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Helping the Enterprise, Helping LP

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The upheaval in physical retail has had multiple ramifications for loss prevention professionals, but perhaps none more pronounced than its impact on which projects LP should advocate.

Gone are the days when the LP department could think solely about its itself, according to Byron Coleman, CPP, director of loss prevention at Kirkland’s, a home décor retail chain with more than 420 stores in 37 states. “When you present a program in our business climate now, you have to able to say it’s a benefit in other areas of the business.”

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These days, LP units simply don’t have the funding to buy narrowly tailored technology. LP solutions now need to address multiple issues. That’s why there are such gains in the area of analytics and predictive modeling. So it was with that intention—when a little over a year ago Coleman’s department selected LP Software’s Loss Prevention Management System (LPMS)—that other departments would tap its audit, organizational, and communication functions.

But even though it had other-than-LP uses in mind, Kirkland’s LP team has been surprised by how the appetite for the solution has grown. “Inventory control, merchandising, store support—it has continued to evolve,” said Ashley Montero, CFI, a regional LP manager at Kirkland’s who spearheaded the project. “As more people got on board and more people got involved, the interest in it snowballed.”

For LP, the move to an electronic case management system has been a clear upgrade to a files-and-folder approach, according to Montero. Built for LP by LP practitioners, the software provides asset protection benefits from increased productivity, better management of data, greater visibility of incidents, and improved follow-through to case resolution. “It ensures that we have all the bases covered and that all the pieces are in there for a compelling case before we move forward,” said Montero.

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With access provided by a centralized database location, Kirkland’s LP team has improved its communication with HR and business partners by looping them in on open cases via short synopses of all active cases. The software’s analysis functions are helping to improve the LP team’s performance by providing insight into where they are being productive, identifying policies and procedures that may be needed, and assisting in the allocation of equipment to stores needing it most.

Spreading the Value

While LP is certainly a specialized function, it’s not altogether unique. Its principal needs—to send information about store incidents upstream, investigate them, share information about them, and identify opportunities for improvement—are at the core of how many departments operate. While the types of incidents LP deals with are different, all departments have a similar need to manage store events more efficiently at the corporate level.

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Just as it does for LP, the software helps sales staff to manage incidents in which deposits contain an overage or shortage, according to Montero. It also helps inventory control to manage logistics problems that arise as products move from warehouses to stores.

The same visibility into incidents that is helping LP to be more productive is helping those other departments as well, said Montero. And that streamlined communication that is a time-saver for LP staff? Others are also enjoying it. “Sales teams are spending more time on the sales floor,” she noted.

Kirkland’s corporate office is also using the LP Software to track, document, and respond to inspector visits to stores. Indeed, the software’s audit module, which facilitates tracking and analysis of LP store audits, offers a way to document store visits of any type by anyone—from buyers to maintenance.

Lessons Learned

Montero said she learned a few things as the project manager on Kirkland’s rollout of LPMS to 400+ stores. “If you’re going to assist in streamlining someone else’s process or department, you need a clear understanding of what that department looks like and how it’s going to benefit them,” she advised. “Know your audience—and who is going to be using it.”

She also advised to make sure that the capabilities of an LP technology align with the needs of the other departments that will use it. “You need to make sure the system has the capability to do what you’re proposing.”

Effectively implemented, a cross-functional solution has multiple benefits. “The [LPMS] tool has increased the communication flow for us and allows LP to be more educated about what’s going on in the stores. That’s helped us to gain a position of leadership with the corporate office and with the company as a whole because we have a clear understanding of what’s going on in the trenches,” said Montero.

It’s important for LP to focus on expansive opportunities for several reasons. Most obviously, advocating technology that also has value for audit, or sales, or operations, ultimately yields greater value for the company overall—a critical consideration in today’s challenging retail environment. More selfishly, using a technology that is used by others can help ease budgetary pressures and raise LP’s standing in the organization. “For us, it wasn’t really a matter of spreading the cost to other departments, but it was all about delivering a much greater ROI,” said Coleman.

While not its intention, the fact that other departments are finding value in LP Software has had the residual benefit of enhancing his LP department’s brand, according to Coleman. “Traditionally, LP has been seen in the retail business as a difficult partner, or as a team that can impede progress,” he said. “Our advocating a solution that is a value-add for the company certainly helps to enhance our standing in the organization.”

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