In a feature article in the upcoming January-February 2021 print edition of LPM, numerous retail asset protection executives and solution partners were interviewed on the current state of the industry coming out of the many challenges of 2020. While not exhaustive, these ten themes will be central to loss prevention and asset protection in 2021.
1. Controls versus convenience. As retailers chase the desires of shoppers, LP will be put to the test. “Brick-and-mortar is trying to figure out appropriate controls at the point of sale while also bringing new offerings to customers,” said Paul Jaeckle, LPC, vice president of asset protection at Meijer. “There is also acceleration in contactless interactions, moving to digital platforms, curbside pickup, or mobile payment if they shop in store. We’re working to make sure we have the appropriate controls so that these conveniences don’t create unnecessary exposure.”
2. The power of sight. It is becoming more important to fully leverage tools that offer remote visibility into stores, noted several industry professionals. “One critical area of focus in 2021 will be remote security management, which enables users to interact, monitor, and respond to events while not being in the building,” noted Brad McMullen, general manager of security products and solutions at STANLEY Electronic Security Solutions.
3. Masking a problem. Even after widespread inoculation against COVID-19, masks will be commonly worn in retail environments, noted Dan Reynolds, vice president of retail sales at 3SI Security Systems. “Retailers are definitely concerned about masks because it means you can’t get the same level of identification in the past, which is what a lot of their different security technology and cameras are based on.”
4. Pushing buttons. Among other things, 2020 was the year of e-commerce, so any discussion of what’s next for LP must address process improvements in e-commerce. “This new year offers the opportunity for LP and AP to add value anywhere an omni-channel transaction occurs,” said Appriss Retail President Steve Prebble. “The bigger picture requires the LP and AP team to understand their impact on the consumer—ensure they are in lock-step with the business to remove friction, increase sales, and improve profits from the right shoppers, and ultimately provide a better customer experience while continuing to mitigate risks posed by bad actors. Having an LP or AP team that helps grow the business will be an increasingly important function in 2021.”
5. Safety first. Retailers have become more risk adverse where the safety of employees and customers is concerned, lifting the importance of LP’s mission to deliver robust personnel protection. Recently, the nature of that risk has changed, according to one LP executive. “Violent activity has changed somewhat. It’s less active shooter and more domestic violence spilling into the store, friction between customers and team members, and among team members. Threat management is something we’re spending a lot more time on.”
6. Help wanted. LP departments will continue looking to technology for help as they contend with fewer staff and resources. Especially popular are integrated security systems that allow data analytics to interface with video surveillance systems, according to Craig Matsumoto, vice president for Allied Universal’s Risk Advisory and Consulting Services. “It allows them, remotely, to better view and analyze trends and specifically at the point of sale and for refund fraud,” he said. “A lot of companies are implementing remote monitoring technology enhancements because of limits on resources.”
7. No help wanted. LP job opportunities could be in short supply. There have certainly been retail winners in 2020, but in terms of the total number of positions in the LP field, it’s a shrinking pool. “I do think we’ll probably see a shrinking of the employment world in our space,” said Mark Stinde, MBA, LPC, vice president of asset protection at Kroger. “There are simply fewer boxes overall.”
8. Moving parts. Technology will be an important issue for retailers as they will need to use data and digital technologies to tailor experiences, products, and services to their individual customers, said Renee Micek, business development manager at Avery Dennison, noting that logistics is one critical area of interest. “The focus on supply chain has been even greater over the last couple of months for retailers and will continue into 2021 as more customers continue to make their purchases differently than in the past,” she said. “Visibility to inventory at all times is critical going forward. This technology also lends itself to lessening retail shrink that happens within the supply chain.”
9. Sight to insight. The popularity of video analytics is likely to grow as retailers look to better leverage their existing resources to both reduce inventory shrinkage and uncover valuable business intelligence for marketing, operations, and planning and merchandizing teams. “Video surveillance footage contains data that is valuable to multiple stakeholders across a retail organization,” explained Stephanie Weagle, CMO at BriefCam. “Video content analysis is the key to unlock that data, thereby empowering retailers to reduce inventory shrinkage, improve employee and customer safety, improve the bottom line, and enhance customer and guest satisfaction.”
10. Too much of a good thing. Coming off a year in which more than fifty-five different cities saw major protests—many peaceful, some absolutely not—retailers need to examine their existing processes for learning about potentially disruptive events and enacting plans in light of the information, according to Jeremy Prout, director of security at International SOS. He notes that many vendors are providing such services, which typically includes social media monitoring, but warns that “you need to be able to set parameters so that you get the info you want and are not getting the information you don’t want. You need to get information pushed to you in a way that you can make effective use of it.”