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The holidays are an invaluable time for small business owners. From jewelry and clothing to home decor, baked goods, and more, shoppers are eager to support their friends and neighbors by purchasing gifts from local businesses whenever possible. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also marked by an uptick in crime.

Here, Ann Williams, CEO and founder of Nashville-based jewelry company Yearly Co., shares six essential safety tips to help small business owners to protect their property and employees through the holiday season and beyond.

Tip 1: Start or join a text network with neighboring business owners.

Many small businesses are housed within shopping centers or in communities with neighboring businesses. For Ann, Yearly Co.’s brick-and-mortar location sits next to a collection of women-owned businesses, and the group has formed a text chain to share alerts should something nefarious happen.

“Having a text network with other shop owners alerts people very quickly if something has happened,” Williams shared. “Talking more about anything that has happened is an important part of what I’ve learned. People don’t share this information, but that means no one is learning what to look out for. The more I’ve talked to people, the more I’ve learned that this is happening.”

Tip 2: Connect with similar businesses locally, regionally, and nationally.

In addition to sharing honest experiences with neighboring businesses, Williams also recommends seeking out groups on social media to connect with business owners who have similar products locally, regionally, and even nationally. For her, that group is “Jewelers Helping Jewelers” on Facebook.

Often, thieves flee to a different city soon after committing a crime to target similar businesses in a new location. Sharing photos, descriptions, and details about criminal activity in Nashville could help prevent (and even catch!) criminal activity in a neighboring state.

woman's hands typing on laptop

Networking with other business owners is a crucial tool in preventing crime and even recovering stolen materials.

Tip 3: Know the warning signs.

If something feels off, it likely is. While thieves have gotten increasingly clever with their methods through the years, a few warning signs remain true and are essential to know. Perhaps the most common method is distraction, which can be accomplished in various ways.

Large groups are cause for concern, as some group members can begin asking lots of questions or acting unruly to distract employees while their companions are pocketing goods undetected. In addition, flashing wads of cash or shuffling through stacks of bills while paying is a red flag.

Tip 4: React appropriately to suspicious activity.

What should you do if you encounter one of these warning signs? Williams recommends a few ways to diffuse a situation as it unfolds. First, politely tell large groups, “we can only help two of you at a time.” If your concern continues to grow, and you become uncomfortable with someone’s behavior, announce the store is closing for lunch or closing early for the day.

“It’s always within your right as a business owner to move someone out quickly,” shared Williams. “Don’t be afraid to lock your doors and let people in as needed.”

If someone is acting suspiciously, one immediate action would be to place your body between the person and the most valuable asset. If a thief does take off with merchandise, it’s best not to chase them down for your safety.

Tip 5: Ramp up your private security.

A quality security system is imperative for small business owners all year long, though consider ramping up measures during the holiday season. Yearly Co., for example, has invested in private security to keep employees and shoppers extra safe this season. If private security is not an option, encourage anyone coming and going to use the buddy system when walking to and from cars at night.

Business owners can take plenty of other security measures to protect themselves and their merchandise — both during the holidays and all year long — from cameras to signage and more.

video surveillance sign

Security cameras are helpful, but making it extremely clear to customers that they are under surveillance goes even further to deter crimes.

“The police have told me that cameras are reactive, but you want to be proactive,” Williams added. “They talked about having signage up that tells people cameras are watching them.”

Crime can also happen after hours, so having an alarm system with loud sounds and bright lights is a quick deterrent. Yearly Co. installed a special film on exterior windows, making smashing difficult. A challenging entry coupled with a jarring alarm can be enough to stop a thief in the act.

Tip 6: Consider modern methods to track criminal activity.

Security methods are ever-changing, so it’s important to pursue modern solutions that may benefit yourself and neighboring businesses. Yearly Co. invests in Flock, a prevention tool that captures license plate information for all vehicles in the store’s vicinity. Should a plate be tied to a person of interest or someone with an outstanding warrant, police are automatically alerted to the shop’s location.

“There are a lot of ways we can protect ourselves and be more aware,” Williams said. “We have to go above and beyond with security measures and look out for each other.”

Looking for more ways to stay secure this holiday season? Read more tips HERE for keeping yourself, your home, and your purchases safe. 


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Kellie Benz
About the Author
Kellie Benz

Kellie Walton Benz is a Tennessee-based travel, food, and beverage writer eating and adventuring her way through life. When she's not in the air, she’s on the ground discovering the hidden gems in small towns and big cities around the world.