New Problems, Fresh Opportunities—LP Readies to Rise to the Occasion

Industry's big gathering in Dallas comes at critical juncture

Sponsored by NRF PROTECT

As retail undergoes broad transformation, it’s not surprising that loss prevention is embroiled in a sea change of its own.

Bob Moraca

With essential shrink challenges as dynamic as ever, LP executives also face new sets of problems, old problems getting worse, as well as fresh opportunities to provide value to retail organizations, according to Robert “Bob” Moraca, CPP, CFE, MBA, vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, which hosts NRF PROTECT, the nation’s largest retail and restaurant loss prevention conference, June 11—13 in Dallas. “Shrink and averting losses is what LP is built upon, but we’re now expanding into other value-added areas and creating a positive impact on our companies in other ways,” explained Moraca (right).

Cyber Security and Investigations

The conference will help arm LP professionals with insights, tools, and connections to embrace those value opportunities—and to manage today’s widening risk landscape. The list is long and varied, and includes subjects as diverse as sexual harassment, violence prevention, and cyber security, which Moraca said is emerging as a top issue for retailers. “Absolutely no one wants to be the next big headline,” he said. The subject is being addressed in depth at NRF PROTECT, including in a main stage keynote presentation by Theresa Payton, former White House Chief Information Officer and star of the CBS TV series, Hunted.

The extent to which LP teams are involved in helping retailers navigate cyber risks varies considerably, according to data from a new NRF survey that will be released at the show. It finds that while LP and IT departments are often in close consultation, there is also ample opportunity for some LP teams to partner more closely with IT departments, with 15 percent of LP respondents acknowledging they’re uninvolved in cyber security.

While it’s uncommon for LP to assume the lead role in devising cyber protection, once there is a breach, the investigative expertise that LP brings to the table is critical, according to Moraca. And, while IT is adept at the technical safeguards, retail organizations need to lean on LP to place cyber risks and protection in proper context. “Someone needs to think through how it impacts loss and the bottom line—and that’s the expertise of LP,” said Moraca.

By taking advantage of education opportunities like those at NRF PROTECT, LP leaders are moving toward a more indispensable role in data and network protection—from just a seat at the table to more active engagement when retailers are investing in new systems. It’s especially critical as stores become more technology-driven and automated, suggested Moraca. Cyber experts may have the technical knowledge, but retailers need LP to provide counsel on how technologies are likely to be used—and misused—in real-world applications. “All kinds of technology and innovation exists but somebody has to be there to help retail organizations think through the risks and ramifications.”

Violence Prevention and De-escalation

Building on the success of a workshop at last year’s show, this year’s NRF PROTECT will feature a deeper dive into the issue of violence prevention—an old concern that is nonetheless becoming more worrisome today. NRF surveys find LP practitioners reporting a significant uptick in store violence over the past 18 to 24 months. “We’ve always told our people to not resist so no one gets injured, but how does that fit with organized retail crime today? There is a level of violence—with gangs swarming in and menacing workers and punching cashiers—that we’ve never really seen before,” said Moraca.

In such a heightened threat environment, it’s important to provide store associates with the specific tools they need to de-escalate threatening situations and to manage agitated and aggressive customers. Macy’s will be on hand at NRF PROTECT to walk attendees through their implementation of Vistelar’s Verbal Defense and Influence training program, which was initially created to train law enforcement and has now been adapted for the private sector and made available to retailers with the help of NRF. “It’s a good success story, where the problem was identified, a program was put in place, and now we’re starting to realize the benefits—and Macy’s will share how they’ve made it work,” explained Moraca.

Handling Sexual Harassment

Finally, while goings-on in the entertainment industry or government may seem a world away, retailers are also feeling reverberations from the #MeToo movement. And here, too, LP has an important new role to play, as a force multiplier in corporate investigations and a leader in cooperative efforts with law enforcement if necessary. “LP brings to the table investigative integrity, and that is critical in any case where someone harasses someone in a way that pushes the case outside of just HR,” said Moraca. Featuring a real-world case study and interactive solutions sharing, NRF PROTECT will be tackling the emerging issue in an education session, “Handling Sexual Harassment: A Fresh Perspective.”

While the list of new and growing challenges is daunting, LP executives don’t need to go it alone. Networking remains at the heart of NRF PROTECT, and in the show’s Fusion Center—”The jewel of the EXPO floor,” said Moraca—”LP executives can explore partnering opportunities with federal, state, and local law enforcement, coalitions and community alliances, and shopping mall operators. “Criminals don’t draw any boundaries, so it makes great sense for retailers to partner with as many outside forces as possible,” he noted.

In all, there are more than a dozen networking events at NRF PROTECT, such as the NRF/ORC Investigators’ Network Meeting, a Women in LP luncheon, a Food Retailer breakfast, and the “Executive Afternoon” program, specifically designed for senior-level loss prevention and asset protection professionals. “It still impresses the heck out of me how open and candid the information sharing is during this program,” said Moraca, adding that the conference’s attention to expanding networking opportunities is a response to conference attendee feedback and certain financial realities. “People who know me have heard me say it many times before—because it’s absolutely true: Your net worth is determined by your network.”

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