7 ways to improve security for pop-up retail events

August 22, 2017 - By Ray O’Hara, CPP

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Within just a few years pop-up stores have gone from edgy trend to business as usual – and sometimes very unusual business. Established brands, major retailers, and A-list celebs are collaborating, crossing over and cashing in in ever-more creative ways.  The retailing phenom now accounts for an estimated $10 billion in yearly revenue. Security professionals need to keep up and innovate – or get stuck in outdated security approaches that are increasingly irrelevant.

Urgency, new and unpredictable crowds, and viral social media: What could go wrong?

One of the things that make pop-up retailing interesting for consumers – and challenging from a security perspective – is its sense of urgency. The outlets will only be there for a limited period. The inventory is often limited, too.

Viral propagation on social media drives huge awareness and attention and further boosts the crowd growth. Fear of missing out on a good thing heightens intensity and impatience in the crowd. And when celebrities with millions of followers are involved, executive protection must also be considered alongside crowd control.

Just consider some numbers. Do you know how many celebrities have more than 20 million fans on Facebook?  Ninety-six. Let’s say one of these celebs announces his or her presence at a pop-up retail event in a major urban area via Facebook Live. And imagine if 1% of the celeb’s followers are within 10 miles of the event, and 1% of those nearby fans decide to pop over for a peek. Are you ready for 2,000 extra guests in 20 minutes?

Lessons learned: 7 ways to improve security for pop-up retail events

Through a number of pop-up security projects, we’ve learned a few things that we offer for the consideration of our friends in both the retailing and security industries. In no particular order of importance, here they are:

  1. Pop-up security requires the best of retail and event security expertise. It’s not a question of either/or – we really need both. Yes, loss prevention is critical, but crowd control is just as important, if not more. Clients need to choose security providers accordingly, and security providers need to plan accordingly.
  2. Planning is key, and those who prepare for success will be more successful. According to Bob Larkin, executive vice president – global retail at SOS Security, this is key. “We need to re-think the coordination of physical security, technology, manpower and procedures according to the opportunities and constraints of pop-ups,” he explains, “and we also must collaborate with local authorities in new ways, for example regarding the planning of street and sidewalk closures without compromising event confidentiality.” According to Larkin, pop-up planners need to involve security from the get-go and make security an integrated part of overall strategy. This should include physical walk-throughs with clients, landlords, law enforcement and all city agencies who will be affected. Such advance work pays big dividends on the pop-up’s opening day.
  3. It’s all about the brand: Security must be an integrated part of the brand experience – not contradict it. Brand owners need to consider security’s “tone of voice” as part of the brand message. Remember anything and everything security does could be filmed and online in minutes, then viral in a few more. Security officers need to remember that they, too, are a brand touch point – and should never turn into a brand flash point for guests, the media or anyone else.
  4. Social listening: Make sure security managers and officers are aware of what everyone else is. Along with the brand owners, security needs to monitor and analyze the social media buzz as it happens. Who’s talking about what, where? By employing social listening tools, event hashtags and geofencing and geo-monitoring, security can stay abreast of trends as they emerge.
  5. Gather intel on-site: Deploy undercover agents that fit into the crowd to interact and hear what is being discussed. This can provide critical, real-time intelligence.
  6. Choose the right people: Security officers working pop-ups must be emotionally intelligent, trained in de-escalation and versatile. Not just anyone can do the job. You want people who know how to deal with upset people and pull the plug on highly-charged situations instead of ramping them up.
  7. Build in scalability: Staffing must be able to scale rapidly to accommodate sudden crowd growth. This should be part of staffing plans – and budgets. Have contingency plans and budgets ready.

What do you think about event security for pop-up retailing? Any experience you want to share?

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash



Ray O’Hara, CPP

Executive Vice President

Prior to entering the corporate security sector in the late 1970s, Ray was a supervising detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. He led corporate security for Weyerhaeuser and GTE, and headed Garda World Security Corporation’s (formerly Vance) security consulting and investigations projects worldwide.

Ray has served ASIS in numerous capacities: Chairman of the Board and President of the International Board of Directors; President of the Professional Certification Board; and Chair of the ASIS International Investigations Council. Board certified in security management by ASIS International, Ray is considered a risk and vulnerability expert, and is a sought-after consultant in business vulnerabilities, homeland security initiatives, terrorism and political threats.