Effective crowd management: A holiday checklist for retailers

2013Holiday_Blog_NRFCrowd control is top of mind for retail loss prevention and security associates every day of the year. But the excitement among shoppers during Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend presents new challenges for crowd management. NRF’s latest survey finds as many as 140 million Americans will shop over the holiday weekend – 97 million on Black Friday alone – catapulting it as the busiest shopping weekend once again. It’s a time of year when retailers’ advanced planning and security protocols to protect stores, customers and employees are paramount.

This is why NRF releases it’s Effective Crowd Management Guidelines each year. While each situation is unique and difficult to anticipate, the guidelines serve as a roadmap to prepare for the expected and unexpected.

The guidelines dive into the details, but here are a few high-level recommendations to keep in mind for Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend:

  • Remind and retrain all employees about your store’s emergency plan to addresses potential risks facing workers and customers.
  • Dedicate a knowledgeable employee to communicate and manage crowds from arrival to departure.
  • Establish clear protocols for conflict resolution. Giving employees the authority and tools to calm frustrated shoppers is of utmost importance, especially if the need to diffuse a situation presents itself.
  • Be prepared to allocate resources in real time.

Each situation brings a different set of circumstances for retailers and management officials. But the teams who have an action plan in place are the most prepared to minimize potential issues and create a positive shopping experience for everyone – during the upcoming holiday weekend and beyond.

ABC News reports: Busting organized retail crime

NRF’s organized retail crime survey emphasizes the scope of this pervasive criminal activity on the retail industry. The ninth annual survey of senior retail loss prevention executives revealed that eight in 10 believe that ORC activity in the United States has increased over the past three years. One aspect our survey can’t cover: Putting a face to these groups that are raiding retailers across America.

This is where the national media has been a tremendous help. In a recent ABC The Lookout segment on Nightline, correspondent Matt Gutman profiled the efforts of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to trail, track down and catch shoplifting rings in Central Florida. This area is a hotspot for organized retail crime and with Florida ranking in the top five of states for ORC activity, local and federal agencies have responded. The recently formed South Florida Organized Retail Crime Task Force unites the federal Department of Homeland Security and its Homeland Security Investigations team, the Department of Justice, the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Florida state wide prosecutors to fight these criminals across jurisdictional boundaries.

Watch the video below to see the remarkable dedication it takes to bring these groups to justice and for a look at the impact organized retail crime has on consumers.

Organized retail crime gets federal recognition

As cases grow more severe, organized retail crime is gaining attention and notoriety across the country. With more high-profile cases being covered in the media, the increasing frequency of arrests, and data from studies like NRF’s Organized Retail Crime Survey, it’s clear that this issue isn’t fleeting or shrinking in complexity. For years, retailers and law enforcement officials have been advocating for federal laws to be created in order to prosecute ORC criminals with the appropriate charges  — especially when stolen merchandise crosses state lines. Even with creative new partnerships between retailers, law enforcement and organizations like NRF’s Investigator’s Network, there’s been a missing link in the battle against ORC.

But last week was a big step in the right direction. Local and federal law enforcement agencies in Miami, one of the top locations for ORC activity, recognized the growing issue in their community and formed the South Florida Organized Retail Crime Task Force. This group is made up of the federal Department of Homeland Security and its Homeland Security Investigations team, the Department of Justice, the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Florida state wide prosecutors. Each entity will work together to implement a strategic action plan on surveillance and facilitating arrests so ORC offenders cannot take advantage of jurisdictional boundaries. Retailers and NRF will work with the task force to provide information and perspective to assist with the overall mission – bringing ORC groups to justice.

Watch the video below to learn more about the announcement and what this means in the ongoing fight against ORC.

NRF honors retailers, law enforcement with Loss Prevention Awards

LP13_80x80More than 2,600 loss deterrence specialists went to last month’s Loss Deterrence Conference in San Diego. Among all the networking, education and breakthroughs in the exhibition hall, a couple of themes emerged. The retail sector is progressing fast, and with it, new challenges from new modern technology and transforming habits, and also new devices to counter retail crime. Collaborations are more crucial than ever before for resolving investigations, and constructing them takes a little old-fashioned networking together with digital partnership. And the face of the reduction deterrence career is developing too, with the reduction prevention part being so essential to numerous merchants’ initiatives for the future. LP Award Winners

NRF’s 2013 Loss Avoidance Awards champions. Click to see more photos from the NRF LP Seminar.

As several of our guestsand task force memberswill certainly tell you, loss deterrence is a hard but gratifying occupation road. Throughout an unique event at the seminar, attendees stopped briefly to applaud the champions of the 2013 Reduction Avoidance Awards. The champions include Record Album teams that excelled in making a distinction in their neighborhoods; a law enforcement specialist who has actually exceeded and beyond the call of responsibility to aid a retailer; two investigators whose job has made a substantial positive effect on their business, neighborhood and the market at sizable; and an expert who has significantly influenced the industry throughout his profession.

These champions obtained special congratulations at the program, but within retail companies throughout the country, thousands of reduction prevention professionals are also hard at the office. We wish you take a minute today to thank them for their contributions throughout the year.

NRF 2013 Loss Prevention Honor champions

Reduction Deterrence Volunteers in Action

  • Element Loss Prevention
  • Gap Inc.
  • . Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio Inc.
  • . Limited Brands
  • Macy’s Inc.
  • . TJX Companies Inc.

. Law Enforcement Retail Collaboration Honor

  • Kara Kaufmann, Special Broker, U.S. Trick Service

Loss Prevention Situation of the Year Award

  • Dan Ensing and Denis Tarabrin, Organized Retail Crime Private investigators, Dominick’s Finer Foods (Safeway Inc.)

NRF Ring of Excellence

  • George Luciano (Ret.) honored for his greater than 30 years of retail reduction avoidance experience. Learn even more concerning Luciano in his meeting with LP Journal.

To investigate ORC effectively, think beyond the norm

LP13_80x80Solving organized retail crime cases sometimes requires a little outside-the-box thinking. Rather than a boots on the ground approach, you’ll probably need spreadsheets, reports, lots of data and a convincing presentation to law enforcement. 248 Mark McClain_Thurs Morn

Mark McClain, Director, Global Investigations, Walmart Stores, Inc

On a panel at NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO, Mark McClain, Director, Global Investigations, Walmart Stores, Inc.;  Gail Morris, Regional Loss Prevention Manager, Williams-Sonoma; and Tony Sheppard, National Manager, ORC Unit, CVS Caremark shared some tips and insights about how to use various tools to solve ORC cases.

A few years ago, Williams-Sonoma noticed something fishy going on with their $80 salt shakers and equally expensive pepper mills. Multiple returns to multiple credit cards belonging to the same two people were popping up in several stores. Nobody had  seen a crime being committed, but Morris was able to piece together data from various systems to build multiple spreadsheets and reports that, when put together, revealed the extent of the crimes and possible next targets. These were no small-time crooks. The criminals had hit 39 states and 500+ malls. This was their full-time job and they were responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars of thefts over a three-year period. Armed with a slew of data and reports, Morris presented the case to a task force and worked in partnership with them through the investigation and up to the arrest.

This “Salt and Pepper Caper”,  as it became known, is an illustration of successfully using the tools at your disposal to crack a difficult case. But many times, it’s difficult to get a convincing case together and get law enforcement to take it on. McClain shared a few tips for working ORC cases successfully:

  1. Know the tools available to you. Be aware of the data available to you from point of sale reporting, SQL queries, gift card history and other sources. You’ll have to follow the data.
  2. Think outside your store.  It’s likely that you’re not the only store being targeted, so pool your resources and your information. Other retailers might be able to provide tools, technology and even expertise or skills you don’t have on your own team.
  3. Evaluate and elevate the capabilities of your team. A lot of the work it takes to solve an ORC case is behind a desk analyzing data, so having someone on your team or working with a partner who understands data analysis, statistics and predictive analysis is helpful.
  4. Build and retain partnerships. This is one thing you can’t do from the office. Get to know those in law enforcement and fellow retailers so you won’t be starting from scratch when you need help.

Five steps to create a culture of development right now

LP13_80x80Through its This is Retail campaign, NRF has a placed a strong focus on showcasing the diversity of retail career paths. But long-term career growth and the next generation of retail leaders can’t and won’t happen without  a culture of development. 246 Ramon Jara_Thurs Morn

Ramon Jara, Regional Director, Loss Prevention Sears Holding Corporation

Sears Holding Corporation’s Trisa Gildard and Ramon Jara began their session at the NRF Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO with some eye-opening stats. Speaking generally about employees’ feelings toward their current jobs, Gildard cited a Forbes article which said that more than 60 percent of employees surveyed don’t feel their career goals are aligned with the plans their employers have for them. This discontent can lead to talent leaving for another job. The result: the wealth of organizational knowledge these employees have is lost and is not easily replaced, which immediately impacts results. “You’re only as good as your people. If you have the right people in place your job will be that much easier,” Jara added.

Gildard and Jara then outlined what a developmental culture could look like. They shared a framework Sears Holdings uses in their loss prevention department to identify strengths, opportunities and weaknesses for each employee. These gap analyses should be completed by all employees and their supervisors in order for employees to have responsibilities that best fit their skill set. Another critical component is to ensure that a career path is made clear, and that both the employee and employer are aligned on that vision. At Sears, “from the day a person starts, they know the potential for growth is there,” Gildard said.

After everyone broke in to small groups to build their own career development plan, or SMART plan, Jara shared five things retailers can start doing now to create a culture of development.

  1. Internally agree on critical core competencies that will ensure success
  2. Build a consistent assessment process
  3. Create a plan or strategy around professional growth
  4. Implement tactics to measure and reward execution
  5. Using SMART, teach your leaders how to create developmental plans for their employees

The competition for talent is fierce across all industries. And a discernible, structured process for growth is critical for retailers to recruit and retain the best of the best.

Lessons for protecting your employees, customers, and brand

LP13_80x80It’s not a surprise that Dr. Larry Barton, among the globe’s leading specialists in risk analysis and office violence, stuffed the room in yesterday’s afternoon keynote at the NRF Loss Deterrence Conference & & Expo. And boy did he provide. When talking about these issues, it’s difficult not to be interested and scared by the stories of just what occurs when hazards aren’t attended to appropriately.

Did you understand that as of last year in the Usa, typically 2 people are killed per day in the workplace? Outside of the United States an impressive nine people are eliminated– a number that is likely underreported and more reasonably hovers around thirteen. Dr Larry Barton_Wed eveing keynote

Situation Administration and Office Violence Specialist Dr. Larry Barton

As Barton summarized, among the most major subjects LP specialists deal with is security of their people. And while he identified that, “risk analysis is an imperfect science,” he provided the room of sellers vital recommendations to take into consideration for risk evaluation and physical violence avoidance.

Initially, have a threat evaluation team and make sure it consists of the following specialists:

  • HR
  • Security
  • Legal
  • External Inspector
  • Supervisor

Look for major sign in your workers, which include:

  • Recent, unfavorable changes in habits
  • Particular individuals, outlets, plans referenced
  • Bodily deterioration, like drastic weight loss
  • Shared ideation
  • Point out or present of weapon

Be alert to brand-new characteristics that are affecting these situations:

  • Bullying
  • What encourages retaliation
  • Retail ethics/compliance hotlines
  • The retail employee as social activist/victim

And lastly, bear in mind retail work environment criteria and just what your responsibilities are:

  • Responsibility to care
  • Obligation to notify
  • Task to act
  • Duty to monitor

“Every case is different, every victim is different,” Barton described. “Get people to believe beforehand concerning the sort of circumstances that can happen in your retail facility.”

Equipped with this info, there’s no doubt that the viewers will return home with helpful details on how you can stronger protect their staff members, clients, and brand names.

How retailers can drive performance with video analytics

LP13_80x80Not that long ago, it wasn’t uncommon for loss prevention offices to have VHS surveillance tapes stacked up in their corners. Now retailers are using video analytics to capture customer trends, track traffic, catch shoplifters and reduce fraud. At NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference, three retail LP leaders shared their experiences with implementing video analytics: Kenneth Boremi, Director, Loss Prevention, Brookstone Stores; Michael Burch, Director, Loss Prevention and Safety, Tilly’s Clothing & Shoes; and Blue Montez, Director, Asset Protection, American Apparel.

While Tilly’s hasn’t been using the technology long enough to gather ROI data, both American Apparel and Brookstone saw conversion increase and shrink decrease from video analytics.

Blue Montez

Blue Montez, Director, Asset Protection, American Apparel

Brookstone and American Apparel use it to determine days and times with the highest customer traffic to optimize staffing. Analyzing “dwell,” or how long customers stay in one area helps place employees and products in optimal places in the store. Merchandisers can use the same technology to determine which displays attract more traffic and marketers can measure promotions.

Video analytics provide data on customers in stores that go way beyond loss prevention, and that’s the key to making the case for it.

“This doesn’t fly as an LP tool. You have to reach across the aisle to other department heads, to store operations, merchandising and marketing folks to show the value from other perspectives,” Burch said.

And when you demonstrate the value, they said, be prepared to be the most popular guy in the office because everyone will want a piece of it.

As with any new technology roll out, there are some key considerations.

  • Partnership with IT and operations comes first. “Don’t go to finance by yourself” said Burch. “Partner with operations and improve conversion at the store level.” Soon, merchandising and marketing will want in on it.
  • Build a culture around analytics and data. The data “changes the culture for staff in the store. They want more data and it drives performance,” Montez said.
  • Start small and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach chain-wide. “Every location is different, so the ROI might not be there for every store,” Montez warned.

Most important is the ability to play an important role in the organization. “With this information, you’re going to be the center of attention. You’ll have multiple departments knocking down your door wanting to look at this and that,” Boremi said. “And that’s what you want to promote with video analytics. You want to drive your business to the next level,” Montez added.

Hot topics at this week’s Loss Prevention Conference

LP13_80x80This week, NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO kicks off in San Diego, attracting more than 2,400 loss prevention and law enforcement professionals. Like many other areas of the retail industry, loss prevention has changed dramatically in recent years. As we illustrated earlier with our LP leaders series, those who have more than 15 years of experience under their belts likely started their careers at a time when the profession was more narrowly defined as a security or shoplifter-catching operation. But in many retail organizations today’s loss prevention pros have a more diverse set of responsibilities and an expanded strategic role.

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NRF Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO Hall Floor (2012)

As the retail environment continues to evolve, loss prevention teams are tasked with staying one step ahead of criminals and protecting their organizations against increasingly complex threats like fraud, organized retail crime and more. As thousands of LP leaders make their way to San Diego to sharpen their skills and learn new ways to be successful, we wanted to share some of the hot topics they’ll be talking about at the show. We’ll be expanding on these topics on the blog this week with coverage from the show, and you can get instant updates by following #nrfLP13 on Twitter.

Emerging technologies

Emerging technologies provide both new opportunities and new threats. Retailers are constantly weighing the benefits of the latest customer-wowing technology against the potential risks. Plus new tools like facial recognition and video analytics are becoming more available to retailers. From mobile point of sale to social media monitoring, technology and the trend to omnichannel retailing is changing the retail landscape and creating new questions for LP teams to seriously consider.

Business continuity and emergency preparedness

Reports of violent incidents in or around shopping centers and the complications of gun-carry laws have LP leaders evaluating active shooter emergency protocols, while the extreme weather we’ve seen both recently and over the past year has heightened sensitivity to emergency response and business continuity plans.

Theft and organized retail crime

As criminals evolve and change their behavior, LP leaders are focused on enhancing anti-theft and shrink-management strategies. With ORC growing, there’s a focus on enhancing information-sharing networks and partnerships involving retailers, local law enforcement and mall management.

Professional Development

As the LP role becomes more complex and central to the executive strategy, it’s opening up diverse growth opportunities for those in the LP field. LP professionals are looking for strategies to develop and attract the talent and skills needed for tomorrow’s LP leaders.

NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO runs Wednesday through Friday at the San Diego Convention Center. To register, visit www.nrf.com/lp13. Entry to the EXPO Hall, featuring more than 200 solution providers and the Fusion Center, is free for retailers and law enforcement professionals.

The best tool for combating ORC: Partnerships

LP13_80x80In NRF’s ninth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) survey, eight in 10 respondents said ORC has increased in the past three years, and 90 percent said they have been victims of it. And with ORC on the rise, more retailers and law enforcement are joining forces to fight it. Across the country, organized retail crime associations are offering a way for retailers and law enforcement agencies to team up and share information. Over a secure website, members can share things like surveillance video and suspect descriptions with other retailers and law enforcement officers, making it easier to connect the dots and catch criminals who are targeting multiple retail establishments.

With our Loss Prevention Conference coming up next week, we wanted to highlight the ways in which retailers are working together with law enforcement to combat ORC, so we spoke with Captain Bill Williams of the Los Angeles Police Department Commercial Crimes Division. Williams was an integral part of forming the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association (LAAORCA) in 2009, after retailers approached the department about the need for greater collaboration. Since then, the association has become a model for many other ORC associations across the country.

Read on to learn more about how this association helps retailers apprehend ORC suspects and what retailers can do to strengthen partnerships with their local law enforcement agencies.

What are the key elements of your ORC association that have made it successful?
It’s all about developing relationships and partnerships between the public and private sectors to address the ORC issue. One of the ways we do that is by using our website as tool to share information. Through our website, retailers and law enforcement officers can get instant updates about ORC incidents. We also have a general meeting every six weeks for the entire LA area, and an annual conference, which attracted just about 1,000 people this year. With LAAORCA, we believe in building partnerships, providing education and arresting suspects. This is all supported by the chief of police, district attorney and city attorney, and we’re also working with other ORC associations around the area.

What happens at a general meeting?
The meetings are very structured. We have a few people make a short presentation about an issue, and then we discuss it as a body. We have an average of 60 to 100 law enforcement and retailers at the meetings. Sometimes, there’s a retailer or law enforcement officer there who can provide information for the person with the problem. And I’ve seen multiple times where someone at a meeting knew of the suspects, so they get together afterward, and that’s led to some arrests. So the information exchange is great. We also provide some training and bring in topical speakers at the meeting, and we always follow up on the issues discussed at the previous meeting, so we get some closure on those.

Can you share an example of a success story?
One comes to mind. We had a series of burglaries that were going on in LA and elsewhere, and we found out that the suspects were going to a different state. Of course, my people couldn’t go there, but we shared that information and a retailer was able to follow them. The interesting thing was that retailer who followed them wasn’t even one of the retailers that the product was being stolen from, but they were able to provide information to help the investigation. They also observed these suspects burglarize in the other state. We got warrants, and when the suspects came back, we were able to take those people into custody. And that happened because of a partnership between the LAPD and three or four retailers that were working together.

In another instance, my cargo theft people were doing an investigation and came across a large quantity of cosmetics. We determined whose it was, and because we had a partnership and relationship with that company, we knew who to call, and it turned out that we recovered several million dollars worth of product that they didn’t know was stolen yet. So because of the partnership and existing relationships, we were able to connect the dots and return that product to them.

What can retailers do to strengthen their relationships with law enforcement?
Retailers need to go out and introduce themselves to local law enforcement and federal law enforcement. Because it’s human nature—if you don’t have a relationship and trust, when you walk in you’ll have a harder time working together, so you really need to get to know your local station police. And if your local station doesn’t think property crime or retail crime is a priority, then go to the management. The origin of LAAORCA came from our former chief being approached by retailers with some problems they were having.

The LAPD is one of more than 20 law enforcement agencies in the Fusion Center at NRF’s LP Conference next week. What are you most looking forward to about that event?
I’d like for people to come in and tell me the concerns they have. I’d like to get to know more people who are involved in retail LP and really establish good relationships. I also want to learn some things from them and get some new ideas. I think some retailers come in because they want to see who the police department is, but as law enforcement, we also want to get to know retailers because we can learn from them, too. Partnerships and good relationships are the key to fighting the scourge of ORC.

The LAPD and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies will be available in the Fusion Center at NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference, June 12-14 at the San Diego Convention Center. Retailers and law enforcement professionals can attend the exhibition hall and Fusion Center at no charge.