A Lifetime of Learning

bloomingdale's loss prevention

EDITOR’S NOTE: Chad McIntosh is the vice president of loss prevention and risk management for Bloomingdale’s. He has more than forty years of loss prevention experience with companies that include Macy’s, Polo Ralph Lauren, and The Home Depot. Throughout his career, McIntosh has been highly active in the loss prevention industry, supporting the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association and serving as a founding member of the Loss Prevention Research Council. He is retiring in September 2018 but looking forward to remaining active in the industry.

EDITOR: How did you get your start in loss prevention?

MCINTOSH: I started forty years ago at Woodies, or Woodward & Lothrop, as a part-time store detective—greatest job in the world. This was in Washington, DC, while I was attending the University of Maryland.

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Lew Shealy was my first real boss, and he set the foundation for me. Loss prevention was called security then, and he was the type of boss who set a standard of professionalism, excellence, and pride in what you do. He had a way of putting together an awareness campaign that always struck me, especially during the holiday season. He was one of the major voices in retail security back then.

Woodies was located near the University of Maryland, so it was kind of a college town department store. I had a great experience and some great teachers. In those days, you didn’t have a camera system. You worked the floor and made your cases from the floor, so you had to really learn how to become invisible in a department store to make those cases and be successful. I learned that from a couple of great teachers coming up through the ranks.

EDITOR: When did you decide to pursue a career in loss prevention full time?

MCINTOSH: I think a lot of us in this business have experienced this—loss prevention kind of gets into your blood. I had actually taken the civil service exam in DC, thinking that I would work for the federal government. In fact, I had some interviews with the State Department to do some security work but had at that point realized that I liked what I was doing in retail. Lew Shealy was offering me advancement opportunities, bigger jobs, more challenging jobs. And at about the same time, I fell in love with my wife of 39 years, Roxanne, who also worked at Woodies.

I was at Woodies for about eight years and then went to work at Neiman Marcus for Gary Manson, another great name in our business. He taught me about work ethic and attention to detail. Gary had a passion for what we do in loss prevention that was infectious. Not only was he a good boss, but he became a great friend as well.

EDITOR: What position did you have at Neiman Marcus?

MCINTOSH: I came on board at the time they staffed their first regional loss prevention managers. They brought four of us in at the same time. Joan Manson was one of the four. I really learned about onboarding—the process of bringing people into an organization. They spent a lot of time with us before they turned us loose. We learned a lot about the culture, about each other, as well as how to work effectively with each other. It set the standard for excellence for me. Neiman Marcus was also where I first met Ed Wolfe, who was my boss for 26 of my forty-year career. I got exposure to a lot of great training and the thought processes behind it. They are just an amazing luxury retailer.

EDITOR: After Neiman’s, you went to Home Depot, correct?

MCINTOSH: Yes, where I again worked for Ed. My first responsibility in that organization was to develop their initial training program and establish soup-to-nuts how we trained LP supervisors. Ed taught me how to think big, to look beyond just the obvious. One of his challenges to me and anybody working for him was that whatever you take on, whatever you do, you should distinguish yourself in that process and get recognized for your efforts and what you put together.

In looking at my career, it’s also where I really developed an understanding of inventory shortage and how to impact it. And as a byproduct of my development, Ed promoted me to my first director position on the West Coast. It was all about changing opinions about LP, what it can bring to the organization from a profitability standpoint, and how we can be great partners in an organization.

I had learned a lot in my experience with Home Depot and got exposure to the international aspect of the business. I was the first to go into South America to open up stores in Chile and Buenos Aires. Both experiences were just amazing and gave me a viewpoint about loss prevention and security I hadn’t had before.

I was at Home Depot almost ten years. That was at a time when Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were driving the organization and opening a store every 48 hours. It was an amazing pace. And it’s really an amazing organization with an incredible culture that’s still very, very strong today.

EDITOR: Where did your career take you next?

MCINTOSH: I spent about three years with Polo Ralph Lauren in New York, once again working for Ed Wolfe. It was an interesting organization because Polo’s really made up of three businesses: You have the retail side, which is full price, and discount outlets. Then there is the wholesale side of the business, where they sell to other department stores. My goal there was about building a team and a program, restructuring things to be effective for everyone.

When we looked at the structure at that time, there were about twenty full-price stores, and we had 85 loss prevention people in those twenty stores. Then you looked at the outlet side of the business with 200-plus stores with just four people. So we reshuffled the deck to put the resources where the challenges were so that we could deliver results. After the first year of the new structure, the president of retail gave the loss prevention team an award for making the most significant contribution to the business. I was never prouder of a group than I was at that moment, quite frankly.


EDITOR: You’ve spent a number of years now at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and now finishing your career as the head LP executive at Bloomingdale’s. What changes have you seen in the industry over the years?

MCINTOSH: It’s absolutely amazing the amount of change that we’ve seen in the last five years and will likely see in the next five years. When you think about it, we’re living in this on-demand economy and, 80-plus percent of the population has social media profiles. Everybody’s touching their smartphone on a regular basis, 72 times a day on average. It’s changing the dynamic of retail when you look at the omni-channel perspective.

We’re actually experimenting with express checkout, which is a bit scary to an LP person, but we’re living in a world today where there are fewer productive stores and fewer productive people in those stores. The challenge for anyone in LP today is being the kind of leader who absorbs the chaos and returns order to the process. With my team here at Bloomingdale’s, I think that’s one of the things I have been able to bring to the organization sharpening our focus. But it’s been a challenge.

I try to get my team to think differently. There is an effect called the “streetlight effect.” It keeps us searching for answers where they’re easiest to find. In today’s world with the movement of merchandise such as with online transactions, pickup in store, or ship to store, you have to think differently about identifying your opportunities to reduce exposure and improve company profitability. It’s not as easy as it used to be.

A lot of our LP strategies were built around the fact that you had a 500-pound register that sat in one place on the floor and never moved, and now it’s all about mobile POS. We need to effectively work in LP in an environment where everything is moving.

EDITOR: How much has changed in terms of the demands of shoplifting and employee theft?

MCINTOSH: I think the shoplifters are more sophisticated. A lot of our loss today has moved toward the fraud arena. That’s an anonymous transaction, and you don’t necessarily have to come into the store and risk being apprehended by a loss prevention person. I think that’s a challenge for every retailer today.

The retail environment today is very interesting in that we have four generations working in our department store. Your approach to education and awareness has to be one that will get through to all four generations, so it’s an incredible challenge. Getting people involved, certainly from a dishonest employee standpoint, is still the most effective way to curtail that activity in your environment. I know Dr. Richard Hollinger proved this a long time ago, when he wrote in his study that outlined if the store family says something is not an acceptable behavior, then you’re less likely to have it in your environment. It’s something that we always work for here at Bloomingdale’s to curtail dishonest activity.

EDITOR: You’ve worked for some outstanding executives in your career. Can you comment on their leadership styles and what you took away from them?

MCINTOSH: Ed Wolfe is a person of vision who always had me thinking differently about process and process improvement. That was very helpful to get to the point where I am today with Bloomingdale’s. And I owe Jay Fogg a lot for bringing me back to Bloomingdale’s from Macy’s—what I call my “Bloomerang”-and for giving me the opportunity, honor, and privilege of being a VP of loss prevention for Bloomingdale’s.

Bloomingdale’s is where I’ve had the opportunity to put it all together in my career-everything that I learned along the way from these great leaders: Lew Shealy for setting the foundation; Gary Manson for the passion; Ed Wolfe for the vision; and then certainly Jay Fogg for supporting me in the process of building and reshaping the program here at Bloomingdale’s. I have been blessed. In fact, I’m so thankful to the entire Bloomingdale’s organization and their management for what has been an exciting career. I have always felt loved and appreciated here, and so I thank them for that, from the top down.

EDITOR: Throughout your career, what accomplishments have made you the most proud?

MCINTOSH: I’m going to use some Bloomingdale’s examples because I think they’re the most relevant in today’s world and in the changes we’ve all been through. We use a training and awareness platform at Bloomingdale’s that we partner with a company called Axonify. We call our program Next Generation of Asset Protection Training. An associate will log onto the register in the morning as they’re clocking in, and then we’ll ask them to participate in a training process that they’ll do through the point of sale.

So we’re able to train them on safety, asset protection, and shortage control issues, and we’ve added in sales and service as well as new-hire onboarding. With this amazing tool, we’ve been able to really change the culture of the organization and how we approach training here at Bloomingdale’s.

I have always taken the traditional approach to awareness, such as putting up a poster in the hallway where the associates came in. Well, nobody was really stopping to read it, so you never really knew who was getting the loss prevention or safety message. Were they understanding it? Were they able to go out and change behaviors and either participate in shortage reduction or make the environment safer?

So we tied that into our awareness program that we called Loop, and our tagline was “Keeping You in the Loop.” And we certainly have had a couple of great awareness campaigns that worked in synergy with our next-generation training platform to really drive the message and awareness. We’re at a point now where we have about 70 percent of our associates participating on a regular basis in our awareness program. And I could tell you down to the specific associate who is getting the message and whether we are changing their behavior today. That’s one of the things that I’m very happy about.

Another achievement is the way we approach active-shooter training in our environment. We have a process where we train twice a year. We want everybody to understand that this is not just a Bloomingdale’s lesson; this is a life lesson. We want you to be aware of your surroundings; we want you to know how to react if you’re faced with an active shooter event so that you’re better prepared. I think our associates are better trained than most today simply because we have this structured process, and we test it a couple of times a year.

EDITOR: I know companies do that training in hopes that they never have to use it. Has Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s had to use that training?

MCINTOSH: We have had to use the training at Bloomingdale’s. It wasn’t something that happened in a Bloomingdale’s store but in a mall where we had a store. What we learned in the process, from a communication standpoint, is making sure that everybody in management understands what their role is. Going back and reinforcing those good practices with management has been important.

Another lesson learned has been, “How do we communicate with the organization that it’s safe, that you can go back to work?” We worked with our Macy’s partners on some communication tools that I believe have helped. And then certainly, “How do you keep management informed of what’s going on, in a timely manner, so that if a decision has to be made as a senior member of your organization, then they have all the information they need to make the decision?” Understanding your role and then ensuring communication are probably the two biggest things that we learned in the process.

EDITOR: You’ve had a lot of involvement in associations, particularly in the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). Touch on why you think involvement in associations is important.

MCINTOSH: In my first year at Neiman Marcus, around 1985, I was brand new to the Neiman Marcus culture. The National Retail Federation (NRF) that year was in Washington, DC, and because I was living there, Ed Wolfe and Gary Manson took me to that event. So I had exposure to the NRF early in my career.

Both the NRF and Bob Moraca do an amazing job. Lisa LaBruno and RILA also do an amazing job. Both organizations are so important to our industry, and it’s always been aspirational for me to be involved in them. Once I got my foot in the door, I was all in with both organizations. And they do such important work in elevating the professionalism of the asset protection industry that we love. Not only that but they work very hard to help us solve some of the big problems we’re facing, such as organized retail crime, and are so important to our success in department stores and in retail in general.

I encourage everybody to participate when they can in RILA and NRF conference calls, webinars, and conferences. They are great educational experiences and really add value to any program. I always walk away with ideas to bring back to my organization, to improve performance, and help me find a new approach to the strategy we’re working at Bloomingdale’s today. Both organizations deserve a lot of credit. I think they’re doing a lot of great things for our industry.

EDITOR: You are also on the board of advisors with the LPRC.

MCINTOSH: I have been involved in the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) since the beginning. I think Dr. Read Hayes and I are the last two active founding members. Eighteen years ago, I sat in a classroom at the University of Florida with eight other retailers talking about this concept. Today there are 141 members, 59 retailers and 82 solution providers, that help us apply science to our strategies.

I have done this myself. For example, typically when retailers have a problem, we throw three or four possible solutions at it. We’ll impact the problem or the challenge, never quite sure which approach was the most effective. The LPRC allows us to analyze where we ought to make our investments going forward, applying science to the strategy and the technology to understand what has had the most impact.

There are so many avenues for growth and development in our industry today that weren’t around when I started. For example, LP Magazine and the Loss Prevention Foundation both bring other opportunities of development and growth to our industry. We have utilized Wicklander-Zulawski, developed their interviewing skills, and used them as the gold standard.

There are so many opportunities to continue to grow in the business. That’s how you hold onto people, quite frankly. If you keep them growing and learning, they’re going to stick around. It’s a challenge with millennials today—how long will you keep them?

EDITOR: What is your vision of the next five years? What kinds of changes do you expect to see in the industry?

MCINTOSH: I think more than ever, we’ll need to adapt to the customer. How and when do they want to buy your merchandise, and do you have vehicles that respond to the way they want to shop in today’s world? I think it’s important that your company has a strategy for that thought process. And if you’re a department store, do you have a strategy to make it a great experience when the customer comes into your store to shop? Do you have a culture that supports that experience to keep them coming back into your store?

From an LP perspective, it’s keeping that streetlight effect in mind. It’s not looking for the answers where you can see them but instead taking the processes apart in your retail operation and really understanding how they work, and knowing what it looks like when they’re working well. You’ll understand when they’re not working and then react to those issues, so you can continue to make your company more profitable.

EDITOR: You are getting ready to start a new chapter in your life. Tell us about what you hope to do in the next chapter in your life.

MCINTOSH: This is a very exciting time for Roxanne and me. One daughter lives just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and young son, our first grandchild. Our desire to spend more time with them is driving my decision to retire and move south. So we recently closed on a house in South Carolina just outside Charlotte and are very excited to be closer to them and our younger daughter, a recent Georgia State graduate who resides in Atlanta. She is a Georgia peach and has accepted a job in the city. We look forward to being near our girls as they continue to grow in their careers and raise families of their own.

But at the same time, I don’t think I’m done. I love what we do. I love our industry. I think I have a lot to offer. I haven’t really defined what that will look like. Maybe it’s teaching; maybe it’s helping organizations in developing strategies or managing projects. Two of the skills that I celebrate are attention to detail and follow up-following up with people and getting them answers to their challenges. So I’m excited to see how I can be involved with LP Magazine going forward, and groups like RILA, NRF, and the LPRC. I know I’m going to continue to participate and help people apply science to their challenges and develop great strategies going forward.

EDITOR: Congratulations on an outstanding career and best of luck going forward. We look forward to having you in the Charlotte area.

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