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Thought Challenge 3-12-13


"3 Innovative Changes Retail Loss Prevention
Needs To Make Right Now To Cement It’s Relevancy:
The Online Shopping Industry Is Changing Everything”

Eric S. Jarmons
Loss Prevention/Asset Protection Professional
Retired Law Enforcement Officer (Michigan, Georgia)

Someone said, “Change is good, but it’s greater when it’s ahead of its time.” If my finite brain serves me well, I would like to think that the writer of this quote meant-if you could get out ahead of the impending change, do so.

Let me be very clear about my position here, I am still a young lad in the world of Loss Prevention and/or Asset Protection and I’m not smart enough to be a statistics guy in my writings. So in this opinion, that my eyes have allowed me to comprehend, might offend some of you due to my lack of experience and confirmed data. But I will leave it up to you to tell me how far out of the ballpark I am...

The world is changing as we know it, and so is everything we are attached to. I’m not a parent, but I assumed parenting is completely different than just a year ago due to so much accessible parenting information via social networking, twenty-four hour cycled content and digital integration-not to mention the new “cloud” sharing program. Everything we know is forced to keep up with technology or be left behind with such extinct innovations like the walk-man, beepers, and dial-up internet. Loss Prevention and Asset Protection is not exempt from this change by any means.

As our senior security leaders attempt to find more ways to cut cost, manage budgets, hire efficient people at a competitive salary, and squeeze every dollar out of the outdated equipment, it makes you wonder have we just reach the point of starting all over. HUH? You can’t just start a well-established industry all over Eric, are you crazy? From what my eyes can see and what my brain can comprehend...WE BETTER!

Before I lay out the three changes, I want to first say that there are some companies who are making these changes, some who have made these changes a long time ago, and some who are in the thinking phase of it. I know it is hard to wrap our minds around such a global industry being faced with completely reinventing itself right in the middle of its highest functioning peak. But may I suggest one direct example of a entity that is doing this that we all should be familiar with: the 4-wall brick and mortar store vs online E commerce! The stores are doing it, they get it.

I’m 36 years old and from Detroit Michigan where Christmas shopping was the best, I know I didn’t, but did anyone ever think the day would come where online shopping would almost replace going out in the snow during the Christmas season into the department stores to shop? It was what people lived for! Not any more, online, online, and more online. Just go walk into your sales department and ask to see the numbers.

Loss Prevention and Asset Protection must open their eyes to new innovative ways to cut expenses, streamline training, and reinvest scarce dollars in more long-term returns. Those long-term returns I speak of are in: quality hires, self-application equipment, and strategic internal and online-shopping investigations.

To be truly honest, we all should be excited, because this will force all of us in this profession to reinvent ourselves, our departments, our people we managed, and our responsibilities as well. Also, it would present a charge to companies to bring out the strong, the educated, and the creative thinkers, to create a synergy to supplant our industry for decades to come. However, this won’t happen if we miss the opportunity by becoming comfortable in our salaries and our “ten-word” titles. Retailer CEO’s are making this E-Commerce transition and it’s either going to be with us or without us. And let’s not kid ourselves this change is too profitable to the company to carry slow progressing entities with them.

So, after attempting to read everything I can get my hands on that spells out the predicting future of Retail Loss Prevention and Asset Protection and also paying attention in my own short Loss Prevention career...Here’s the 3 things I think Retail Loss Prevention and Asset Protection needs to change right now to be relevant enough to be seriously considered in companies’ future fiscal goals:

1) GET OUT OF THE EXTERNAL SHOPLIFTING BUSINESS- I have two questions for us: One, how many deaths have happen at the point of apprehension this year alone? And, secondly, if confirmed numbers say  majority of our theft, shortage, shrink, comes from internal employees, why aren’t we focusing majority of our attention on that? Let me first deal with the first question. As a former Law Enforcement officer I always thought that loss prevention was crazy and a death wish. My colleagues and I talked about it all the time. My thought process was that the worst face-to-face criminal element to come up against was a person who knew you knew that they just committed a crime. We do this daily, hourly in some stores and nothing stands between you and them, but a fragrance display and/or Sensormatic pedestal. Of course this is going to end ugly at times and I am surprise there hasn’t been more terrible tragedies. Economic times have changed, therefore people have changed and become more drastic and desperate. This is perpetuating a more “take a chance, take a risk” type of mentality. Not to mention, the liability cost of hurting them (the shoplifter) at the point of apprehension on our part. IT’S TOO MUCH RISK! Time to get out of the catching shoplifters business. The second question I asked is a simple one to reason. Turn all your detectives into internal investigative machines. We are losing millions of dollars by the same people we are asking to call us if they see suspicious behavior. My former staff would always laugh at one of my favorite sayings that I’ll interject here: “What are we doing” (I use it when it seems the purpose is undefined or has gotten blurred or keeps changing)? So my question to us, what are we doing? We need to get our money and merchandise back that’s “walking out of our doors right up under our noses” as my former District Manager of Investigations would say. Is there stillsomewhat a place for external shoplifting investigations and definitely prosecutions, yes; but we need to be realistic, it’s the internal piece that’s highly impacting our shortage and shrink numbers at the end of the year. And I think none of us can stand to hear of another LP/AP detective or associate dying from apprehending someone for a pair of ten-dollar underwear. Just too sad.

2) CREATE A (or increase your) ORC AND ONLINE-SHOPPING INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION- Whenever you have a fiscally colossal selling culture like online shopping it will always bring out the fiscally colossal illegal culture as well. The grab & runs, theft mobs, and increased major-dollar shoplifting cases we’ve seen are not about passing out clothing or merchandise to the needy in the neighborhood. This is ALL about online shopping, personal online stores and the black market. Also, the black markets in the other continents where noted investigations have follow our American stores’ merchandise and learned that it’s almost bigger there than here. We also have a very growing black market industry of “quick credit card” duplicates and “gift card/store only” card frauds that are buying these goods as well. If your company does not have an ORC department or Online-Shopping Investigative Division, then your company is just a participant this frustrating trend. You want to be apart of the solvability side of it. This is where Loss Prevention and Asset Protection are going. Take it or leave it. If you leave it, you probably should shift to “Risk and Safety” management and just prevent slip-n-falls. Maybe that’s a little aggressive, but I think you get the gist of what I’m implying here. And I’ll admit my bias here, as it pertains to ORC; this is where hiring former law enforcement will come in handy for us as a prevention and protection industry. As for online shopping investigations I think this opens up an entire new hiring market for technology and forensic college grads and professionals. Yes, this obviously will perk up the salaries for LP and AP, but I’m going to talk about how to cover that in the next point...

3) RESTRUCTURE, REALLOCATE, and REINVEST IN A “NEW” LOSS PREVENTION AND ASSET PROTECTION- I’m troubled about suggesting this one, because this last and final change requires our most dedicated people to possibly lose their jobs: our loss prevention associates/detectives. The restructuring phase is a difficult one to explain, so I will try to make it simple and straight. The ever-frustrating reality of “turnover” kills the progress of a loss prevention department. Median pay and shorten hours (due to budget constraints) limits continuity and consistency amongst LP and AP staff. Restructuring with a new primary focus such as internal investigations and by getting out of the dangerous external shoplifting business provides leeway to innovative changes to staff structuring in LP and AP departments. If we are going to change how we do business then we must identify what positions do we really need. Let’s face it, we all have dead weight in all areas of our departments that can stand to be trimmed for good or replace with creative and fluid individuals. It also allows for reallocation of salary dollars to create or enhance your ORC and Online-Shopping Investigations departments. Now maybe the math doesn’t add up and I am an idiot, but it’s the realistic forward thinking that I’m suggesting here. Restructuring our staff towards a new purpose, reallocating resources in a new loss prevention and asset protection, and reinvesting our dollars in smarter equipment, innovative people, and streamlined training speaks volumes to the retail industry that we are prepared to stay around and be relevant for years to come...And that you will need us!

Any questions or comments email me at:

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