Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee has announced the rollout of a new Retail Security team to help "defuse situations" and "protect the safety of both Hy-Vee customers and employees."
The security force deployment comes as stores around the U.S. are looking for ways to crack down on the growing problem of retail theft, a problem that now costs them on average $700,000 per $1 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Foundation industry group.
"Hy-Vee Retail Security officers will be present in Hy-Vee stores during operating hours. These officers, many of whom come from a law enforcement background, are specially trained to defuse situations and equipped to protect the safety of both Hy-Vee customers and employees," the company said in a statement. "The officers have been through training designed by Hy-Vee retail security leaders alongside law enforcement partners."
A video released by Hy-Vee shows men and women walking the aisles of its stores and interacting with customers while dressed in all-black clothing with "Hy-Vee Security" emblazoned on their vests.
"Hy-Vee has a strong history of doing anything for our customers, and these officers will be held to that same standard," Jeremy Gosch, Hy-Vee’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "These officers will help provide another layer of safety and security for our customers, and will work alongside our store employees to deliver the same helpful smiles and outstanding service everyone expects at their local store."
The company says officers are already monitoring some stores while others are in training -- and that the company is actively looking to hire more.
Hy-Vee operates more than 285 stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin – and earns sales of more than $12 billion annually, it added.
The guards aren’t the only measures that supermarkets are taking to combat retail theft.
At a Safeway supermarket in San Francisco, automatic gates reportedly have been installed to block potential thieves from quickly fleeing the store with shopping carts of goods.
The same store also added barriers around its self-checkout area – creating only one exit -- blocked off empty checkout aisles and placed a large display of water bottles in front of its entire side entrance, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Like other local businesses, we are working on ways to curtail escalating theft to ensure the wellbeing of our employees and to foster a welcoming environment for our customers. Their safety remains our top priority," Wendy Gutshall, director of public and government affairs for Safeway’s Northern California Division, said in a statement to the newspaper. "These long-planned security improvements were implemented with those goals in mind."