Magazine Article | July 18, 2007

Boost Store Security, Lower Costs

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Sport Chalet saved $22,000 and improved security within the first year of changing its store locking system.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2007

Shortly following an employee termination, your IT staff and human resources department may do a good job of disabling the former employee's computer login name and password and turning off the employee's phone extension. While this may be adequate for the IT side of security, physical security is a whole other matter. For example, how can you be sure that a disgruntled former employee didn't make a copy of the store key before turning in their original key? Retailers like Sport Chalet take this question very seriously. Sport Chalet is a sporting goods retailer that has 47 stores and more than 3,000 employees. During its latest fiscal year, which ended April 1, 2007, the retailer reported $388 million in sales.

Rather than using generic store keys (i.e. keys that look similar to house keys and can be easily duplicated at any hardware store), Sport Chalet purchased high-end locks with removable cores. "The problem was that we paid a lot more money for our store locks, and it was difficult to budget for the costs," says Blue Montez, regional loss prevention manager at Sport Chalet. "Besides the initial cost of the locks, we had to pay a locksmith about $125 per hour plus parts to replace the cores, which occurred when a manager resigned or was terminated, or if a core malfunctioned or a key broke in the lock." The cost of replacing each core and buying new keys ranges from $200 to $300, according to Montez, and locksmith service calls occur an average of two times per month. 

Put Physical Security In Your Store Expansion Plans
As it was reviewing areas to cut costs and improve its store security, Sport Chalet wanted to find a better lock-and-key system for its stores. After attending a physical security trade show, the specialty retailer discovered the InstaKey locking system from InstaKey Security System. "The InstaKey locking system has the security benefits of a removable core locking system without requiring a locksmith," says Montez. "The lock core features an internal pin system that can be modified up to 12 times without removing the core, using a notched step-change key. This special key is inserted into the core and turned 180 degrees. Removing the key completes the process, rendering all previous keys in that series inoperable."

The InstaKey locking system also has key duplication fraud protection built in. Each key has a unique serial number, and it cannot be duplicated without authorization. InstaKey key blanks are not sold on the open market and are only distributed under strict licensing.

Each store receives an authorized number of keys, which is determined by the regional loss prevention manager. A set of keys includes a step-change key, master key, and a specified number of regular keys. "The cost of a packet of keys is $30, and the cost of a new InstaKey core is $34," says Montez.

Sport Chalet uses the InstaKey key management software to keep track of key users, their locations, and the specific keys they are assigned. "Through our service provider, Amphion, we provide InstaKey with a spreadsheet that shows which keys are assigned to which employees, and they enter the information into their application, which enables me to perform security audits," says Montez. "For example, I have the ability to check which employees are assigned keys to the SCUBA storage room to make sure that no one was transferred to another department and still has a SCUBA room key."

Change Your Locks, Reduce Security Expenses 75%
After pilot testing the new key system, Sport Chalet decided to install it on all new stores and has plans to update all of its existing stores with the InstaKey system. "One thing that is different with the new locking system is that store managers are now our locksmiths, so they do need training that wasn't required previously," says Montez. "Fortunately, the training can be accomplished over the phone in just a few minutes." InstaKey's Web site has additional instructions, including a video demonstration, for further assistance.

After the first year of using the new lock-and-key system, Sport Chalet realized a 75% reduction in locksmith service fees, which translated into a $22,000 cost savings. As additional store locking systems are converted to the new system, the retailer expects to save an additional $15,000 per year.

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