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NRF’s David Johnston Says Retailers Must Meet Today’s Industry Challenges and Tomorrow’s Risks Through Collaboration and Innovation

Today’s retail landscape is challenged by a multitude of unmatched risks, threats, and events. Global conflicts, political instability, and natural disasters are impacting assets and people locally and abroad. Digital and e-commerce fraud vectors have intensified with greater convergence between physical and cyber-related actors and loss. Manufacturing and supply chain disruptions and organized criminal activity are also impacting business operations. While these individual challenges are not new to retailers, the frequency and degree of concurrent events have collectively created a new dynamic across the industry. It’s more important than ever that retailers focus on utilizing our strengths and ensuring we remain ahead of future threats.

Convergence Requires a Broader View of Today’s Risk Environment

Retail plays a vital role in our nation. A leader in innovation, job creation, and contribution to our national economy, the retail industry generates $5.3 trillion in US GDP. Retail is the country’s largest private-sector employer, supporting and providing first job opportunities and career pathways across various industries.

Retail is also integral to our national security. Providing our nation with access to food, clothing, and medicines, we must ensure that products remain available, protected against tampering, and sold through channels that instill constant trust and confidence within the public. Today’s threat environment has expanded beyond physical store locations. Omnichannel threats have increased the convergence between physical, digital, and cyber domains. Data breaches, account takeovers, false digital personas, and automated bot attacks are engaged across in-store BOPIS and BORIS capabilities, gift card schemes, and all forms of fraud within mobile, digital, and online platforms. Undetected vectors can cause great loss in a short period of time.

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Global and domestic issues related to conflict, weather events, natural disasters, and geopolitical division have escalated risk frequency throughout the world. Business continuity challenges include supply chain and manufacturing disruptions. Transnational ORC activity involves correlation to national security issues including human, drug, or weapon trafficking.

Deterring bad actors today requires multiple disciplines and functions within a retailer to recognize, develop, and implement mitigation strategies. For asset protection professionals, this requires a broader view of how their role must monitor, recognize, and be a leader of security risk across the enterprise.

The Value and Strength of Industry Collaboration

As threat actors and vectors continue to evolve, so must our industry so that we can remain ahead of today’s issues and tomorrow’s threats. Retailers and industry partners must build upon their strengths as a collective group to tackle what lies in front and ahead for our industry.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) loss prevention community works with retail LP and AP professionals, law enforcement, and government agencies to protect retailers, people, assets, reputations, and brands. These groups deliver best practices and benchmarking and support the efforts of the NRF Loss Prevention Council, which includes leaders across all retail segments and sizes to provide direction, strategy, and forethought to the role of LP and AP.

As the leading authority and voice of retail, NRF has long advocated for Congress to provide law enforcement funding and resources to combat ORC. The INFORM Consumers Act, which went into effect in June 2023, brings transparency to online marketplaces by requiring them to verify the identities of high-volume third-party sellers.

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However, market transparency alone will not stop ORC, which is why NRF strongly supports the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act. The legislation would establish a new Organized Retail Crime Coordination Center to align counter-ORC activities nationally and internationally by developing national-level ORC intelligence, facilitating information sharing and cross-agency investigations, and serving as a center of expertise for training and technical assistance.

NRF was recently honored with the Reed Award for Best Lobby Day in recognition of Fight Retail Crime Day on Oct. 26, 2023, which convened retailers, including LP and AP professionals, in the nation’s capital in support of bipartisan legislation to address organized retail crime. As a result of this day of action, more than 130 bipartisan lawmakers have publicly supported the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act.

In addition to efforts in Congress, NRF has worked closely with state retail associations, state lawmakers, local law enforcement, and news media across the country to draw attention to ORC. The effort has been successful, with eighteen states and the District of Columbia acting since January 2022 to address ORC by updating definitions, adopting sufficient criminal penalties, allowing for aggregation of multiple thefts, or creating ORC taskforces led by state law enforcement.

NRF also supports ORC alliances and other regional task forces that bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, and retail investigators. NRF’s ORC/Investigators’ Network includes more than 1,000 retail loss prevention professionals and federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who share information, develop strategies, and form partnerships to fight ORC.

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Retailers would not be successful without the partnerships of solution and service providers, along with other professional and industry associations supporting their efforts. Industry partnerships bring forth innovation, new technologies, and services that keep our industry ahead of the growing risk curve. Their commitment to our industry is paramount to the success of so many retail organizations. We must all be appreciative of their commitments to sponsor, exhibit, and support individual and industry events. Industry partner expertise should never be overlooked. The knowledge they bring with regard to best practices, customer experiences, and aggregated knowledge must always be welcomed within our community. We call them industry partners for that reason—they are partners in our efforts to protect people, assets, and profitability.

Consumer privacy, data sharing, and understanding the benefits and challenges of innovative technologies are key areas of NRF engagement at the federal and state levels. NRF remains committed to providing the retail industry with the ability to innovate and utilize new technologies while understanding guardrails and governance that protect against malicious activities. Through our Center for Digital Risk and Innovation, NRF published “Principles for the Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Retail Sector,” supporting the industry’s AI governance and strategic planning. AI will play a role in asset protection technologies, and these principles encourage appropriate and effective governance and beneficial uses of AI technologies.

NRF PROTECT 2024: The Event to Protect, Prevent, and Prevail

As retail challenges continue to evolve and increased industry collaboration is key, it is more important than ever that industry leaders come together to acquire a unified and holistic approach to address them. NRF PROTECT is the premier event to find experts and insights to mitigate risks, safeguard assets, and reduce potential loss. Held June 4-6 in Long Beach, California, NRF PROTECT unites asset protection, cybersecurity, digital, and e-commerce fraud professionals responsible for protecting their respective brands.

This event brings together key players in loss prevention, fraud prevention, cybersecurity, and enterprise risk, offering a comprehensive showcase of the latest tech advancements to mitigate risks, safeguard assets, and reduce potential losses. No other industry event provides industry professionals with a more comprehensive learning experience, engagement with industry partners and stakeholders, and the largest networking experience for those who protect the retail industry.

Highlights from This Year’s Event Include:

  • Keynotes That Bring Forethought and Insight: Build upon your potential with keynote speakers, including former NFL coach Herm Edwards, who highlight leadership and achieving success, how to think differently with foresight and strategy, and how you can bring greater value to your role, your career, and your organization.
  • Critical Insights and Learnings: We’ve doubled the number of LP and AP breakout sessions, focusing on both strategic and tactical learnings. Experience new learnings or sit alongside your cross-functional partners with our Cybersecurity and Digital and E-Commerce Fraud tracks.
  • Special Programs Designed for Everyone: NRF PROTECT holds special programs, including an Executive Afternoon for LP and AP leaders and their designates, a Cybersecurity and Digital Fraud Incident Exercise, and this year’s special Educational Workshop designed specifically to train on open‑source intelligence (OSINT) research with online marketplaces and partner due diligence investigations.
  • Luncheons Focused on Networking and Development: Re-branded to meet all professional roles at Protect, our Women at Protect Luncheon continues to lead and inspire, while our ORC/Investigators and Law Enforcement Luncheon brings together asset protection, law enforcement, and prosecutors to strengthen the relationships we need to build success.

    Photo by Ian Wagreich / © Ian Wagreich Photography
  • Innovation that Shines with Our Industry Partners: Explore one of the largest expo floors dedicated to retail protection with over 220 industry partners. Discover cutting‑edge solutions and service partners to better safeguard our organization. Collaborate at the NRF Fusion Center, where federal, state, and local law enforcement, district attorney offices, property management security, and more come together with our retail community to strengthen relationships.
  • The Largest Network of Connectors: Engage with your peers, say hello to old friends, and make new connections while enjoying music, food, and refreshing beverages throughout the event. Celebrate those in asset protection and cyber excellence as we honor distinguished careers at the NRF PROTECT Awards.

NRF focuses on bringing value to all those who protect their brands, assets, people, and profitability. NRF PROTECT has what you need to stay ahead of today’s issues and tomorrow’s risk landscape. For more information or to register, visit

David Johnston

David Johnston is vice president of asset protection and retail operations for the National Retail Federation. In his role, he leads initiatives and member programs focused on asset protection and store operations, facilitating engagement across the industry and promoting best practices and policy initiatives around crime, violence, loss, and issues challenging the profitability of retail store operations. He regularly speaks at industry and professional events in support of advocacy and industry issues and serves as a board of advisory member for the LPRC.

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