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Product Knowledge
August/September 2011

Shop front security

without losing appeal

The installation of security equipment can often hinder the visual appeal of a shop front. Experts therefore advise to take the design of the shop front into consideration when installing/reinforcing new or existing security systems*
Shop front security

Not all security measures directly influence the design of a shop front. A good security system may comprise of a whole range of possibilities, depending on its intended purpose, whether for burglary or vandalism during strikes or looting. Possible measures may include door and window lock reinforcement, prevention of access via the roof, side or rear, sensor alarms, CCTV, security lights and interior/exterior lighting.

Other forms of security include installing “street furniture” such as bollards, pillars and railings as deterrents to ramming.

Shatterproof or reinforced glass and sensors linked to windows and CCTV cameras are some of the most visually unobtrusive security measures as it aims to maximise surveillance opportunities, without affecting the overall appearance of the shop front. Unlike other security measures, no additional installations or fixings are required and no planning consent is required to install these systems.

Glass and windows

Laminated glass, produced by combining two or more sheets of glass with one or more layers of polyvinyl butryal (PVB), is one of the most visually acceptable forms of window security and it will not break easily.

Toughened glass is heat treated and can be made up to 5 times stronger than ordinary glass — but cannot be cut or drilled on site. It is the most effective and expensive form of reinforced glass for shop front window protection.

Laminated or toughened glass is usually the first solution to be considered, particularly for older shop fronts that still have the original glass that may break relatively easily with minimal impact.

Anti-shatter film is tough, transparent and relatively easy to apply to existing glazing and is cheaper than replacing windows with laminated or toughened glass. Its main benefit is in holding shards of glass together when a window is broken. It also adds some resistance, which may help to foil smash-and-grab raids. Anti-shatter film, however, is not as effective as laminated glass.

The advantage of thick laminated or toughened glass is that it can absorb ultraviolet light which can damage displayed goods, according to the Shop Front Security Design Guide by

Shop fronts with smaller panes of glass can be more difficult to break into than modern extensive areas of glazing.

The introduction, or reinstatement, of glazing bars, mullions and stall risers provide greater strength to a shop window or door and, when used together with strengthened glass, can provide sufficient protection for most shop fronts. Smaller panes of glass are also cheaper to replace.

Where appropriate, window mullions can be strengthened with metal T-sections. It is advisable to contact the council before carrying out such work, as they may require planning permission or building consent.

Grilles and shutters

Grilles and shutters, both internal and external, enable window shopping or passive surveillance of the premises from the street. The ideal location for a shutter is behind the window display area.

Internal perforated, trellis, brick bond or lattice roller shutters that sit behind the shop window provide a visible form of security measure and should not compromise the external appearance of the shop. Subject to design, internal security shutters do not generally require planning permission.

External grilles offer similar advantages, though they will be more noticeable and therefor usually require planning permission. Once mounted, well designed security grilles should visually enhance the appearance of the shop front.

Closed, or solid type external shutters are generally not advised as they create a dead frontage to a shop when they are rolled down, provide a potential for graffiti and in the case of a break-in, the closed shutter provides a screen to conceal criminal activities from public view.

“One of the only prohibitions Canal Walk enforces is the use of roller-shutters as they have proven terribly unsuccessful in the past,” says Vanessa Herbst, marketing manager for Canal Walk Shopping Centre.

It is generally agreed that a security gate or shutter should not block the window display from the outside view. Similarly the gate/shutter should not prohibit light from entering or exiting the windows. If your store has a successful window display, it would be in your best interest to be able to showcase your display, as this is one of your most important advertising platforms — even after hours (see window displays tips in the June/July issue of Sports Trader). When light is allowed through the window, the chances of criminal activity being spotted is enhanced as well.

Depending on the building site, railings or gates may be appropriate to protect private frontages. If designed sympathetically to the building, gates in front of recessed doorways can enhance the overall appearance of the shop front as well.

Shop fronts with a stall riser can further protect the shop front from ram raiding and will prevent vehicles from crashing through a shop front by reinforcing or installing a new or existing stall riser.

A good security system should provide a barrier against any intruders who wish to enter the premises whilst still respecting the overall design of the building and shop front.

Police reports have shown that street view shop fronts that allow passers-by to see the inside of the shop, are more effective than systems that obstruct the view into the store. Taking the entire shop front design into consideration when installing or reinforcing security systems will almost always pay off, as the visual appeal of the shop front will remain intact whilst your customers’ and staffs’ sense of safety will be enhanced.

* See the article on elements of a shop front (published in SA Sports Trader June/July 2011) to read about shop front design tips.

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