While the dynamics of retail and the vitality of the business have raised the expectations of a worldwide community, asset protection professionals are increasingly being called upon to tackle complex challenges essential to retail success. And as these opportunities continue to unfold, there is a heightened need for creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and collaboration. We must be willing to work together to raise the bar, find solutions, keep our stores open, and our communities safe. It is a shared mission that touches everyone associated with the business; and a collective responsibility that will impact the path taken as we move forward.
That’s what makes the prospects of partnership so critically important. Exploring more effective and efficient ways to work together creates exponential opportunities to build successful outcomes. By sharing ideas and resources we can both narrow our focus and broaden our reach, creating alliances that work in concert to reach common objectives. In today’s retail, this has become a mission imperative that drives both the asset protection profession and the entire retail operation.
A new alliance will lead the way in 2024. At the recent Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR) Conference in Orlando, Florida, it was announced that CLEAR will join forces with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) as part of the 2024 Retail Asset Protection Conference in Dallas, Texas in April of next year.
As one of the largest US trade associations for leading retailers, RILA convenes retail decision-makers and key strategic partners, advocates on behalf of the industry, promotes operational excellence, and inspires innovation. The asset protection conference is a must-attend event for AP professionals seeking a premier learning and networking experience. Every year the conference includes retailer-led sessions, keynotes from industry leaders, interactive problem-solving exercises, and cutting-edge technology. The AP conference attracts a wide range of top-level AP executives, making for robust strategy discussions and exceptional peer networking opportunities.
The National Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR) is a non-profit association consisting of law enforcement and retail professionals. Recognized as the national authority on organized retail crime (ORC), CLEAR actively participates in federal and state legislative efforts, national media events, and diverse educational programs for retailers and all levels of law enforcement. Through public-private partnership programs, CLEAR continuously offers timely, relevant information and insights as well as providing core resources for creating and furthering partnerships that reduce serial retail crime. Mutual cooperation between all law enforcement agencies, business, and private sector organizations is seen as a mission imperative.
“The team at CLEAR has always been considered a valued partner,” says Nick Ahrens, senior vice president of strategy, innovation, and content at RILA. “We’ve been working with them very closely for several years now, and this just became a natural evolution of that early work.”
The CLEAR annual training and networking conference is the only national conference dedicated to defining, disrupting and dismantling organized retail crime organizations through the active sharing of intelligence, innovative technology, and advanced investigative strategies. The conference provides a unique learning experience as attendees from both retail and law enforcement jointly participate in powerful sessions presented by dynamic speakers from the major police agencies, prosecutors, solution providers, and national corporations. The conference has grown exponentially in recent years with specialized training sessions primarily focused around property crimes, trends, investigative tactics, and legislative topics.
Bringing these events together creates a next-level approach to the fight against organized retail crime.
“We had been talking about having a joint conference for quite some time,” adds Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president of retail operations at RILA. “But in light of our partnership with the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) and our work with the Vibrant Communities Project, it just crystalized for us just how important this collaboration can be. Law enforcement is a key part of everything we are trying to accomplish, and we want to do everything we can to ensure they are part of this opportunity as well.”
The Vibrant Communities Initiative (VCI)—led by RILA in partnership with the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA)—is a highly touted project currently underway across the asset protection community. Retailers, district attorneys, and law enforcement agencies play pivotal roles in the initiative, and the 2024 conference is an ideal place to bring all stakeholders under one roof to advance this important work.
NDAA’s relationship with the retail community took an important leap forward with the support of RILA over the past year, and LaBruno stressed that having several key partners from the prosecutors’ offices attend their most recent event has already made a significant impact by opening doors, sharing perspectives, and adding value. Adding the CLEAR conference to the agenda takes these efforts to another plateau.
“Having the prosecutors attend the 2023 Asset Protection Conference was such a differentiator,” she says. “They didn’t just speak at the event; they stayed for the entire conference. They were in the sessions. They were listening and paying attention. Having law enforcement attend brings a similar dynamic to the conversation. There is tremendous value to having them here.”
“This partnership helps elevate every aspect of the event for all those involved,” says Ahrens. “If we can serve as a facilitator for this and provide the forum to make it happen, then we are all in. It truly helps bring new perspectives and new ideas to the process.”
“But it’s also about being respectful of all those involved by bringing everyone together for one event rather than having the expectation of needing to attend multiple events to get important work accomplished,” explained LaBruno. “In an age where time and resources are so precious for all those involved, sharing a forum makes good sense on multiple levels. Working together sends a strong message, and one we can all get behind.”
“CLEAR is very excited to be joining forces with RILA at the 2024 Asset Protection Conference,” says Rory Stallard, president at CLEAR. “Our two organizations have worked together on several joint initiatives in the past and now we will have a chance to team up again for this great event. This conference will give us the opportunity to deliver training content and valuable information to law enforcement and loss prevention at the same time, ensuring that everyone hears the same message and has an opportunity to be part of critical discussions on topics we are all facing. Having various levels of law enforcement and loss prevention teams all present together will create a networking opportunity that really hasn’t been seen before at this type of event and we at CLEAR are so looking forward to help making this happen. We expect this to be the premier event this year for loss prevention and law enforcement collaboration.”
Solving the retail industry’s toughest challenges simply won’t happen with the snap of a finger. It takes new and creative ways of looking at things, from the field generals in the stores to the highest ranks of corporate leadership. The words, “It’s never been done this way” can no longer stand in the way of accomplishing our goals. We must be smarter, open to new ways of doing things, flexible in our approach, and receptive to every point of view. And we must work together with our valued partners, searching for solutions that are in the best interests of all those involved.
“Every time we bring people together, we learn something different,” says Jason Brewer, senior executive vice president of communications and marketing at RILA. “We already have the premier retailers in the world working together at the highest possible levels. But as retailers, our strategic engagement is important—how we engage with law enforcement and prosecutors, and ensuring they are there to be a part of the conversation. This is an opportunity to bring all parties together under one roof to have those substantive conversations. I think we’ve found the right partners to be able to do just that, and we are super excited about it.”
Join us next year at the 2024 Retail Asset Protection Conference in Dallas, Texas and take the opportunity to be part of the solution.