Linda Campbell, CFI, currently serves as director of asset protection for DSW, the foundation company for Designer Brands.
Joining the company as a regional manager for New York City and the Northeast, Campbell quickly advanced through several positions to ultimately become pyramid head, where she has been delivering innovative company strategies while increasing profitability.
Campbell is a career-driven loss prevention professional with a proven track record in reducing shrink, closing high‑impact investigations, and building partnerships with associates and executives at all levels, as well as interacting with federal and state law enforcement.
Campbell is proud of her private sector experience, a twenty-five-year journey that has taken her from the grocery industry and big box to luxury department stores and specialty retail.
She has conducted investigations for hundreds of cases ranging from associate relations, internal dishonesty, and ORC to retail fraud and homicide.
Campbell enjoys sourcing and developing talent and is happy to tell candidates just starting out in the LP field that she began her career as a part-time store detective and worked in a variety of roles at all levels on her journey to director.
She has long been an advocate for expanding the footprint of women executives in the loss prevention field.
Here, Campbell chats with Stefanie Hoover from LP Magazine about building her career and shares tips for navigating trade shows.
STEFANIE HOOVER: Looking at your profile on LinkedIn and recalling our past conversations, you have a career path that I think a lot of people will identify with. You’ve worked in a few different retail formats, from department store to specialty. Can you tell us how you got started in this field?
LINDA CAMPBELL: I was always interested in learning more about the criminal justice system and had plans and aspirations to become a district attorney. While working as a cashier through college, I was recruited for a store detective position and have been in the industry ever since.
STEFANIE: What has kept you interested in this field?
LINDA: I enjoy variety and the opportunity to problem solve. The loss prevention side of the retail world is an ever-changing landscape that at times can be unpredictable. The challenges this provides are appealing, as well as the opportunity to work closely with people and develop teams.
STEFANIE: Before we dig deeper into the business side, can you tell us about your personal life? Where are you from originally, why do you live in Columbus now? What keeps you centered between work-life? What are your interests outside of work?
LINDA: I’m originally from New York, and that’s where I started my career. An advancement opportunity with DSW brought me to Columbus, Ohio, and my family and I are enjoying living in the Midwest. Finding the right work-life balance can be difficult at times. It’s not unusual for me to be taking business calls while cooking or eating dinner. Finding a way to be a career woman, mom, and wife is not necessarily easy but well worth it. It takes focus and effort to be “present” at all times. Having a supportive husband, who is also in loss prevention, and understands the nature of the business, has made the journey much easier.
In my personal life, I enjoy cooking, music, painting, kayaking, and traveling with my family.
STEFANIE: When you made transitions in your career, what was the impetus?
LINDA: Providing for my family is always my first motivation for any business move. Professionally, I have made changes to pursue opportunities, twice out of necessity (the closing of Fortunoff and Toys”R”Us ) and finally to achieve a better quality of life. On a very personal level, I have always sought to challenge and improve myself with every opportunity I was given.
STEFANIE: You’ve worked in disparate types of retailers (Bloomingdales and Toys”R”Us are quite dissimilar), was that a difficult transition? Tell us about how you navigated that.
LINDA: The journey from grocery to high-end luxury to specialty retail has been incredibly varied, and certainly required the ability to adapt skillsets. However, regardless of the business type, the fundamentals and driving factors of loss prevention and asset protection remain unchanged: maintaining profitability and protection of company assets.
I will note that Black Friday at Toys”R”Us was easily the most epic, exciting, and exhausting event of my retail career. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
STEFANIE: I couldn’t agree more as a former TRU kid myself! Black Friday was epic indeed. Did you have a mentor(s) along the way?
LINDA: Yes, of course. Sometimes you choose your mentors, other times they choose you. At each stage of my career, I was fortunate to have mentors who guided me not just in loss prevention or asset protection but helped me navigate the corporate world.
Among the mentors that I admire the most, were peers and supervisors at Bloomingdales, Toys”R”Us, and DSW. In all cases, they established trust, provided a safe environment, and encouraged me to speak directly.
STEFANIE: Did you make any mistakes on your career path that our audience might learn from?
LINDA: What immediately comes to mind is allowing myself to fall into an uneven work-life balance.
After that, it was the belief that I knew when I should be promoted. The company makes that decision, so be patient and learn to always have your “elevator pitch” ready, you never know who you are going to run into.
STEFANIE: In 2016 you started at DSW as a regional. How did you prepare yourself to take the reins of the director position?
LINDA: When I joined DSW as a regional, my goal was to master my current role, and learn all I could about the next level, taking on any stretch assignment that was offered and actively soliciting feedback.
I am a believer that we do the role before we get the role.
STEFANIE: What did you experience as you made the step up? What were some of your challenges?
LINDA: When I was promoted to director, we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and a volatile political landscape. Added to this were the complexities of changing staffing requirements and interacting with C-Suite executives and the board. Until then, there had always been buffers. My relationship building and influencing skills were put to the test.
Simply advancing to this position had its own challenges, but when combined with the almost daily crises that were emerging in the country, it forced me to learn fast, adapt, and be nimble.
STEFANIE: Many of those trying to get to the next level—whether regional to director or store detective to store manager—may feel like it’s a mystery, especially if they don’t have a mentor or strong company internal development. What would you suggest to someone in this circumstance who wants to advance in their career?
LINDA: If it was one thing, everyone would do it. But it is a combination of tenacity, grit, and humility. Simply put, you own your own development. Seek out learning opportunities, take on challenges, and ask lots of questions from people who know the answers. Above all, stop making excuses and go get it.
STEFANIE: As one of a growing number of women leaders in LP, what advice would you give to a team leader who is interested in expanding the diversity on their team? Do you have any advice on how a team leader can recruit and retain more women in their LP department?
LINDA: In loss prevention and asset protection, our recruitment efforts have historically tended to be siloed. In order to attract a diverse candidate base, recruitment efforts should be expanded. College campuses and diverse studies can be a rich source for discovering talent. To attract more diversity, including women, we need to do a better job of highlighting all aspects of the role, not just the traditional aspects of loss prevention. Staying diverse is acknowledging that everyone has something to offer, and by obtaining the best talent and candidates, we better serve our organizations. As chair for the NRF’s Women in Loss Prevention Network (WILPN) this is our goal.
STEFANIE: Specialty retailers typically run lean teams across multiple geographies; is that the case at DSW? How do you keep your team connected?
LINDA: Most retailers are learning how to be more effective with teams located in various places. At DSW, we leverage technology so as not to let geography be a barrier.
STEFANIE: In this issue we are educating our audience about trade shows and the various associations in our community of loss prevention. Every time I see you at trade shows or industry meetings, you seem to have your stuff together and have a plan. You don’t seem stressed or hurried and you always make time to connect with others. How the heck do you do this?
LINDA: I want to get the most out of my time, so I plan in advance—who I want to visit, the connections I want to make, and the events I want to attend. At the beginning of the year, I decide which events to attend and then I organize each event and create a schedule for each day in my Outlook calendar. I review and research industry trends and plan who to meet and when. I make notes on important topics and schedule meetings, appointments, and demonstrations.
My goal is to find my answers that day at the event as opposed to pushing a meeting to a later date. I’m also selective about what trade shows we invest time in. My priorities are content, location, and the potential to find business solutions for current issues and trends. I look at every trade show as an opportunity to network with peers and build strategic alliances.
Before attending, I extend an invitation to executive members, critical business partners, or others who may have interest in the topics of show.
STEFANIE: When you send team members to a show, what do you expect?
LINDA: I expect them to plan as I do—schedule the events in advance, meetings based on priorities, and share their experiences with our team and critical business partners.
STEFANIE: What does DSW get out of your attendance at a trade show?
LINDA: Involving our business partners in what goes on in the LP industry gives them a better understanding of what we do, and illustrates how important their partnership is.
STEFANIE: Can you talk a bit about some of those trade associations that you are active with?
LINDA: I’m involved with or on the board of NRF, RILA, ASIS GSX, LPRC Impact, IAI-Elite / Wicklander Zulawski, ISCPO, Innovision, and CLEAR,
STEFANIE: Put yourself in the shoes of someone making their way up in their career—what advice would you give them about where to invest their time?
LINDA: Be organized and planful. Decide on which to attend and be picky. Also be mindful of the expense. Perhaps most important, share your learnings with senior executives.
STEFANIE: What makes you say, “That was a great show!”?
LINDA: A successful show for me is one where the content helps me defend against theft, fraud, and profit erosion; offers technological solutions to stay ahead of changing times; and provides solutions that will fit within my budget. Finally, it needs to be fun with free time to connect with old friends and new.
At the end of the event, if I achieved my schedule and could put one business solution into practice, and implement two new learnings after the show, it was well worth my time.
STEFANIE: Thanks for your time and insight Linda, we’ll see you at the next trade show, with some comfy DSW shoes on!