In an industry as dynamic as retail, asset protection leaders have long been faced with the daunting task of keeping pace with the changing landscape of the industry. This has never been more true than it is today.
Safeguarding company assets is no longer synonymous with simply catching shoplifters and requires a much more holistic approach to addressing retail loss. In a global marketplace, asset protection leaders must be global thinkers. Our needs, our challenges, and our responsibilities are multidimensional. This is an age where omni-channel retailing is reshaping the way that we do business, and asset protection leaders must rethink their approach to enhancing the profitability of the retail enterprise if they want to survive.
However, that doesn’t mean that we have to face the world on our own. We often talk about standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. But today it’s just as important that we stand beside those who share our interests and our passions, finding common ground to overcome our greatest business challenges. RILA’s Asset Protection Leaders Council does just that.
“When we bring together the top thought leaders in asset protection from the most progressive retailers in the world and establish a mindset of achieving shared goals, good things are going to happen,” said Lisa LaBruno, senior vice president of retail operations for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). “That’s why we launched the Asset Protection Leaders Council (APLC) six years ago. Our asset protection leaders are making a difference. By working together, we’re solving the most pressing challenges facing the industry.”
Competition drives the retail engine. But when we look under the hood, we often find that it’s the sum of many different parts that keeps things running smoothly. Occasionally, we learn that some of those parts may come from sources that we didn’t expect. There are certain areas where we shouldn’t compete with each other, and by working together we can all benefit through these innovative solutions.
“This is a transformative time in retail,” said LaBruno. “Retailers are competing for every sale, and our asset protection leaders must be true business partners. The trick is to identify areas within asset protection that are noncompetitive and ripe for collaboration. The APLC seizes those opportunities to solve common problems together for the benefit of the entire industry.”
Bringing Leaders to the Table
“The Asset Protection Leaders Council is designed to pull together retail leaders to address critical issues facing the asset protection industry in real time,” said Paul Jaeckle, LPC, vice president of asset protection at Meijer Stores and chair of the APLC. “Our approach and what we accomplish is really representative of what’s happening in the asset protection space collectively. It was created as a forum for the leaders to have collaborative discussions about the different things that are happening in the industry but without the competitive element that exists in other areas of retail.”
By focusing on research, industry-wide initiatives, benchmarking, networking, and other projects and programs that support asset protection, the APLC is finding creative ways to approach current issues and emerging trends.
Just as importantly, the APLC is providing a platform to review and discuss those issues most important to the industry and a voice to get things done. There have been discussions regarding what’s going on in the digital space. Crisis management and active-shooter situations have been deliberated. Throughout last fall’s hurricane season, the APLC discussed the top challenges facing retail organizations, shared effective solutions, and collaborated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get communities back on their feet. By identifying these industry-wide initiatives, they’re driving innovative solutions that support the asset protection agenda.
“We’ve identified common ground that’s good for everyone to talk about,” said LaBruno. “But it’s the participants’ commitment to collaboration that makes all the difference. We’re only as good as the asset protection leaders who participate.”
The APLC is fortunate to have participation from solution provider sponsors Intel Corporation, Profitect, and Zebra Technologies. These companies are leading the way through their support, and their thought leadership contributes to the overall success of the APLC.
The Power of Information
Much of the work that comes out of the APLC is used for educational purposes. By bringing together retailers from specialty, big-box, grocery, and other retail platforms to share ideas, considerable information is gathered that can be used to publish research documents, white papers, benchmarking surveys, and other resources.
There may be forums that will be pulled together or surveys generated to get a better understanding of what’s really happening in the industry and how people are reacting to specific trends. This also allows the individual leader to gain a better perspective of how their particular position compares to where the industry is headed, how to identify some of the trends that impact their business, and how to respond as a department to best support the needs of the business.
“As an industry leader involved in the process, completing the surveys and taking part in these initiatives gives you access to that information based on your participation,” said Jaeckle. “For example, if a white paper is generated based upon one of the APLC initiatives, the research that’s compiled will be provided back to you once a report is generated. That offers those participating a tremendous benefit. There have been several research documents that I’ve taken full advantage of to help modify or improve the way that we’re approaching things in my business.
“But it also provides a valuable resource to educate my executive leadership on what’s happening in our business. It offers a degree of independence under the sponsorship of RILA to further advise and educate executive leadership, providing additional information and focus on these important business topics under the guidance of a reliable source and a credible platform.”
Some of the most compelling work by the APLC is the result of a robust research agenda. Over the past three years, the APLC has teamed up with renowned academic researchers to study emerging and pressing challenges facing AP organizations. Recent projects include the following four topics.
Total Retail Loss. In partnership with Professor Adrian Beck of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, this research looks at how the retail industry understands the nature and extent of all the potential types of retail losses while developing a new definition of loss that’s a better fit for the contemporary retail landscape. This groundbreaking model is intended to help better understand the impact of current and future retail risks while making more informed choices about the utilization of increasingly scarce resources. For asset protection professionals, it provides a unique opportunity to build upon the critical role they can play in becoming true agents of change within the retail setting.
Opportunities and Challenges for Engaging Merchants in the Protection of Retail Assets. Overall, tremendous opportunity exists to improve merchant engagement in asset protection. In cooperation with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, this project highlights successful initiatives by various retailers to engage retail buyers and improve cooperative efforts between asset protection teams and merchant groups. By providing clear guidance to help ensure retail merchants are educated regarding their role in shrink prevention, we can garner the commitment and attention necessary to work collectively and improve performance.
Mobile Point-of-Sale and Loss Prevention. In cooperation with the University of Arkansas, this study on mobile technology in the retail store brings together the industry’s leading retailers, consumer product manufacturers, and solution providers to examine the potential risks of technological innovation and explore possible methods for mitigating risk. The study assesses the technological capabilities, retail store attributes, and customer attitudes and beliefs with respect to mobile point-of-sale, as well as precisely how the mobile innovation disrupts the transaction processes around which loss prevention is currently designed.
Self-Scan Technologies. In collaboration with the ECR Community Shrinkage and On-shelf Availability in Europe, the APLC kicked off the new year by once again partnering with Professor Beck to examine the impact of self-scan technologies on retail losses. Building upon Beck’s previous work on the topic and the APLC’s collaboration with the University of Arkansas, the research aims to help current and future self-scan users to better understand what these risks are and how they can be best managed moving forward to ensure they play a positive role in profit enhancement and an enjoyable experience for retail consumers. This research will further help retailers understand how the risks posed by self-scan systems can vary by type of system while offering a clearer understanding of how this might impact retail loss.