Loss prevention is probably the most schizophrenic of all retail jobs. Its personalities are numerous and its masters are manifold. Loss prevention salary and job responsibilities vary. Even the titles are different. Some refer to themselves as loss prevention, others asset and profit protection, and still others as security managers. An increasing number are identified as business risk executives, looking after the broader range of issues to include business continuity, brand protection, and the health and safety of thousands of workers and customers. This may even include those customers who enter a store with the sole intent of instigating a malicious slip-and-trip claim.
In turn, they may report to the security team, HR, legal, finance, operations, property, and ultimately, the board. Even if they do not have direct reporting lines to these departments, their responsibilities touch every individual—from the customers to the chief executive.
As their businesses evolve across continents and into areas to include online and mobile payments, the responsibilities of the loss prevention team evolve as well. Indeed, of the many hundreds of job applications in LP that were reviewed in developing this article, a company seeking a “regional” LP manager may refer to a specific area of a country, such as London or Paris-based, for example. Or it may simply refer to a region within Western Europe.
Terminology is often subjective and business-specific, which as a result does not necessarily translate outside of that specific company. This can be the case with the larger global players that almost appear to have their own language and ways of operating. In many ways, such issues only further confuse the overall image of what a loss prevention professional does.
In addition, the role continues to evolve as the challenges morph in an ever-changing game of cat and mouse between the criminals and fraudsters and the LP practitioners and law enforcement community. Consequently, LP jobs are now being advertised to deal with issues that simply did not exist five or ten years ago.
Back then, the predominant personalities in the LP role were former senior-ranking law enforcement or military officers, many of whom had taken retirement in their forties and fifties. These were highly sought-after individuals – and still are to a large extent—because of their close connection with the police, their inside knowledge of how investigations are carried out, and an experienced understanding of how the criminal mind works. At that time, and to a lesser extent now, success in retail loss prevention was measured by how many arrests were made.
However, with Europe-wide reductions in police responses to shop thefts, the effectiveness of this strategy has been somewhat reduced. Officers rarely attend incidents in-store, and LP personnel are expected to deliver gift-wrapped packages of evidence to the police in cases of crimes that are current, or through Action Fraud in the instances of more complex fraud cases.
Technology as a Game-Changer
Although there is still a role for physical security with stores employing guard companies to provide a door deterrent, technology is now also stepping up to the plate with CCTV podiums at the front of stores to replace guards and store detectives patrolling the aisles.
There is also evidence of more paper and evidence-based audit trails—the so-called gift-wrapped cases that police can prosecute, resources permitting.
Depending upon the online presence and footprint of the retailer, the types of jobs sought can now differ significantly to match this demand—from physical security personnel to more analytical roles—those who are able to map the crime to meet the requirements of securing a successful prosecution. This development has hugged the contours of the changing landscape and topography of crime. There is a shift from external store threats to online and omni-channel fraud where account takeovers and bogus identities are the order of the day, and the perpetrators are “virtual.”
To meet these challenges, more and more LP professionals have, in many instances, come from more of an operational retail background than that of traditional retail security. These analysts dedicate a lot of time to monitoring online auction sites and increasingly, social media, where stolen merchandise is offered for sale. For many retailers, there is still a divide between the physical LP role and the online fraud analysts, with both reporting separately to the finance team.
Like the physical roles looking after stores and distribution centers, these jobs have now also spread across Europe along with the retailer’s own footprint, which sets its own challenges.
Recruitment agencies argue that the job shift has moved from the physical to the virtual, with more jobs identified for those with information systems skills than traditional investigative ability. However, with the move into more European territories, there is still plenty of demand for conventional LP.
Disparity in Loss Prevention Salary Statistics
So what are the new challenges? According to a number of recruitment agencies, the salaries have remained the same despite the new demands, and Europe is seen as being done in haste.
A 2014 analysis of the loss prevention salary scales puts regional LP staff based in the UK at an average salary of €43,000 (~ $48,000); whereas in other areas of Europe there were similar jobs on offer in Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Spain at an average of between €45,000 and €50,000 (~ $50,500-56,000). However, there were also a number of anomalies in the analysis, with one major retailer offering €46,000 (~ $51,600) for a global LP role.
Interestingly, as the analysis points out, the demand is high for special skills that command higher salaries. Those looking for experienced fraud analysts were prepared to offer around €60,000 (~ $67,300). These jobs would not have existed a decade ago.
There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that the hourly rates for security guards are much higher in Europe, which is highly influenced by whether or not they are deployed by U.K.-based companies seeking to expand there.
“Europe as a whole does not get LP. It is not something that has figured highly in their recruitment,” said Alison Miller, formerly of Churchill’s Recruitment, which specializes in LP and security jobs.
“We have recruited for roles to cover Poland, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands, and Belgium. Many retailers are recruiting from the U.K. for people to work across a number of territories,” Miller explained.
“This is because while they are moving into Europe, for some there are not yet enough stores for the retailer to invest in stand-alone, in-country LP,” she said.
“Companies that have a strong presence in countries such as France and have expanded into Poland and Germany are now starting to require dedicated teams in those territories,” she added. While knowledge of the language is critical in these markets, Miller argues it will be a long time before the structures present in the U.K. stretch across Europe.
Raising the Bar
Despite this rather piecemeal approach, there is a move towards greater professionalization among the LP community as a way of raising the bar and developing qualifications that make it a real career choice, with a clear developmental trajectory and loss prevention salary pay grades to match.
One such example is the introduction of the Loss Prevention Foundation LPQualified (LPQ) and LPCertified (LPC) certifications in the U.K. and into Europe. The certifications have been present in the U.S. for years, and European retailers and individual LP practitioners have welcomed its entry into the market.
Such developments will help change the face of LP and help it gain greater recognition within the businesses that they serve. Currently, there are pockets of excellent practice in LP with cross-functional responsibilities intended to reduce losses. However, increasing qualifications and the adoption of intelligence-led investigations are recognized as an industry-wide “game changer” that will help reduce the schizophrenia endured by those operating in the field of loss prevention.
This article was originally published in LP Magazine EU in 2014 and was updated March 8, 2017.