EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott Myers is vice president of asset protection for Hibbett Sports. For much of his twenty-two years with the company, he held the dual role of vice president of human resources and asset protection. Prior to Hibbett, Myers held multiple LP positions with Parisian.
EDITOR: How did you get started in loss prevention? MYERS: I got into it by accident. I was in college at the University of North Alabama, which is located in Florence, Alabama. I had two roommates who worked at Sears, and they came home one day and
said, “They’ve got a position open in the security department. You should apply.” And I said, “But I don’t know anything about security.” I applied anyway, got the job, and stayed
there for three months until Parisian department store, which was located in the same mall, hired me away. I stayed with Parisian for nine years. I worked in nine of their stores before going to their corporate office. So that’s how my LP career got started.
EDITOR: What did you do in their corporate office?
MYERS: Joe Hardman, who is my mentor, was their director of loss prevention at the time. I was working in the Mobile, Alabama, store, and Joe was looking to create a regional loss prevention manager position in the corporate office and brought me in with him. I stayed with him for a couple of years until I was promoted to the director of operations, which was where I ended my stay with Parisian. The company had gone through some downsizing, and I had the opportunity to go back into the loss prevention department. But to do that, I would have had to move, and I had relocated six times in nine years. I just didn’t want to move again.
EDITOR: You got into the industry by accident, but you’re still here after all these years. What was it that caused you to like what you were doing enough to maintain a lifetime career in LP?
MYERS: I liked that there was a different challenge every day. It was never boring. I liked knowing you could have a positive or negative impact on the company’s financial success by the way you did your job. There was always something happening, and I like seeing things change and evolve. I like watching processes and technologies grow. I enjoyed the interaction with people, which is still true today. It’s always interesting to be around people, good or bad.
EDITOR: How did you finally make it to Hibbett?
MYERS: After Parisian, I made a brief stop at a company called Simply Fashion Stores. I was there for a year and a half. Then, in early 1995, a vendor let me know that Hibbett was considering starting a loss prevention department and encouraged me to interview. So I sent them a resume. The person who ended up hiring me is someone who has really meant a lot to me here, a gentleman by the name of Mickey Newsome (shown above). Mr. Newsome is our chairman of the board to this day, and at the time in 1995, he was our president and CEO. I remember one of the first things he said to Hibbett employees was, “Your first job with the company is to protect the assets of the company.” I’ve always thought that was a strong statement. People will say, “Well, shouldn’t your first responsibility be to sell?” Absolutely it should be, but if you don’t have the product, you can’t sell it. I give him a lot of credit for the success that we’ve had not only in the company but also as an asset protection department because controlling shrink was very important to him, and that importance resonated throughout the organization. So I began working at Hibbett on August 7th of 1995 and started the loss prevention department here some twenty-two years ago now.
EDITOR: Can you give us some background about the history of Hibbett Sports?
MYERS: Well, it’s kind of ironic. As I mentioned, I started my LP career in Florence, Alabama. Ironically, Hibbett Sports started in Florence some seventy-two years ago as Dixie Supply Company. The company sold all kinds of things back then, not just sporting goods. They actually sold airplanes at one time because somebody thought that folks coming back from the war would want to have their own planes. That didn’t exactly work out how they thought. But they made the rest of it work. Then the Anderson family, which also started Books-a-Million, bought us in 1980 and took us public in 1996. And that’s where we’ve been ever since.
EDITOR: You’re headquartered in Birmingham, correct?
MYERS: Yes, in Birmingham, Alabama. When I started we had sixty stores. We have almost 1,100 now.
EDITOR: What is the typical size of a store? What merchandise do you carry?
MYERS: I’d say the average is about 5,000 square feet. The merchandise selection depends a lot on where the store’s located. We have some fashion stores that cater more to fashion footwear and fashion apparel. We have athletic and sports stores that are focused on athletic apparel, athletic footwear, and team sports. We don’t carry individual sport merchandise. For example, we don’t carry golf, tennis, hunting, or fishing items. We’re baseball, football, basketball, softball, and soccer. Those are the team sports that we traditionally carry.
EDITOR: When you went over there to start the loss prevention department, were you building on anything or was it just you?
MYERS: It was just me and one other person, whose job was to process return checks. This was a very antiquated process. There weren’t any real proactive shrinkage control processes in place. Shrink was very high, and we needed that to change quickly as we were preparing to go public in 1996.
EDITOR: Over those twenty-two years that you’ve been at Hibbett, have you had any responsibilities other than loss prevention?
MYERS: Yes, I was given the human resources department in 2000 because I was heavily involved in the hiring process. Controlling shrink starts with the hiring process. Actually, we didn’t really have an HR department; what we had was a benefits department that we needed to turn it into a true HR department. The first person that I promoted as director of HR was one of our regional loss prevention managers Harvey Knighten. I went to him and said, “You may think I’m crazy, but now that I’ve got HR, I’m going to need a director of HR. Would you be interested?” At that point in time, neither one of us were what I would call experts in HR, but we held each other’s hand and learned it together, and he is still with us today as our vice president of HR. So after I was given that responsibility in 2000, I held onto it for the next seventeen years until very recently when we split the HR department off. I really enjoyed the HR world. There are a lot of similarities to me between it and LP. They’re departments of ethics and integrity. They’re departments that operate off of structure, whether it be regulations, laws, or company policies. They are departments that can make tough decisions on fact versus emotions. I really enjoyed those seventeen years. I found working on the HR side of the business very rewarding.
EDITOR: Having human resources responsibilities alongside LP is very uncommon. Do you know of anybody else in the industry who has ever had both of those responsibilities?
MYERS: We talked a lot about that early on. People would say to me, “That’s kind of unusual, isn’t it?” And it was unusual, but not to the degree that it is today. At one time there were twelve or so people in retail that I was aware of that had both of those areas of responsibility. Whether they still have them or not, I’m not sure. A lot of companies decided that it was time to split those teams up as they grew.
EDITOR: In years past, LP was more involved in performing background checks and other pre-employment processes. Are you also responsible for that? MYERS: That’s actually how I ended up with HR to begin with. LP had been really heavily involved in the pre-employment process. I remember early on we were doing credit checks, criminal checks, store mutual association checks, pencil-and-paper honesty tests, and drug testing. Regulations have changed over the years that have limited what you can and can’t do during the onboarding process, so it’s different now. But there was some significant overlap back then.
EDITOR: As you look at your asset protection organization today, how is it divided up? How many direct reports do you have?
MYER: I have five direct reports. We are broken up into two AP regions—a west and an east. We have twenty-three regional asset protection managers out in the field covering forty to forty-five stores each. Each time we add another forty stores, the company allows me to hire another regional asset protection manager. One thing I’m as proud of as anything is that out of those twenty-three, we only have three people on our team that grew up in the loss prevention world. Everybody else was a former store manager for us or, as we call them, a head coach.
EDITOR: What caused you to build the organization like that?
MYERS: In the beginning, I think we just didn’t know what we didn’t know from the organization standpoint. I had a good feeling of what we needed, but I think the company was asking, “Do we really need to go out and get experienced people? Can we do it from within?” And I said, “I don’t know. Let’s give it a shot.” And what we found out was that they were already Hibbett-ized, meaning they already understood the company culture. They could really help the head coach from day one because they had been an experienced head coach themselves. They were someone who had produced good shrink results, who had operated a store very efficiently. So from day one they could help them be the best head coach they could be. That was really what the game plan was all along. We found out that we could teach them the loss prevention part along the way, and that’s what we’ve done. We’re looking for somebody who has had a great track record of running a successful store. And we’ve been able to teach them how to do the LP stuff, and it’s worked out great for us. We have very little turnover on our team, and hopefully that will continue to be the case for years to come.
EDITOR: What are the job objectives of those regional asset protection managers?
MYERS: Training, supporting stores, investigating, auditing, and supervising inventories. Those are just some of the things that we ask our regional asset protection managers to do. I really do think we have a pretty good structure. I compare it to a really good football team. To be a great football team you have to have a good offense, a good defense, and good special teams. Here, we look at it the same way. We have to be good internally, externally, and we also have to be good from the administrative side. I get that there’s negatives attached to the job because of what we do. I get that. But that’s one reason I like our setup with the forty to forty-five stores per regional manager. They’re able to get into their stores and really be seen as an ally and not an enemy. They could be there on a store visit, they could be there doing an audit, they could be stopping in because they’re traveling through town going to their next town to make sure, “Hey, is everything okay? Is there anything I can help you with? Are you having any issues?” It’s not necessarily that there’s something wrong.
EDITOR: Other than shrink, which is obviously a numerical measurement, how else does the company measure the success of you and the asset protection team?
MYERS: We have several goals that the company wants us to achieve. Some of it obviously is shrink related, but a lot of it is more related to profit and margin than it is to shrink. We have a lot of conversations about total retail loss. We look at making sure that the coupon policy is followed, but you’re not going to see that on any shrink line. We look at price overrides, returned checks, credit card chargebacks, and cash loss. There are a lot of things that we look at that are not just shrink related.
EDITOR: What technologies do you use in the store to help meet your AP goals?
MYERS: We have EAS and CCTV, of course. Our register system itself has a refund verification process in place. We’ve used exception-based reporting for a long time. We implemented Agilence this year to replace our previous vendor partner. The company’s been awesome to us in terms of giving us the things that we really need to have a positive effect on the company’s bottom line, and that shows in the results we as a company have achieved. We’ve missed our shrink goal once in twenty-two years. That shows the company and other departments like accounting, store operations, human resources, real estate, merchandise, and others care about shrink. Even though I can’t provide our actual results, I’ll tell you its well below the national retail average and has been for many years.
EDITOR: Hibbett is a big seller of shoes. I understand that you are one of the founding members of a collaborative industry group that has for a decade or two fought shoe shrinkage. How did that begin?
MYERS: It started seventeen or eighteen years ago. I remember Johnny Turner from Rack Room Shoes, Mike Smith at Finish Line, John Grander at Brown Shoe, and I got together in Atlanta for a meeting. I remember sitting in a hotel conference room, and we just went around the room and talked about the various problems and issues we were experiencing. We weren’t talking about confidential company matters or anything like that; it was just things we were all dealing with every day in the LP world. We got so much valuable information out that day because we found out that we were all experiencing similar things. Then those meetings continued to grow. We’d add people year by year. And we still get together. In fact, we got together this year at the NRF Protect conference in Washington, DC, in June. We had just about every sporting goods retailer there, just about every athletic footwear or family footwear retailer there—maybe fifteen to twenty companies were represented. We met for an entire day talking about issues that we’re encountering and learning from each other. It’s been such a blessing and something that I’ve been so pleased to be a part of over all these years. And I’ve made some great friendships as well.
EDITOR: Could you give an example of some of the unique shoe-related issues that you face?
MYER: Everybody’s a little bit different based on their retail setup and merchandise mix. But I’ll give you an example for us. All of our footwear, other than clearance footwear, is located in the back room. We’re full service; we want our team members to talk about the features and benefits of a shoe. We want to make sure the customer is taken care of. Because of where our footwear is located, we know most of our footwear shrink is related to internal issues more so than external unless the store has experienced some external-related issues. Other shoe retailers may have a different sales model—say self-serve, where you find your complete pair on the sales floor and try them on. Their problems are a little bit different than ours. At Hibbett, we carry very desirable footwear, especially some of the high-profile launch product. People will line up days in advance to be the first person to get a pair of the shoes. It’s a blessing that people want them, but it also creates some challenges. Everybody’s a little different when it comes to the challenges present depending on what your layout and your company structure and philosophy are.
EDITOR: In your years at Hibbett, what are you and your team’s proudest accomplishments?
MYERS: The first things that come to mind are our two regional vice presidents of asset protection that report to me—Jeremy Bailey and Carmen DuBose. Jeremy came to Hibbett from a recommendation. Joe Hardman, who I mentioned earlier as being my mentor and a great friend, was still at Parisian. They were going through some tough times, and Joe called me and said, “I’ve got a young man that would do a really great job for you. I’d like for you to talk to him.” I thought, “If Joe’s recommending him, then I certainly will talk to him.” Jeremy was twenty years old at the time. He was working full time and going to school full time. I had an opening in our distribution center for an LP person. I put Jeremy in that role, and he did a great job and was promoted out of that role into a corporate investigator role. He then was promoted to a regional loss prevention manager role and is now a regional vice president of asset protection and has been with me for twenty years. Carmen was a store manager for us. She did a very nice job of running a store, so when we had a regional asset protection manager position become available, I interviewed her, and she was promoted into that position. She did an outstanding job. So when a regional vice president position opened up, she was my first choice. I didn’t even have to look outside the company because I knew I had somebody that was ready to go and would do an outstanding job. Carmen has been with Hibbett for seventeen years and fifteen years in asset protection. I’ve enjoyed watching both of them grow in their roles, and I’m so proud to have them on the team. We are all very pleased about the success and the consistency that we’ve had over these past twenty-two years, and Jeremy and Carmen have played a major role in our success.
EDITOR: Enough about LP; let’s get to the good stuff. I happen to know that you have a magnificent collection of sports memorabilia. Tell us about a little about that.
MYERS: A long, long time ago I got into collecting sports memorabilia. And certainly since I joined the company, it has been a little bit easier to collect stuff along the way. I probably have 1,500 autographed items, including magazines, footballs, baseballs, and bats—anything that you can think of. I have certain sports and even teams sectioned off in my man cave. You have to be a hall of famer in the NFL to be in one section. There’s an Olympic section. There’s the Heisman trophy section. Obviously, I have a huge Alabama section. I even allow my wife to have a really, really small Auburn section in the man cave. It’s in the very back of the room. You really can’t see it that well, but it’s back there.
EDITOR: If you had to choose two or three of your favorite items, what would they be?
MYERS: That would be really, really hard to do. I’ve got so many great things, and it’s like choosing your favorite child. I’ll tell you a couple that come to mind. I have an autographed football from Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. It sits there with all the other Alabama stuff. I have an autographed football from every head coach at Alabama who has won a national championship since I’ve been living. I have a golf ball signed by Arnold Palmer. That’s a great one to have. I also have a signed Muhammed Ali book. And one that sticks out in my mind is a Julius Erving basketball. He was in town speaking at our managers’ meeting, and after his speech, our president and CEO at the time said to me, “Hey, he wants to play golf tomorrow. Will you take him to play golf?” So I played eighteen holes with Dr. J. He was a fantastic person to be around and actually beat me out of eight dollars that day.
EDITOR: Scott you’ve had a great career, and it sounds like you have a great collection. I’d like to see it one day. Keep up the good work.