Research Paper: Security Components of a Retail Sporting Goods Store

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Security components of a retail sporting goods store: Bass Pro-Shop, Inc.

Today, many Americans are becoming increasingly obese as a result of changes in lifestyle that have contributed to more sedentary habits at work and play. These trends make the continuing success of sporting goods companies such as Bass Pro-Shops all the more intriguing and worthy of study. One of the biggest challenges facing such retail growth industries is the need for in-store security to prevent customer and employee theft, as well as to ensure secure transactions for their online catalog sales. This paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed, scholarly and online organizational resources to identify, detail, and outline security components that will, can, and are currently being used in a retail sporting goods store, a Bass Pro-Shop outlet, with both catalog and online sales. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Today, an increasing number of manufacturers and sellers of outdoor recreation equipment have targeted a higher-end market for their more expensive sporting goods products (Michman & Greco, 1998). These authors report that such share a number of common operational methods including "targeting a particular market segment of consumers, carrying a wide assortment of merchandise, and offering services deemed important by their customers such as an experienced sales force, delivery, repair, alterations, demonstrations, and special orders" (Michman & Greco, p. 121). This approach to sporting goods marketing is congruent with Bryan's (2001) observation that, "The message is that buying high quality and refined equipment insures not only rapid proficiency, but also high recognition and status" (p. 344). In this regard, one of the industry leaders in high-quality sporting goods sales is Bass Pro-Shops, established in 1972 and voted the number one "Outdoor Retailer in America" by Sporting Goods Business magazine in 2007 (by the numbers, 2008). According to the company's promotional literature, "With its Outdoor World, Sportsman's Warehouse, Sportsman's Center and World Wide Sportsman super stores, Bass Pro-Shops has established itself as a prime destination for the outdoor enthusiast. Almost invariably, Bass Pro-Shops retail stores rank among the top tourist attractions in their respective states" (Company overview, 2008, p. 4). As Bryan emphasizes, though, the retailer's name should not mislead prospective customers into thinking the company's stores only feature bass fishing supplies, but rather cater to the entire spectrum of outdoor sporting activities. As this author points out, "The industry offers other examples as well, a most notable one being Bass Pro-Shops, which has increasingly promoted specialized, high quality equipment across a number of sports, not just to the estimated 30 million bass anglers in this country" (Bryan, p. 344).

The company's retail outlets are widely known for their expansive qualities, and most feature a specialty attraction such as large aquaria (Stewart, 2000) or even lakes in which customers can fish and mountains that visitors can climb to test out their newly purchased equipment (Hepner, 2001). In fact, each store devotes almost 40% of its retail space to interpretive areas that provide information concerning the conservation, education and history of the area in which each retail store is situated and experiences more than 100,000,000 cumulative visits a year throughout its retail chain (by the numbers, 2008). As the company enthuses, "Impressive indoor waterfalls, giant aquariums, wildlife mounts, delicious food and more make each Bass Pro-Shops store a must-see attraction for the sporting family" (Company overview, p. 5). The company also supplements its brick-and-mortar retailing efforts with a substantive catalog presence across the country as well (Mueller, 1998) and receives more than two-and-a-half million visits to its corporate Web site each month (by the numbers). According to the company's promotional literature, "Today, Bass Pro-Shops is the world's leading outdoor retailer; in addition to operating stores, the company makes its products and services available to customers via high-quality catalogs and a truly dynamic website" (Company overview, pp. 5-6).

Not surprisingly, security issues represent a fundamental area of concern for the managers of such sporting goods stores in general and following the post-September 11, 2001 environment in particular, especially in view of the wide range of powerful firearms, ammunition, other types of weapons (including knives, machetes, and archery equipment) and high-tech devices such as infrared night goggles and high-powered scopes that are available at these sporting good outlets (Gerstein, 2005). Likewise, most large sporting goods stores such as Bass Pro-Shop also sell black powder, becoming a ready source of homemade bomb-building supplies (Schlosser, 1998).

Clearly, although intended to be an uplifting and positive experience for customers, a visit to any Bass Pro-Shop's open, multi-story and spacious store design quickly reveals that these retail stores are full of potentially dangerous materials and equipment; however, the security considerations for sporting goods retailers do not end there of course but rather extend to visitor and employee theft in general as well, as well security considerations for their online sales as well. As to Bass Pro-Shop's current in-store security procedures, the company is understandably tight-lipped about what specific security procedures and processes are in place, but the expansive areas that characterize the company's stores are carefully designed to provide vertical circulation paths that are conducive to both customer flow as well as extensive video surveillance (pers. obs.). Based on empirical observations of Bass Pro-Shop's operations in four of the company's retail stores over the years, including the flagship outlet in Springfield, Missouri, it is also apparent that these stores typically feature both plainclothes and uniformed security and a decent ratio of uniformed sales personnel to customers to promote in-store security (pers. obs.).

Beyond these more obvious security procedures, the company's has implemented a comprehensive wireless local area network that uses handheld computers to help provide improved security for both its retail and catalog sales. According to a case study by the device's manufacturer, Intermec, "Bass Pro-runs a million-square-foot distribution center in Springfield through which all their merchandise flows. To manage every aspect of merchandise movement, Bass Pro-employs two hundred Intermec wireless handheld computers using Intermec wireless LAN access points throughout the distribution center. Intermec handhelds and access points also are used in every Outdoor World retail store" (Unique retail adventure, innovative RF solution, 2008, p. 3). The Intermec wireless system allows Bass Pro-Shop to track every piece of merchandise in real time: "Their tens-of-thousands of SKUs are logged into the warehouse management system when they arrive and are tracked throughout the warehouse as they're put away, picked, placed in totes, and moved onto trucks for delivery to the stores" (Unique retail adventure, p. 4).

The aforementioned Intermec wireless system is also used to track every single piece of merchandise in the company's online order fulfillment process as well (Unique retail adventure). According to the Intermec case study, "While workers can track goods at the pallet and box level, totes are the basic unit at the distribution center. They use the plastic totes to consolidate items for... Web orders [and] one tote is used per shipment. Each tote has its own unique bar code tag and every item in the tote is associated with it by a simple scan of the tags" (Unique retail adventure, p. 4). Managers are therefore able to monitor cumulative merchandise movements in real time as well as employee productivity in the company's distribution center as well as in its retail outlets using this system (Unique retail adventure). In this regard, the Intermec case study emphasizes that, "In the store, Intermec handhelds are the key tool for merchandise management, allowing store managers to conduct sophisticated inventory and sales analysis on the spot. Merchandising specialists can check prices, item sales volumes, inventory levels at the store, or locate items not in the store" (Unique retail adventure, p. 4).

As to security procedures for their online catalog sales, the company reports that, "Bass Pro-Outdoors Online, L.L.C. has implemented a variety of encryption and security technologies and procedures to protect information stored in our computer systems from unauthorized access" (Privacy and security statement, 2008, p. 3). These encryption and security technologies are provided by the e-business security firm, nuBridges (Best practices in encryption, 2008). Taken together, these sophisticated approaches to merchandise processing, movement and handling in the Bass Pro-Shop's retail and catalog sales outlets suggests that the company will readily embrace future innovations in-store and online security management as well.

Conclusion

The research showed that while some sporting goods stores are struggling to survive in the Age of Information, the Bass Pro-Shop approach to marketing has proven highly effective and the company has emerged from its humble beginnings four decades ago to become the nation's leading sporting goods retailer today. The research also showed that the company did not get where it did today by letting its customers and employees pilfer its merchandise willy-nilly, but rather was the result of carefully considered and implemented security procedures and processes that are unobtrusive and do not detract from the visitor's shopping experience, but do provide the company with the level of security needed to remain competitive in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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