a significant role in presenting a warm and inviting storefront for customers. However, from a personnel, customer and branding standpoint, having adequate lighting in place that is regularly maintained, inspected and positioned makes an important difference towards alleviating safety and liability concerns.

There are a variety of factors to consider when establishing an optimized safety strategy for retail facilities. While there are situations beyond anyone’s control, decision makers should adhere to the following best practices:

Lighting Approval Process
Most retail shopping centers are managed by a landlord or property management team and, when situations arise, they are responsible for updates and improvements to the property. It’s important to allow sufficient time for various approval processes should lighting or security capabilities need attention.

Customer Safety and Visibility
It’s important to ensure that customers enter a place of business and feel they have a clear sense of their environment. To that end, keeping surrounding areas of a business clear from obstructions, such as overgrown foliage, clutter or large signs, is important to deter criminals from the opportunity to be concealed. Sightlines should be clear so customers can easily see if they are being approached and can take appropriate action.

Maintenance and Visual Appeal
Businesses work to create inviting drive ups and attractive environments for their customers, and the majority of first impressions begin in the parking lot. The configuration of lighting fixtures should be reviewed on a regular basis and light levels should be designed to be uniform across the parking lot.

Brighter lights mixed with dull lights can relay a poor impression on customers. Likewise, positioning fixtures in a way that creates “light islands,” with vast surrounding swaths of dark and shadows, is not recommended. In addition, exterior lighting fixtures should be regularly cleaned and maintained so they are as bright as possible.

Lighting Types
The type of lighting used can make an important difference from a visibility and safety standpoint. LED implementations have gained popularity in recent years and can help make lighting more efficient from an operational, cost and maintenance standpoint.

LED also provides a sense of uniformity and is recommended to improve overall efficiency and performance. Traditional lighting techniques offer unfortunate drawbacks. For instance, metal halide fixtures that are typical for retail lots can degrade significantly over time and might be hard to detect until complete failure. Fluorescent lighting can be impacted by extreme temperatures and attract insects, which can create a nuisance for customers.

Regardless of the location of a storefront, lighting is a primary component to support the safety of both patrons and personnel. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America http://www.iesna.org/ has outlined lighting regulations as a guidance to ensure an ample amount of light is being utilized according to the site usage. Business owners should be aware of these recommendations so they can ensure that property management is in adherence.

Inspecting visibility, functionality, maintenance and lighting design on a consistent basis can be the difference between a positive customer experience and a negative review that can impact the business.  After all, in the era of social media, “word-of-mouth” has been taken to an entire new level and an unpleasant experience can be shared rapidly.

To mitigate liability and unfortunate situations, proprietors are advised to ensure all reasonable measures have been taken to maintain customer and employee safety. The ability to present detailed records of regular site inspections is a key component of this process. Should an incident ever occur, having this documented data can help to better protect a business from potential lawsuits or other legal entanglements.

With storefronts seeking to ensure an inviting experience with minimum criminal activity taking place, lighting should be kept top of mind. Ultimately, retail facilities want to create a location that supports the safety of everyone. While being visually pleasing is a residual benefit, lighting also plays an essential role in safety and should be top of mind for owners and renters. This will in turn result in sustained positive relationships with customers and employees.

Krisha Brooks is VP of engineering services for GMR, a national provider of security lighting design, branding and compliance expertise. To learn more visit, GMR1.com.


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