Editor’s Note: Read “RILA’s Asset Protection Leaders Council, Part I.”
For many years, the loss prevention and asset protection community has benefitted from the outstanding work provided by the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC), which has conducted more than 120 real-world loss prevention research projects for retailers and our retail business partners. While both provide valuable information to the industry and may take on similar subjects, the APLC uses different methods and approaches the issues from a different perspective.
“I’m active in both the APLC and the LPRC programs, and both are tremendous operations,” said Paul Jaeckle, LPC, vice president of asset protection at Meijer Stores and chair of the APLC. “They are both trying to solve critical shrink problems with the way that they’re approaching these issues, but it isn’t competitive. This is why I think you see a lot of companies participating in both. They’re both tremendous organizations that are just looking at issues from a different perspective.”
The objectives of the APLC are defined based on the thoughts and needs of the individual retail leaders. There’s discussion amongst the individual leaders regarding the different topics, with decisions made based upon a collective approach to the subject at hand.
For example, approximately fifty asset protection pyramid heads participated in last fall’s APLC meeting in Nashville. During the meetings, eight different retailers hosted store visits, providing insight into their top asset protection challenges and their approach to solving those issues. Afterward, the group brainstormed on those experiences-what they liked, what they would do differently, best practices, and methods to mitigate the problems faced. This allowed the entire group to benefit from the ideas and opinions of the collective team, creating a win-win for the hosts as well as all the participants.
“It’s really interesting to take part in these conversations because you’re able to hear how the individual retail leaders respond to the situation, the solutions that we come up with collectively, and the productive approaches that we learn about based on our conversations,” said Jaeckle. “Each retailer can then bring that back to their own program to determine how and whether it can benefit them.”
Setting Things in Motion
Each year at the annual RILA Asset Protection Conference, the APLC will gather to frame out what the emphasis is going to be for the next year. The process begins by looking at all the research gathered over the previous year, reviewing what was accomplished and identifying priorities that should be pursued moving forward based on those results. This will include a thorough recap that involves each of the retailers that participated in those studies.
Other initiatives may involve scheduling APLC visits to different markets and different types of retailers, opening doors for each leader to experience the nuances and challenges of different or unfamiliar retail environments, different stages of program maturity and development, and different or unique retail cultures.
For example, in 2017 APLC visited a retailer with a new and growing asset protection department. Collectively, the participants were able to review many of the different aspects of the culture and the program, offer feedback on what was seen, and make suggestions that could potentially help support this growing department.
Another visit featured the opportunity to tour a fulfillment center environment. With the expansion of omni-channel retailing, leaders were provided with an idea of what an asset protection department faces when working more intimately with the digital customer.
“For retailers now looking to get into the digital space, it was really eye-opening to see how the loss prevention department operates,” said Jaeckle. “Some of the things that we take for granted-like how to protect the brand, how to interact with the customers, and how you’re protecting your assets-can be much different in the digital space.”
The various challenges and opportunities currently facing the industry will then be discussed, expanding the conversation to forge a comprehensive plan that will set the tone for the upcoming year. This helps keep all members focused on the spectrum of issues currently facing the asset protection professional and the topics most relevant in today’s retail setting.
Nashville Shark Tank
The recent event in Nashville took full advantage of the exceptional turnout, with an innovative approach to addressing retail shrink issues.
“Bringing retailers together to look at new-wave ideas and innovation to help mitigate against loss is an exciting task in itself, but we also wanted to have a little bit of fun with it,” said Jaeckle. “So we decided to use the Shark Tank format.”
Over the course of several months leading up to the Nashville meeting, RILA’s (R)Tech AP Working Group-comprised of retail executives responsible for identifying cutting-edge technology solutions that mitigate total retail loss-vetted start-up companies to identify game-changing technology they wanted to know more about. The group reached consensus on the top five start-ups to invite to Nashville. Each start-up was given the unprecedented opportunity to pitch their technology to several “sharks” (AP leaders) and the broader audience. The sharks challenged each start-up, asking pressing questions about the technology and its application to retail AP. Each pitch ended with the sharks indicating whether they were willing to enter into a pilot with the start-up.
“In this particular environment, it was probably one of the best ways to make the presentations for all involved,” said Jaeckle. “Even those who watched from the audience were highly engaged, seeing the same value for their companies as what the sharks were experiencing. It was something completely new and different and something that hasn’t been approached this way in the industry.”
The exercise proved to be both fun and productive, presenting asset protection leaders with a mechanism for thinking outside of the traditional box by taking a cutting-edge approach to solutions under the spirit of entrepreneurialism. It also provided the opportunity to help influence a start-up company by making suggestions on how to put it all together.
For the start-up companies trying to get a foot in the door, it also helped provide real-time feedback on some of the things that they’re trying to accomplish, facing criticisms and feedback on how they can better customize their products and help solve some of the problems that retailers are confronted with.
“The Shark Tank format provided a broad approach to opportunities in our business, but not in the sense that a provider was pitching something that was essentially off the shelf,” said Jaeckle. “This allowed us to essentially outline where we’re experiencing risk in our companies, looking at those issues under a genuine spirit of collaboration. It provided the cooperation between the start-ups in the retailers as well, collectively reviewing everything as a team.”
How to Get Involved
Change may be inevitable, but positive and meaningful change is typically the product of cooperation, flexibility, creativity, effort, and thought leadership. Nodding in agreement or pointing a finger in the right direction isn’t leading and isn’t enough to influence change. If we truly want to make a difference, our first step is to get involved.
RILA’s Annual Retail Asset Protection Conference is April 29 to May 2 in Orlando. The Asset Protection Leaders Council will meet on Sunday, April 29, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. While membership in the APLC is limited to asset protection pyramid heads from RILA member companies, all retail asset protection pyramid heads are invited to attend this meeting even if your company is not a RILA member. Those who have an interest and any solution providers who are interested in sponsoring the APLC should contact Lisa LaBruno at lisa.labruno [at] rila.org.