Loss prevention—also known as asset protection—is an ever-broadening, ever-growing field that has a lot to offer an entry-level job seeker. According to the Loss Prevention Foundation, the industry’s “wide spectrum of career options and tremendous potential for professional growth” make the job a rare find in today’s labor market. And the projected job growth—5 to 8 percent between 2014 and 2024—is on par with other industries, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). It’s worth a closer look. But just what does a loss prevention associate do, anyway?
Loss prevention was once primarily responsible for the physical security of a retail space. LP once used to guard exit doors and stop shoplifters. However, many people are still under the misconception that this is still the LP associate’s dominant function, which is far from the case today. Contemporary loss prevention professionals also must handle employee theft issues, data protection, safety and risk management, inventory audits, legal compliance, and matters related to organized retail crime and fraud. It’s more appropriate to say that loss prevention has evolved into a core business function that plays a crucial role in protecting the profits of the world’s largest retailers.
As an early-career associate, the loss prevention associate job description may not include all of these functions right away. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize from the outset that such responsibilities eventually fall under the domain of the loss prevention department in many organizations. If an entry-level job seeker chooses to progress and grow in an LP career, he or she will want to be aware of and conversant with all these business areas. It’s never too soon to start learning about them.
Job Titles and Responsibilities
Generally, an entry-level job title in LP is the “loss prevention associate.” However, the evolution of the field and responsibilities contained therein means that titles can change to reflect that. Alternative titles for entry-level LP jobs could include:
- Loss prevention and safety specialist
- Asset protection specialist
- Loss prevention agent
- Loss prevention security guard
- Recovery associate
Job parameters for a loss prevention associate will vary depending on the particular retail organization. However, by and large, all loss prevention associates are expected to work in harmony with the rest of the retail team to achieve store objectives for preventing theft and ensuring safety. Sometimes LP associates assist in processing inventory and merchandise returns as well.
A careful review of recent job postings for loss prevention associates on LPjobs.com—the primary job board for loss prevention postions—reveals that the role can entail some combination of the following responsibilities:
- Provide quality customer service and positive shopping experiences to deter theft.
- Respond to customer and associate incidents where safety and/or company liability may be concerned.
- Work with investigators or other LP/AP team members to investigate criminal violations and/or recover stolen merchandise.
- Monitor inventory shrinkage and follow company procedure to minimize shrink.
- Perform store surveillance as directed by management, such as maintaining focus on areas of visible shrink.
- Verify accuracy of merchandise returns.
- Prepare and maintain comprehensive and accurate documentation for inventory, merchandise returns, customer accidents, apprehensions and recoveries, and more.
- Perform minor repairs around the store.
- Learn proper safety procedures and train other store associates on these and other LP-related issues, such as inventory control processes.
- Maintain store monitoring technology and equipment.
- Review surveillance video and exception reports for possible incidents of theft or fraud.
- Understand and maintain rigorous compliance with the law and company policy regarding apprehensions, searches and seizures, and the preservation of evidence.
- Detect and apprehend shoplifters if dictated by company policy.
- Conduct safety checks and report any hazardous or unsafe activity to management on duty immediately.
- Successfully complete all asset protection/loss prevention training requirements and certification courses and keep credentials up to date.
A decade or two ago, early-career loss prevention associates did not have many educational resources available to them. They just didn’t exist. Today’s LP associates can access webinars, college programs, and even resources like LP Magazine and the certification courses through Loss Prevention Foundation to gain a better understanding about how the industry works and how LP fits into the bigger picture of business in the retail environment.
The answer to the question “What does a loss prevention associate do?” will vary, but entry-level applicants who spend time understanding the job, the retail organization, and the challenges specific to both will find a great deal of opportunity in this space.
This article was originally published in 2016 and was updated March 1, 2017.