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Retail United in Defiance Against Crime: Key Takeaways from the 2024 Retail Secure Conference

What drives over 300 retail loss prevention experts from across North America to meet in one location? The 2024 Retail Secure Conference! Hosted by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) on March 21 in Mississauga, Ontario, this event was a defining moment in our joint efforts against retail crime. As RCC’s Loss Prevention Advisory Committee chair and regional loss prevention business partner at Giant Tiger, I felt a surge of energy and commitment from my peers, all determined to address the retail sector’s changing challenges.

Retail’s landscape is shifting rapidly, along with the demands of loss prevention. Our responsibilities now stretch beyond the store, covering omnichannel strategies, supply chain risks, and advanced technology. Even more concerning is the increase in retail theft, organized crime, and violent incidents threatening employees and customers across the industry. As we move forward, adaptation and training are essential for teams to manage these evolving challenges effectively.

Celebrating Excellence

The day commenced with the inaugural Retail Secure Legends Awards, a fitting tribute to the exemplary individuals who have set benchmarks in our field. Awardees were In-Store Legend Amir Anvarizadeh from Blackbird Security Inc, Leadership Legends Sean Sportum of GardaWorld and John Smith of Sporting Life, Emerging Legends Shahab Rahim from Best Buy and my colleague Robert Barnes from Giant Tiger Stores Limited. Their achievements not only inspire but also set a high standard for what we aspire to in loss prevention.

Strategies to Keep People, Property, and Assets Safe

A series of enlightening sessions unfolded throughout the day. Dr. Larry Barton, supported by Gap Inc., delivered a profound talk on creating safer workplaces. He emphasized the need for us to widen our perception of loss prevention roles—it’s not just about shrinkage but about the human element in theft and violent theft. The increase in retail violence, primarily driven by physical confrontations, demands a rebranding and reconsideration of the responsibilities of our roles and a focus on training, agility, and educated strategic thinking.

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Diverse perspectives on several retail loss prevention and asset protection concerns continued to be explored throughout the day. In “Uniting Police, Justice, and Retail Against Crime,” Superintendent Greg Watts (Toronto Police Service), Deputy Chief Mark Dapat (Peel Regional Police), Vincent Paris (general counsel, Ministry of the Attorney General, Ontario), and Tony Hunt (general manager of loss prevention at London Drugs) shed light on collaborative crime fighting strategies and the need to look at the total impact of retail theft and crime, including longer term impacts of these incidents on communities.

Sharon Bauer (Bamboo Data Consulting) addressed privacy and surveillance concerns in her session, and how retailers needed to ensure that in their efforts to keep their employees and stores safe they do not compromise various privacy laws and could potentially result in significant fines. Stephen O’Keefe (Bottom Line Matters), Jeff Yeats (Lion Guard Security), and Amir Hoss (EAIGLE) in the session “Mitigate Loss and Enhance Visibility in Supply Chain Operations” shared how new metrics are needed to track loss within the entire supply chain and how to measure the split between the DC and stores, the role for AI, and the impact of optimized loss management.

In “Behind the Crime: A Deep Dive into Cargo Theft,” Detective Mark Haywood and D/Cst Steve Lancia provided insights into how organized crime operates, and demonstrated retailers’ vulnerabilities during the transportation of goods. The final session of the day, “Combatting Workplace Violence,” was especially powerful as Chris Nelson (Gap Inc.), Michael Lamb (Kroger), and Michael LeBlanc (Retail Council of Canada) shared examples of workplace violence and effective strategies to de-escalate and prevent potential tragedies, with a clear priority that our job is to save lives.

The day’s sessions underscored the power of collaboration among retail loss prevention professionals, police, legal experts, government officials, community leaders, and mental health experts in creating safer retail environments.

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Reflections and Takeaways

The Retail Secure Conference underscored our crucial role in transforming the retail landscape. The insights gained reinforced the importance of viewing retail safety as a societal concern, not just a business one, necessitating holistic strategies. Continuous learning and training are vital, as is the compassion we show our teams. Each of us plays a key role in fostering a safer retail world.

I encourage active participation, whether by joining RCC’s Loss Prevention Committees or contributing to the dialogue. Every effort counts in our mission for a safer retail environment.

View the photo gallery of RCC Retail Secure 2024 here.


Isabelle Godin

Isabelle Godin is a 20-plus-year veteran in the world of loss prevention. She currently serves as a regional loss prevention business partner for Giant Tiger Stores Limited, and chair of the Retail Council of Canada’s Loss Prevention Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the LP community, Isabelle worked on the operations side of the business as store manager. Isabelle is Wicklander-Zulawski trained in investigative interview and interrogation techniques.

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