Retail security is a term with two very different and distinct meanings in the retail environment. In one aspect, retail security is an outdated and understated term for a critical sales support function. In the early years of the profession, most companies called this aspect of the workforce the “Security” or “Protection” department. Security teams served as a real and visible force to combat losses in the stores. Uniformed guards would stand at the doors or walk the selling floors. Undercover security agents were eventually brought on to catch shoplifters. Security managers coordinated these efforts, and also handled internal theft issues. Programs typically assumed a reactive and one-dimensional approach; responding to issues as they occurred and working to keep the stores safe and secure. Unfortunately, while this reactionary approach was often expected and requested by retail leadership, it was not conducive to true retail success.

Over the years, responsibilities continued to increase, and these departments were looked at in a different way. It became increasingly apparent that in order to benefit the overall organization the industry would have to evolve, embracing the concepts of retail shrink reduction and incorporating concepts critical to the retail culture.

The term loss prevention was cultivated from the philosophical and cultural changes to this approach. It was a means to reflect our evolving strategies to prevent all types of losses while enhancing the retail business plan. The significance was to move beyond the strategic changes; voicing the message that the industry was moving forward and embracing a place as part of the successful business model. Some programs chose to call their programs “Asset Protection” or “Profit Protection,” further emphasizing that their purpose was to protect the entire multitude of assets associated with running the business—and not just responding to retail theft.

Today, retail security more appropriately identifies a form of protection that creates a separation or dissuades vulnerability between retail assets and potential threats to those assets. These separations are generally the various tools, controls, and approaches used to protect vulnerable and valuable retail assets—whether our merchandise, customers, employees, facilities or other assets—by deterring harmful or malicious behavior and/or increasing customer and employee safety.

There are many different types of precautions that retail organizations will take to guard against crimes, losses, and other threats to the business. For example, this might include physical tools such as locks, EAS tags, fire exits, or security caches. It might involve technology such as CCTV video surveillance and various retail alarm systems. It may also include a particular strategy or approach such as the hardening of our facilities, executive protection plans, information protection, or certain aspects of a crisis management strategy.

In addition to the various internal measures implemented to safeguard these resources, retailers will often partner with subject matter experts and solution providers from sources outside of the company that provide these tools or specialize in a particular area of expertise to enhance these security efforts and maintain service and protection. These partners may include public services, but most often involve vendor partners that are contracted to serve the needs of the retail organization.

Effective management of the tools, practices, partnerships, and protection strategies should be integrated into a successful loss prevention plan. A balanced and proactive approach to retail security efforts typically provides the best and most efficient results.

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