Interview with James Stark, LPC, CFI
Stark is the segment development manager for retail at Axis Communications. In this capacity, he is responsible for developing strategies and building channel relationships to expand Axis’ presence in the Americas retail market.
James is a subject matter expert with dynamic experience spearheading cross-functional initiatives by leveraging business data analytics, strategic planning, and specialized systems and tools to optimize security measures, risk management, and customer experience. He brings more than 30 years of loss prevention experience within luxury and specialty retail.
What does the loss prevention retail community mean to you?
The loss prevention retail community is a special place for me. Retail is my industry, and these are my people. It’s a great feeling being able to get out of bed every day excited to support this community—whether collaborating on strategies, discussing policies and procedures, or advising on the latest technology.
Describe your journey with technology throughout your career.
Starting out as an investigator in 1990, I conducted surveillance by walking the retail floor in my Air Jordans and I rarely used cameras. It wasn’t until I got to Nieman Marcus that CCTV was used regularly and that’s where my technology journey began.
Back then, a properly deployed system was used to catch shoplifters and dishonest associates. At the time, we did not understand the limitations of analog video. Then, it quickly became apparent that there was greater opportunity with IP video. Once I reached a leadership role, we started our IP migration path. Shortly thereafter, the rapid advancement and availability of technology presented new opportunities for us at Nieman Marcus. However, it wasn’t just the solution that made the shift worth it, it was the partnerships with carefully chosen solution providers that brought the true value.
It wasn’t long before we learned how well new technologies could reduce costs and address situational challenges. Our personal involvement in the development and piloting process gave us the information required for enterprise-wide deployment. Through that formula of partner collaboration and tested solutions, we weren’t afraid to try new things and that proved successful.
Have you used surveillance technology beyond its use in security?
In 2017, I began using surveillance technology for a variety of purposes beyond security. It has helped to improve the customer experience, increase sales, and optimize store operations.
For store operations, we used video analytics to understand customer and employee behavior, track conversions, and identify areas where we could improve the customer experience. Merchandising benefited from the use of video analytics by tracking customer traffic patterns and identifying areas where we could improve product placement. We used video analytics to create a more engaging and visually appealing shopping experience for our customers. Finally, we gave management a more holistic view of the store.
Using your experience, can you predict where surveillance technology will be in 5 years?
Get your Magic 8 Ball out. It’s challenging to predict the future, but we must be forward-thinking. I once had an SVP of stores say, “If you do today what you did yesterday, you’re a day behind.”
That said, with the rapid growth and advancements in the market I don’t think I could give you a completely accurate prediction. However, unless you’ve been avoiding it, you know a lot has transpired with AI and computer vision recently so there’s no doubt they will play an increasingly important role in retail operations and loss prevention.
Ultimately there is no one vision of the future as each organization is different in their approach, ideology, and abilities. Therefore, there is no silver bullet, and now it is the ultimate game of mouse trap with technology and integrated solutions. As loss prevention practitioners, remember to position yourself to take advantage of the ever-changing landscape of new technology. Stay opensource. Stay scalable. Stay flexible. At the end of the day, focus on the long-term and partner with like-minded people you can trust.