The first of October was another first for me. I attended the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) IMPACT conference for the first time, in muggy but beautiful Gainesville, FL.
For years, I had been hearing about the research going on at the University of Florida by Read Hayes, PhD, and his team, but I really wasn’t certain about what went on at the conference or who was behind the scenes. My list of conferences to attend for the year has been the same in the past with the bigger “shows” like NRF, RILA, RLPSA and ASIS. I was interested in a more intimate conference and looked forward to geeking out while hearing the recent research on retail crime.
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Here are my takeaways in case you’ve wondered about this event like I did.
First, the size of the event is perfect. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to go wandering through a gauntlet of flashy booths and mobs of people. I’m pretty sure the LPRC wants to grow its membership, but right now, it’s just small enough to be navigable, has the right amount of sessions, and allows enough time to visit with a handful of solution providers. I felt it was the right size with about 30 booths in the exhibitor space and well-timed sessions completed in rounds, so you could make it to most, if not all, of them.
My major in college was the Administration of Justice, and I have to say that the sessions took me back to the days when I was a student sponging up theories on crime, statistics and policing methods. The keynote speakers challenged everyone to question their perceptions and commonly held beliefs around what really works. It turns out there’s a huge difference between what we believe works and what actually gets the job done.
The LPRC’s choice of speakers made it clear they value clear-cut, scientific research. Each learning lab session was brief and thought provoking, with a mix of retail and researcher input. Again, the format of the sessions created an atmosphere where it seemed easier to exchange ideas and questions (sorry for all the questions).
Conferences in general are great for networking—there’s no doubt about this—but some are better than others. LPRC IMPACT was a little easier to network since there were fewer people to try to mingle with. In the past at some of the larger shows, I found it almost overwhelming and difficult to connect while standing elbow to elbow in a room with 500 people. This had a lower-key, relaxed, Florida vibe throughout the organized events and between sessions.
The Innovation Lab 5.0 was jam-packed with solutions for retail theft. The LPRC created a mock sales floor including solutions for soft lines, electronics, food and more. Instead of walking a giant show floor searching for what they need, the retailer could walk through this area in a matter of minutes and focus on their burning questions. I saw some innovative solutions in product protection, from tags to box wraps to ORC sweep prevention. The lab included EAS systems and a separate area for CCTV and analytics platforms. So, if you are trying to keep up with all the technologies out there and find yourself getting overwhelmed or you’re just too busy to stay on top of it all, I’d suggest hitting the Innovation Lab next year for a one-stop shop.
The “Live Internal Offender Engagement”, was something I had heard about, but seeing really is believing. At this year’s conference, two admitted dishonest associates were interviewed live on stage for the crowd. They recounted their experiences stealing from their employers, along with what led up to the thefts and what could have prevented them.
They even opened up to more questions from the crowd at the end. As a student of behavior, I couldn’t help but try to read their responses, and amazingly, I think they were being honest about their theft activity.
My takeaway from their talk: need + opportunity – manager attention = recipe for theft.
It would have been easy to write these guys off and think, “Well it’s not our job to make sure people make the right decisions; they should know better.” Good luck with that. These two volunteers were giving us all the gift of amazing insights. They told us they needed money, that in their minds they weren’t making enough on the job, that they had access to systems and modes to commit theft and that they felt like management didn’t care. Bonus tip: for those of you preparing to ramp up seasonal hiring, both subjects stated multiple times that their new-hire orientation was rushed, inadequate and may have made a difference in their decision to steal.
It’s clear that retailers play a huge role in the research being done and helped extensively with the IMPACT conference. I saw quite a few TJX folks helping to run the show and being recognized for their contribution at the awards ceremony. Shoutout to John Kopen and the rest of the team for all their hard work!
After attending, I’d recommend getting involved with the LPRC on a committee or checking them out online to learn more. You could help guide the research being done or lend your valuable insights with your experience in LP. We only get stronger as a group.