Footprints and Flea Markets

Every living person generates signals, signatures, and noise, if you will. As we move through time and space, we shed DNA, talk on phones, travel, register for, apply for, and purchase things—all the while texting, emailing, tweeting, posting, and so on.

Human Footprints

This biological and digital exhaust and our literal and digital footprints are with us now and in the future. And so it goes with our retail customers and criminal offenders. This phenomenon is a huge opportunity for us to leverage these bio-digital signatures to attract and keep more good shoppers, as well as to deter, disrupt, and detain those attempting to defraud, attack, and steal from our organizations and people.

To further build cost-effective, protective packages (integrated tactics and technologies), executives from over forty-five Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) member retail chains and sixty-five technology partners are working in focused innovation chains (ICs). Current ICs include anti-robbery, anti-burglary, anti-theft, our Security Operations Center (or SOCLab), and signatures.

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LPRC Innovation Chains

An LPRC innovation chain often starts with initial research and development at the LPRC and University of Florida (UF) innovation lab. Subsequent trials can be conducted in actual physical test stores and distribution centers provided by member retailers to fine-tune the program based on shopper, employee, and offender feedback. Finally, adjusted anti-crime and loss processes are frequently rigorously evaluated in randomized, controlled trials across larger samples of locations to estimate their efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

The chart below is the current iteration of the LPRC UF Anti-Robbery Innovation Chain.

Zones of Influence

As many readers may have heard by now, the LPRC and UF teams are working hard to help our retail, manufacturing, and solution partners obtain and provide accurate and actionable information and solutions from and to all five “zones of influence.”

Below is a generalized zones of influence graphic:

The LPRC team works closely with the University of Florida’s Center for Retailing Education and Research to craft holistic initiatives that simultaneously boost sales, lower costs, and reduce crime and losses. In his September 4, 2017, post on his extensively read retail blog at tonydonofrio.com, noted Tyco/Johnson Controls executive Tony D’Onofrio made the following observation on how a precision LP/AP framework using effort-risk-reward, see-get-fear concepts deployed in the five zones of influence can help improve all retailing facets:

“Brand differentiation and immersive customer experience are the two critical elements that will drive the future of retail. Physical and digital variations of these critical elements need to converge into a seamless unified commerce or [omni-channel] ecosystem.
“There is a compelling correlation between [UF and LPRC’s] research and the future of retail. Digital empowerment of today’s consumers leads to multiple ‘zones of influence’ towards the actual purchase. Focusing only on the product on the shelf [or even just the in-store experience] is not a recipe for retail success.
“The value is derived by the intertwined connections between the zones of influence. Think of the power today of new voices such as social media / online reviews (Zone 5) and their impact on legacy retail models.
“Discerning the ‘zones of influence’ leads to deeper consumer engagements. Innovation chains can be leveraged to shape a positive, engaging shopper experience.”

SOCLab and Tabletop Exercises

The LPRC SOCLab team and advisors conducted the initial shakedown, tabletop exercise on September 8, 2017. It concluded successfully and brought lessons learned on how to improve the lab and conduct progressively more challenging and realistic exercises, as well as needed situational awareness and decision-support apps.

Kevin Coleman, senior VP of asset protection at Macy’s, and CCI/Protection 1’s Garret King subsequently presented an active-attack scenario with lessons learned, along with SOCLab upcoming tactics and technology improvements at the LPRC Impact Conference upcoming in October. We strongly encourage your organization to assign someone to the SOCLab steering team to work with us as we strive to enhance “Detect-Define-Decide” capabilities for storms, disturbances, and active crimes in progress.

UF Now and Next Update

The UF online “Evidence-Based LP Online Certificate” course is completed and ready for enrollment. The course is designed for entry-level to experienced LP/security practitioners, technology designers, and interested parties to participate online in a very informative and challenging University of Florida course. More information is available by searching “evidence-based loss prevention” on the university website at ufl.edu.

Further, UF is placing student interns into retail and technology companies this spring and summer. For more information, please contact operations (at) lpresearch (dot) org or ufcrer (at) warrington (dot) ufl (dot) edu.

Featured LPRC Study

Each edition of LP Magazine, our team will feature a past LPRC or UF study that typically includes the topic, research method, research findings, and implications. This study looked at some flea market (noted theft demand centers) dynamics.

There are over 5,000 flea market type operations in North America, of which at least 1,000 are considered semipermanent. These markets are also referred to as swap meets, trash and treasure, boot sales, and outdoor markets. Many studies across the globe have demonstrated some booth operators in some flea markets do deal in stolen property. However, most booth operators and even most markets do not have stolen items available. Of special note, flea markets can be good selling channels for stolen property, but there are often easier ways to convert stolen product to cash online via small stores, other small business and street fences, drug dealers, friends and coworkers, and by exploiting liberal or poorly executed store refund policies and practices.

Almost 100 flea markets were randomly selected from a guide of 1,000 locations and visited by our teams to assess the availability, pricing, and condition of a high-loss men’s shaving product as example of flea markets and stolen products activity. Approximately one third of the markets had the shaving items for sale, with a handful offering the item for sale with EAS or store stickers on them.

A second phase of the research involved our teams offering premium blade replacement packs for sale to twenty-eight booth operators in several markets in Florida that had Gillette blades on display. The product was offered for sale in pristine condition, in torn packaging, with store logo-stickered packages, and out of the packaging to determine the effects of these conditions on the price offered by operators. Twenty-one of twenty-eight booth operators who were offered the shaving product (which was described as stolen) also purchased the items.

There was no real difference in “wholesale” pricing with all the items other than a slightly lower price offered for the completely out-of-package items or competing or store brand. One booth operator placed the packs with retailer-specific stickers in front of other non-stickered items claiming the retailer logo marketed that it was “legit.”

The following are action steps to consider:

  • Certain flea markets appear to present a compelling threat to some stores. It is difficult to determine a robust method for determining whether a local market is a threat without periodic surveillance by store staff, by law enforcement partners, and by debriefing detained shoplifters.
  • Product marking with secured retailer-specific logos did not appear to deter flea market operators from buying the goods, nor did they diminish the price in this relatively small pilot test. Evidence from this study supports the hypothesis that marking may not always deter boosters or fences, but does significantly aid in recovery and mapping organized retail crime (ORC) networks and stolen goods’ flow.

Please let me know any questions you might have on this very abbreviated study summary.

Recommended Reading

Shopping and Crime</3m? by Professor Joshua N. Bamfield, published in 2012 by Palgrave MacMillan (Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK). This book is a comprehensive look at retail crime and loss, relevant research, and many suggested solutions by a noted UK business and asset protection professor.

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