The Growing Role of Retail Loss Prevention Professionals


In the not-so-distant past, the primary responsibility of loss prevention personnel was to deter theft and control shrink. Many of us started our careers with the important but unpopular job of investigating internal fraud as well as identifying and detaining shoplifters in stores. Although important to the operation of a company, loss prevention wasn’t perceived by many as an obvious career path to a successful business career. It’s time for that perception to change.

Although today’s loss prevention personnel still shoulder many of the same responsibilities as our predecessors, we should first and foremost view ourselves as business people. One only has to look at the experience of Marvin Ellison, J.C. Penney’s Chief Executive Officer to see how loss prevention experience translates to career success. Mr. Ellison’s history in loss prevention, logistics, and store operations at Target and The Home Depot taught him the nuts and bolt fundamentals for running a national retail business while delivering an excellent customer experience.

How does loss prevention deliver an excellent customer experience and develop business acumen valuable to our employers? Our job as loss prevention professionals is to protect the company brand and its promise to customers, employees, and investors. Meeting the needs of customers includes everything from shielding personal and financial data from hackers, to ensuring their physical safety in stores. The definition of employee safety has extended beyond preventing workplace injuries to also include protection from external threats while the employee is at work. Because our job responsibilities have expanded, the opportunity exists for loss prevention professionals to develop expertise and positively affect a broader part of the business than other positions and departments.

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In an omnichannel business environment, it falls to the Loss prevention department to have a hand in keeping company inventory secure during its journey back and forth between suppliers, warehouses, and brick-and-mortar stores. We also play a key role in determining how the company fulfills customer orders and processes returned merchandise. This means loss prevention professionals have earned an important seat at the table during business planning.

For example, if marketing is planning a back-to-school promotion with exclusive discounts for teachers and students, Loss prevention is naturally concerned with the potential for a decrease in gross margins due to discount fraud and abuse during the back-to-school promotion. After all, students keep their IDs after they graduate and teachers keep their IDs after they stop teaching. So how does an LP professional support the primary marketing objective of this campaign – revenue growth while protecting gross margin and an excellent customer experience? It is our job to find solutions to these types of challenges by keeping up with best practices and staying on top of emerging technologies.

The business demands on today’s LP professional means that working well with other departments to achieve goals is a job requirement, not merely a skill that’s nice to have. Our colleagues in non-operational departments must regard us as a knowledgeable an asset and an open-minded partner who helps support company goals as we recommend new technologies, services, and processes that protect margin, the brand, and the customer promise.

In today’s landscape, a lot more is expected of loss prevention executives, and we are rising to the challenge.

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