Central Florida was the center of the grocery asset protection universe as AP practitioners from across the industry converged in Orlando, Florida for the 2023 Food Industry Association (FMI) Asset Protection and Grocery Resilience Conference. Once again, the agenda was filled with speakers and discussion panels to keep all those in attendance informed, engaged, and recharged as we work our way through the challenges and adventures of another exciting year for the grocery industry. The event featured a little of something for everyone from the latest tools, trends, and technologies to a misguided decision by an individual who thought it was a good idea to try to steal from an asset protection conference. More to come on that as we move along.
Following opening remarks, day one began with a keynote presentation from Emmeline Taylor, professor of criminology at City, University of London to gain insight into the key triggers for violence and aggression in the retail space. Emmeline shared findings from her recent study, which included interviews with security/LP/AP leadership from nine different countries, summarizing key findings from mainstream grocery store security and loss prevention teams about how these crimes occur and what is currently being done to combat in-store risks.
General sessions focused on organized retail crime were also part of the morning agenda, with back-to-back sessions on the importance of building the critical relationships necessary to identify, construct, and successfully navigate these complex investigations. Our first discussion focused on “The Federal Case for ORC Partnerships,” with investigators from the US Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations sharing insights and answering questions surrounding these cases and the contributions and assistance that these agencies can bring to the process. Investigating retail theft is just one part of the equation and with safety a priority, ORC teams are also challenged with peripheral concerns dealing with customer aggression and violence, homelessness, drug abuse, and more. In the second part of our conversation, retail experts also discussed the leading causes and effects of retail crime, current cases, and recent survey findings.
Following afternoon breakout sessions, retailers had the opportunity to hold business-to-business sessions with solution providers. With meetings set up in a format similar to a “speed-dating” agenda, retailers were offered the opportunity to meet with solution providers in a one-on-one setting to discuss retailer needs and the various solutions available to meet those needs. Positive outcomes were shared by all involved with both retailers and solution providers voicing their approval of the format.
A panel discussion on “Threat Management Framework” was next on the agenda, followed by a recap of the Asset Protection State of the Industry Report with FMI’s Doug Baker. Baker provided insight into the current state of asset protection in food retail and how it is changing, to include a growing appreciation of the asset protection role within retail organizations and an increased use of technology to solve day-to-day challenges. FMI’s annual benchmarking data offers an important window into asset protection and a base for further exploration, including key issues retailers are most focused on and what strategies they are using to address them. Click here to learn more.
The FMI Asset Protection “Legends” Award
Monday afternoon also featured a new presentation when Mark Gaudette with Big Y Foods received the FMI Asset Protection “Legends” Award, honoring his service, mentorship, and contributions to the grocery asset protection industry. Please join us in congratulating Mark for his exceptional efforts!
Day two began with a general session hosted by Walter Palmer leading a panel of retail experts to learn about the key issues at play in developing an effective risk model, along with a framework to assist in implementing a process to address specific risks. Intended to look beyond the simple collection of data in a spreadsheet, the discussion focused on ideas on how to convert data into a structured plan for use in the real world. Peer-to-peer conversations about individual journeys in risk modeling and management were also covered.
This was followed by a panel discussion on “Active Assailants and You: A Guide to Organizational Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.” Even with the best laid plans, violent situations in the retail space have become commonplace over the past several years. The panel shared examples of how to prepare and respond to violent situations and events in the workplace, how to create a threat management plan, and practical training tools for your team.
The Retail Hospitality ISAC was next on the agenda, with VP of Membership and Marketing Luke Vander Linden leading a panel discussion on “The Landscape of Cyber Attacks; Prevention, Response, Remediation.” This session reminded us of the ongoing threat of cyber attacks across the retail industry and steps that retailers can take to mitigate security issues and potential breaches.
Following lunch, the audience was offered a rare look into the potential intellectual challenges of the human condition when Doug Baker provided a video presentation of an individual stealing prop merchandise from the display of one of the attendee solution providers. Without providing extensive details, we can say that attempting to steal from an asset solution provider that offers video solutions at an asset protection conference, with hundreds of asset protection leaders on hand—and staring directly into one of their cameras in the process—was probably not the best decision that the perpetrator made on this particular day.
Following another exceptional discussion on crisis continuity management, day two concluded with a presentation on “The Evolution of Managing Shrink as a Total Loss Strategy,” where panelists reviewed obstacles met along the way, best practices for reducing company-wide shrink, how to talk to company leadership about expanding beyond traditional shrink, and tools to educate and train your staff. Practical examples for managing total loss were discussed, along with answers about the day-to-day realities of risk management and compliance as total loss solutions.
The FMI Asset Protection Rising Star Award
The FMI Asset Protection Rising Star is an up-and-comer who has demonstrated through their words, actions, and behaviors that they are going places as a role model for others, a leader in their company, and as a positive, insightful, and exemplary representative of the loss prevention industry both now and moving forward. They are making a positive impact in the lives of others and leading by example, whether through successful times, times of change, or times of adversity. This year’s Rising Star recipient is Michelle Fisher with Festival Foods. Congratulations Michelle!
Day three began with an excellent presentation on active threat preparedness with Jedd Bradley, CEO and founder of Mighty Oak Active Shooter Solutions. Bradley emphasized the importance of training, more training, training exercises, and effective training, but took the conversation a step further by discussing the importance of practical and common sense solutions when facing active assailants. Sometimes simple discussions with our team members that emphasize “what would you do?” can save lives, and these discussions should be incorporated into our everyday conversations. Violence and safety concerns were an important theme throughout the conference, and this was further emphasized with the proceeding panel discussion with Bradley and a team of industry experts on “Improving Associate Safety in Response to Store Violence.”
The conference sessions were then capped by a closing keynote on “Leading Through Change: How Leaders Stay Inspired and Resilient” with Dr. Fred Johnson of InitiativeOne. Dr. Johnson discussed the importance of creating cultural change within organizational environments by focusing on improving the behaviors of key leaders, which results in improvements in morale, productivity, profitability, and efficiency. What emerges is a heightened sense of identity coming from who you are rather than what you do. He reminded us that “everywhere you go you take yourself,” and “when you change behaviors, you change outcomes.”
The day concluded with a tribute to outgoing Asset Protection Council Chair Joe Laufenberg, and the announcement of new council members, Assistant Chair Maureen Fuller with Big Y Foods, Assistant Chair Chris Harris with Kroger, and Chair Will England with Weis Markets. Thanks again to Joe for your outstanding service, and congratulations to our new council members!
Congratulations to the entire team at FMI for hosting an extremely valuable and productive conference. Attendees were excited by the new information they took with them, as well as the prospects for another successful event in 2024.