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By Kelsey Seidler
A slew of mobile apps are making the day-to-day lives of loss prevention professionals everywhere a little bit easier. The very best business and travel apps improve productivity and efficiency for busy LP pros who are always on the go. With the thousands of options available, however, it’s sometimes difficult to decide which apps are worth your while and which are a waste of time. The LP Magazine team, with some valuable input from the members of a panel at the 2016 Restaurant Loss Prevention and Safety Association event, created this list to get you started.
This popular weather app offers hyper-localized, precise weather forecasts that provide up-to-the-minute information on impending rain or potentially dangerous storms. The app is customizable—you can set your own weather alerts for anywhere in the world to be delivered to your device as a push notification. Sophisticated, well-designed maps offer a contextual view of storm patterns that you can manipulate to view over a given time period. Available for iOS and Android.
This app functions as a mobile PDF creator for scanning any and all documents. Users can conveniently digitize and share travel receipts with colleagues via email or save business cards to their smartphones. Enhanced features allow users to extract text from images for editing and annotating purposes. The app also includes collaboration and security tools, such as document password encryption, for added functionality. Available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
Loss prevention professionals tend to travel a lot. Concur for Mobile allows users to manage travel itineraries and expense reports from their mobile devices. Loss prevention executives can approve or reject expense reports submitted by their team members, and the app can even be used to import credit card activity data, add event attendees, book suggested hotels, and keep track of car mileage. Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.
Facebook and LinkedIn
Social media apps get a bad reputation for being time-wasting distractions, but for the loss prevention executive, they’re a must. Not only do they allow you to keep in touch with family and colleagues while you’re on the road, but they serve the important function of being an investigative loss prevention tool. People—including criminals—often publicly post where they are and what they’re doing on social media. Use this information to your advantage. Both apps available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.
This app has also proven to be valuable to loss prevention professionals during the course of their investigations. It permits users to create and dispose of phone numbers for any situation that might require disposable contact information. The average smartphone owner may use a Burner-generated phone number for online sales transactions (Craigslist, eBay). An LP pro may want it for online fraud investigations and controlled buys. Available for iOS and Android.
This app from the Transportation Security Administration gives travelers easy access to frequently sought information, such as which items can pass through security checkpoints, which airports support TSA PreCheck, and what the weather conditions are at any airport. Users can also check approximate wait times for security checkpoints and share their own wait time to help others. Available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry.
No “Top Apps for LP” list would be complete without the inclusion of the LP Magazine app. LP Magazine has been delivering top-quality news and educational content for over fifteen years. The invaluable app provides users with the latest content about retail loss prevention, security, LP technology, upcoming conferences, and more. It offers simple navigation and is updated daily. Available for iOS and Android.
By Jac Brittain, LPC
We often talk about the growing demands of the retail customer and how this can influence retail performance. But it’s not just retail sales that have been influenced by the tides of change. In fact, by most accounts it was a strong holiday season for America’s retailers. Consumer confidence has surged, thanks to low unemployment, and reports have indicated that holiday spending was up double digits over last year’s comparable sales. We can no longer simply focus on the way our customers spend. Today, retail trends demand that our attention clearly focuses on the way customers shop.
A Shift in the Shopping Experience
The traditional image of shopping malls packed with shoppers isn’t necessarily fading away, but it’s definitely providing us with a different picture. Several department store chains have performed poorly and/or below expectations leading to retail icons such as Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, Kohls, JCPenney, and others facing forbidding challenges in the new year.
It’s no secret where shoppers are turning instead of department stores. According to multiple reports, US consumers spent a record high $91.7 billion online over the holiday season alone, up 11 percent over 2015. Discount stores have also performed well, thriving at the expense of their higher-priced department store counterparts.
On the other hand, both Macy’s and Sears have recently announced store closures in the works. The closing of many of the department stores that anchor malls across the country are also likely to change the way traditional malls operate. Such changes can impact lease agreements, overall mall traffic, and a host of other factors.
Traditional department store retailers can’t reverse retail trends that have been years in the making and must accept the need for a new way of approaching the business. Consumers have grown steadily more comfortable making their purchases online, and at their own convenience. They’ve come to expect low prices, deep discounting, and a huge selection of rapidly changing merchandise—all factors that undercut the classic department store model.
Does this necessarily point to the death of the retail department store? Not necessarily. But the ongoing struggles of department stores during the 2016 holidays should serve to reinforce the idea that retail is evolving quickly and perhaps at a much faster pace than many traditional retailers may have anticipated. Survival clearly depends on the retailer’s ability to react to these changes, embrace retail technology, adopt omni-channel resources, and aggressively pursue new and innovative ways to appeal to the retail customer.
By the same respect, the picture might not be as grim as some anticipate. Despite these recent closures, the United States is still considered by many to be oversaturated with stores, with an excess of available shopping space. According to a recent article on Business Insider, the United States has 23.5 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in Australia—the next two countries with the highest retail space per capita.
“Across retail overall, the US has too much space and too many shops,” said Neil Saunders, CEO of the retail consulting firm Conlumino. “As shopping patterns have changed, some of those shops are also in the wrong place and are of the wrong size or configuration.” If retailers in other nations can find success, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to adapt as well.
It’s going to be another year of transition for many retail companies, and for some it may conclude as a year of reckoning. But as traditional department store retailers try to compete in an environment in which consumers can buy virtually any item by browsing online and without setting foot in a store, all signs point to a need to adapt and change.
In loss prevention, this only further underscores our need to evolve with the needs of the business. Finding ways to enhance profits becomes paramount in times of transition, and our efforts to reduce losses can have a direct and lasting impact on the success of the business. Keeping current with the dynamic retail trends that shape the retail industry exponentially increases our value to the organization, and will ultimately influence how the profession is perceived and how the future of retail will unfold.
By Garett Seivold
Some 43.8 percent of loss prevention departments operate a lost and found, according to a survey of 238 executives by Security Director’s Report and LP Magazine in 2012. Any mishandling or theft of found property while under LP’s control is sure to give the department a black eye and reflect poorly on those in charge. What does it take to avoid that embarrassment? Tight controls that quickly raise red flags of wrongdoing are critical.
Loss prevention staff members often have access to many assets, including found property, so conducting complete personnel screening and hiring honest officers is obviously an important first step. But a retailer can’t put blind faith in individuals in charge of valuables regardless of its background check process—it needs layers of security in case a bad apple is in the batch.
Case in point: Orange County, CA, prosecutors charged a security officer with grand theft and commercial burglary for his scheme to steal money and other items from the lost and found of the Surf and Sand Resort, a luxury hotel in Laguna Beach. The officer was a twenty-one-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department moonlighting as a security guard. As part of his job, the officer had access to the hotel’s computerized lost-and-found system, and he allegedly accessed the system and changed a record showing that hotel staff had found $2,000 in a hotel room. He changed the room number and the item description to a gold watch and then falsified that the watch was returned to its owner. He then stole money from the safe, according to authorities. A surveillance camera in the hotel’s security office where the lost-and-found safe was located aided the arrest.
Is the answer to simply refuse to operate a lost and found? Not necessarily, as such a decision can frustrate shoppers and may not eliminate bad press. For example, on December 9, 2016, the news agency MassLive reported that a Worcester couple tried to turn in a found cell phone to a Walgreens employee but were told the store did not operate a lost and found. After the couple went home with the phone, two men broke in their house, one brandishing a machete, to retrieve it.
Problems Found in Handling Lost Items
It’s instructive to look at an actual program audit to understand problems that can plague a lost-and-found program. Several years ago, a change purse containing cash and credit cards was found at UCLA Health System and accepted into the lost-and-found system operated by its security department. When the property owner came to claim the item, it had mysteriously disappeared from the security department safe. Administration subsequently called for an audit of the system, which took in an average of sixteen items per week, from cell phones to sunglasses. The audit’s recommendations provide real-world best practices for retail loss prevention professionals to consider.
Foremost, minimize access to found property. UCLA’s security department safe had dual-locking capability, meant to require two employees to jointly open it. Security office staff had one key and security supervisors the other. But the review discovered that poor key control had resulted in a training coordinator/supervisor obtaining both keys, and he accessed the safe without another employee present. Another problem—the keys were not marked “do not duplicate,” and a back-up to both safe keys were stored in a key box in the security manager’s office, which was accessible to the training coordinator/supervisor. Controls to consider:
- Require dual-controlled access for the assignment of backup keys, so more than one employee is present for access to a backup key box. Just as a safe should require dual-access controls, dual-access controls should be placed on access to the safe’s backup keys.
- Mark all keys with “do not duplicate.”
- Implement a key control log to maintain accountability over access to the found-property storage facilities.
- Change keys to the security department safe whenever individuals who have had access leave the department.
Secure all found items in locked receptacles. The audit found that some valuables were placed in the security department safe, but others were placed in desk drawers, and large items were stored in an open, back-office cubicle, neither of which were secured.
Tag and secure found items in zippered plastic bags or envelopes to keep contents intact. The program review found that found items were neither consistently labeled nor protected before being dropped into the safe or placed in storage drawers. These steps are crucial. Affix a date sticker—and other identifiers, in case more than one item is found on a given day—to all found items before they are placed in storage.
Improve record keeping of found items. During the investigation of the missing change purse, it was discovered that the log sheet page detailing intake of the item was missing from the logbook, thereby compromising any attempt to reconcile records against inventory. In addition, the program was not keeping detailed descriptions or historical records; for example, “book bag” didn’t include itemized content descriptions. It’s wise to standardize logs for receiving lost-and-found items, and to include:
- A data field to record the name and phone number of the finder.
- A detailed description of items and/or inventory of contents.
- Date of receipt of property.
- Area for staff initials.
- Area to indicate when items are placed in the safe.
- Area for acknowledgment of transfer of property between departments (from customer service to loss prevention, for example).
- Area for LP staff to record dates and times that they attempt to contact property owner if information is available.
- The property owner’s phone number and date the property was released.
Consider other best practices. The case study suggested some other best practices to consider:
- Require property owners to sign the log when claiming their items(s).
- Require any transfer of found items to require a signature on the log, including if the item is removed for disposal.
- Periodically review logs to ensure that found property is recorded per policy.
- Maintain lost-and-found logs and copies of property transfer lists for two years from the date the item was found.
- Maintain the logbook for found property in a secure area separate from where property is stored, so as to ensure records remain available in the event of unauthorized access to the property.
- On a surprise basis, reconcile lost-and-found inventory to the lost-and-found log.
- Don’t allow a backlog of found property to accumulate. Unclaimed found property should be dealt with according to policy, typically after ninety days.
- Periodically ensure that procedures and instructions for processing found property are not outdated and that they reflect current operating procedures and requirements. For example, don’t allow security procedures to call for daily transfer of property from customer service to the loss prevention office if transfers actually occur on a weekly basis.
By Jack Trlica
CEOs representing the retail industry met February 15 with President Trump at the White House to discuss cutting taxes and regulations to stimulate job growth. The CEOs from several major retailers included Marvin Ellison, current CEO for JCPenney, who started his career in loss prevention with Target and advanced to vice president of Home Depot’s loss prevention organization prior to moving into several executive-level retail positions. Ellison joined JCPenney as CEO in July 2015.
The meeting was orchestrated by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which is attempting to educate Congress and the new administration on the negative effect of the proposed border adjustment tax on the cost of retail goods offered by US retailers. According to a RILA press release, President Trump acknowledged that retail supports “millions and millions” of jobs. The discussion related to the border adjustment tax was not released to the public.
LP Magazine reached out to Ellison for comment, but a JCPenney media representative deferred to RILA for comment. After the meeting, RILA Chairman Bill Rhodes, CEO of AutoZone, issued the following statement:
“Today, we had a positive and productive conversation with President Trump about the important role the retail industry plays in our national economy.
“We stressed the importance of taking a thoughtful approach to tax reform for both individuals and corporations.
“The retail industry is the nation’s largest private sector employer providing and supporting more than 42 million American jobs. The president understands we support pro-growth policies that we believe will lead to greater domestic investment.
“We look forward to working with the president and his administration on the issues of importance for our industry, our employees, and American working families, who by and large are our customers.”
Other retail executives in the meeting included Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck, Jo-Ann Stores CEO Jill Soltau, Target CEO Brian Cornell, Tractor Supply CEO Gregory Sandfort, and Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina.The delegation was accompanied by RILA Executive Vice President Jennifer Safavian.
Following the meeting at the White House, the group went to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
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