We asked a cross-section of LP leaders how work has changed for them during the last year, what they’re spending time on now that didn’t consume the same bandwidth when 2019 was just getting underway. We got a variety of responses.
For some, new work stems from playing catch-up to changes in store operations, like buy-online, pick-up-in-store. For a few, like Carlos Garcia, director of loss prevention for Goodwill Industries of South Texas, new technology has been driving a new workload. “We made an investment with the purchase of a new POS system. Now we can track inventory and transactions more closely. I’m currently gathering data for our LP dashboard to assist in tracking vital LP data,” he explained.
For many, however, it is the changing retail risk landscape that has given rise to changes in work activities, such as for Hank Siemers, CFI, vice president for global retail security at Tiffany & Co. He said, “We have been spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with the Hong Kong protests since late June when the mainland tried to implement the extradition bill. Despite what has been portrayed in the US media, the personal security and safety risks for individuals remains low. Even so, there can be an escalation at any time, especially with planned celebrations for China’s seventieth anniversary.
“Most major protest activity has occurred over the weekends and usually publicized in advance, rendering protest areas/activities readily avoidable. Most violent ‘skirmishes’ between police and protesters and protesters (black shirts) and anti-protesters (white shirts) have been localized and of short duration, usually occurring late at night and over the weekend. No Westerners or business travelers have been targeted as of this date.
“Here are some of the principal interests or concerns that we are currently monitoring in Hong Kong (HK): changes in military/PSB posture by China; US Department of State messaging; social media; industry peers; evacuation of US government personnel and their families based in HK; key dates and anniversaries in HK; and official visits.
“We have two scenarios that we will react to if the mainland has had enough: (1) monitoring shows an imminent escalation and (2) no-warning crackdown. We have response mechanisms for either scenario and have briefed both our executive committee and local leadership.”
External pressures have also been driving changes for Debbie Maples. Formerly an LP executive with Gap Inc., she recently became VP of global LP and corporate security for Williams-Sonoma. “The hot topics today within our environment are gun laws and legislation opportunities. Specifically, how do we support anti-gun store environments? How do we shape how we will engage customers who have guns within open carry states? How will we continue to support our associates with how to feel safe in a very volatile time within North America. What can the industry do to shape gun legislation? We are engaging RILA and our government affairs team to understand how we can get involved.
“The other topics continue to be active threat and how it is disrupting business. We will need to stay vigilant with training and awareness. The same goes for social engineering scams targeting our stores—the bad guys are continuing to be creative and relentless. And lastly, homelessness continues to increase in many of our urban environments, and remaining active with local government and law enforcement to be able to keep our customers and employees feeling supported and safe is the priority.”
Mike Lamb, LPC, vice president for asset protection at the Kroger Company, also said he’s been dealing more with safety and security related to the active-shooter threat, workplace violence, and threats against customers and associates. “As asset protection and loss prevention executives, we are challenged every day to ensure we complement a profitable business through shrink reduction and overall asset protection to support the notion of ‘selling more and losing less.’ As we all know and would agree, the world of LP is rapidly evolving and ever-changing as the notion of anything, anytime, anywhere is the ambition for most retailers. The one area within our industry that perhaps represents the largest risk to the very brand core of the retailer is associate and customer safety, particularly in the face of the ever-growing incidents related to active shooter and workplace violence where guns are involved. This is an area where we as an industry can benefit from the collective best thinking of all leaders to effectively mitigate this risk. We need to come together on this issue sooner versus later in my opinion.”
Like Maples, the leader of organized retail crime (ORC) investigations for a major retailer said social engineering scams are requiring a greater percentage of his time and energy. “Merchandise theft is still a thing, but the complexity of ORC in retail has evolved tremendously. When you start talking actual dollar losses, the expenses for the company are much more in the fraud space. It’s e-commerce, the gift- card space.
“We’re dealing a lot with victim-assisted fraud, whether it’s an employee being defrauded or a customer or guest falling victim to impersonation scams, like IRS scams where elderly shoppers will come into the store thinking they have to pay the IRS [in the form] of a gift card. And headquarter impersonation scams are something we’re spending a lot of time on to secure federal indictments, and we’re being successful. These teams do their research. They go to LinkedIn and figure out the right names to drop, and they’ll call and say they represent a group VP or a leader in IT, and they dupe employees to do a “register upgrade” with software and to reboot the register and provide gift card data where it is redeemed in minutes. Not a lot of these retailers want to admit that they’re being hit by this, but they are.
“Part of the importance of fighting back is reputation management, not wanting to be the preferred type of retailer for that type of fraud. It’s also about national security, because of the transnational crime driving these scams, and taking actions that are for the greater good of the country and making it a better place to live, and not only worrying about your own bottom line.
“For investigations, it means we’re having to do a lot more work in cross-functional teams, with cyber, with info security, and leveraging different parts of the organization—other teams that are outside the traditional ORC-type space. You can get the word from gift-card operations, ‘Hey we’re seeing a 300 percent increase in the Chicago market; what are you seeing?’ There is a tremendous amount of intelligence to be found internally. Instead of going out and working to find work, there is plenty in the organization on different teams to investigate. It means less field work and working with cyber teams as they start to investigate and validating what they’re seeing from their perspective.”
For more on this subject, see the articles below.
The Future Is Now: Retail’s Revolution and Ramifications for LP
When getting the future right is a matter of real consequence, when it has the power to steer loss prevention down the right or wrong path, clickbait forecasting feels insufficient. A deeper perspective on the dynamics that are driving retail change, and on the foundation upon which changes will emerge, seems a better guide.
Coming to a Store Near You? 10 Trends from 2019
From trending news stories, 2019 conference presentations, and interviews with industry thought leaders, a picture of the future becomes—if not clear—perhaps a little sharper in focus. Read about ten trends expected to impact retail and LP in the next few years.