Stacie Bearden is the director of asset protection, field for The Home Depot. In this role, she is responsible for the theft and fraud agenda for Home Depot loss prevention, including organized retail crime program and all asset protection capital and technology programs. In her fifteen years with the company, she has held management roles in operations, distribution, delivery, and transportation. Prior to Home Depot, Bearden retired as a lieutenant colonel in the US Marine Corps, worked in logistics with Schneider National, and taught management in the University of Georgia system. She is currently a member of the RILA AP steering committee, the LPRC Future of LP working group, and the LP Foundation.
EDITOR: As a senior executive,you have two jobsyour specific responsibilities and supporting the agenda of your boss. What are the challenges of those two roles?
BEARDEN: We typically avoid those challenges through alignment. Our department strategy was established as a leadership team, and our annual goals are jointly developed to support that. If an effort doesnt support one of our three focuses (safety, accuracy, or profitability) or isnt supported by our core values, it isnt something we spend a lot of time on. In a business as dynamic as ours, if things come up, we talk through the situation. Communicating often and openly helps avoid any conflict.
EDITOR: How and why did you get a job in loss prevention?
BEARDEN: I had been with Home Depot over fifteen years and served in a number of very different rolessupply chain, district manager, and operations. I was asked to move to AP and take over a role that had seen a lot of turnover and was full of opportunity. It was an intriguing challenge, so I jumped on it.
EDITOR: What programs, educational opportunities, or other experiences would you have liked to have had as you came up in the industry?
BEARDEN: I have only been with Home Depot loss prevention for two years. Because of that, I havent grown up in the industry. While thats also been an advantageI dont have pre-conceived ideas of how things have to workit has made it like drinking from a fire hose. I didnt learn about the Loss Prevention Foundation or LPC/LPQ until this past year. It would have helped to know about that much sooner. Both RILA and NRF conferences have been invaluable as have the resources RILA provides and contacts they allow you to make. I would have engaged with both faster and sooner. All that said, I have found that there are so many things that do apply from the broader business and operations. Because of my experience in those areas, weve been able to address process, projects, capital and expense, and people challenges in a much different way.
EDITOR: What qualities set an LP professional apart as they climb the career ladder?
BEARDEN: Broader business experience is extremely valuable within the organization. While there is a significant piece of what we impact that is theft and fraud related, there are other completely controllable operational factors. Business acumen is not only beneficial but also necessary as one seeks to change processes and vie for funding.
EDITOR: If you could change one thing about the LP profession, what would that be?
BEARDEN: I would have it be viewed differently within organizations. The recently publicized rounds of reorganizations and reductions continue to indicate that LP is a field that is much like insurance. Its invaluable when needed and viewed as nothing but an expense when it is not.
EDITOR: Are there misconceptions about loss prevention that we can or need to overcome?
BEARDEN: The one above is a big one. Another is that LP is just about shrink, safety, and catching shoplifters. For example, the Home Depot loss prevention team is heavily involved in disaster response, ensuring our people, property, and product are safe, and were also closely involved with first responders and others in the community in times of crisis such as hurricanes. At the end of the day in LP, we protect brand and gross margin in ways few other departments do. Thats a big mental shift for some.
EDITOR: What do you see as the most impactful retail crime trends emerging today?
BEARDEN: As omni-channel dominates the merchandising and fulfillment minds of todays retailers, criminals are adjusting. Its a world where prosecution is complicated. There are no cameras, and the victims can look a lot like the criminal. Its top of mind for all of us. Another is the socioeconomic impact of drug abuse that were seeing in communities. It makes for an increasingly dangerous environment for our store teams. The ease of obtaining technology is allowing the criminal to be extremely nimble. Theyre running as fast as they can to stay ahead. Just as the Internet is providing them a new environment for theft, it is also an endless resource. The last one is the impact of already over-crowded jails and over-tasked police departments. Theyre challenged to meet the violent crime demand, much less the often viewed as victimless crime of retail. This increases the recidivism rate and results in our teams catching the same offenders multiple times. Its a challenge for both law enforcement and the retailer.
EDITOR: What are the most impactful changes in the retail industry that are impacting LP?
BEARDEN: The ability to check out in the aisle, order from the comfort of our homes, and pay without carrying a wallet will challenge all of us as we seek to provide more flexibility to our customers. Its a business imperative we have to support.
EDITOR: What work or life experiences best molded you for your current job?
BEARDEN: My time in the stores and operations were both invaluable from a business acumen perspective. In supporting my field team, the experiences from my time in the Marines have also served me well. Messaging on our mission and values help our front line leaders make the right decision in the heat of the moment. It also doesnt hurt to have experience managing through a crisis or being able to make quick decisions and coordinate efforts across groups. With almost 2,000 stores, there is always something going on.
This article was excerpted from “Changing Roles and Challenges in Loss Prevention.”