Ulta Beauty is the largest beauty retailer - and one of the fastest growing retailers - in the United States, giving consumers easy access to many of the world’s top beauty brands. Ulta products are highly sought-after by not only those who love beauty products, but also by those who love stealing and reselling them.

Over the past two years, there had been a noticeable and concerning increase in Organized Retail Crime (ORC) activity and this illicit targeting of Ulta products was starting to have a noticeable financial impact. Ulta Senior Director of Loss Prevention John Goldyn knew he had to quickly develop an aggressive action plan to support stores and stop ORC groups. 

At Auror’s Global Retail Crime Summit, John explained how he built the capability to deal with and solve ORC incidents at Ulta Beauty.

How Ulta Beauty proved ORC needed to be addressed

Using data to sell Ulta’s ORC story to C-suite

One of the first and most significant hurdles John faced was convincing those in charge to invest in frontline reporting to address ORC. The first step towards bringing them onboard was to gather the data to tell the story of how ORC impacted Ulta and then share that story with anyone and everyone at the company.

This story included baseline information about what products were being targeted, which brands were more popular, where they were placed in the stores, and what areas of the country were being significantly affected. 

John says having this basic information really helped build the case for more ORC capability.

“That kind of intel in the beginning really helps you start to set the stage. Not only to help develop, build, and secure the stores, but also to sell to your C-suite,” he says.

Getting help from partners

Something that was foundational to gathering intel was reaching out to partners for help. John acknowledges that at the start of Ulta’s ORC journey, he didn’t have a lot of expertise in ORC. So he asked for help from those he knew who had that experience to learn how to go about addressing ORC and what he should do. 

Once everyone was on the same page in terms of what ORC meant in terms of the organization, this helped get the top tier of leadership invested. John and his team even created an ORC summit to educate the C-suite leadership and help answer their questions about all things ORC-related. This helped the leadership team to understand the issue and how they could help. 

Getting stores ready for the focus on ORC

All of this was great progress in addressing ORC, but there were still challenges to overcome, including differentiating how store staff were going to handle a professional criminal versus petty shoplifter. 

The answer to this is constant education about how to manage and de-escalate situations when an event occurs. There are policies and procedures in place on how to handle ORC and staff are trained on how to have difficult conversations with groups of offenders while simultaneously keeping guests calm and safe. Recognizing and managing unconscious bias is also another big focus that staff receive regular education on.

Keeping stores engaged

On top of the education aspect, it was also about keeping the communication lines open between frontline staff and the corporate team. It was important that those working in the stores were clued up about what was happening with the ORC team and what they were working on. 

John says it’s important for frontline staff to trust that if they report an incident, it would be followed up and investigated. 

“We need to make sure we’re doing the things that make the stores know that as long as they follow through with their safety protocols and handle this event, there’s a team working on these cases to make sure they’re successfully prosecuted.”

At the corporate level, challenges included securing technology, finding the right people for the growing ORC team and working on vendor relationships to get the best tools for their budget. With this ORC team they were able to support partnerships with the stores, ORC groups and law enforcement. 

Biggest ORC challenges for retailers for the future

The Ulta Beauty ORC team noticed that ORC groups were starting to become more active in areas that were not typical ORC hotspots. For example, it was expected that they would target stores in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, but in actuality they were operating everywhere. 

One prediction from John’s team is that more of the onus of addressing ORC incidents will fall on retailers as law enforcement gets increasingly tied up with other work. This means more retailers will need to work together and take ownership of building cases and do a lot of the field work themselves. 

Key tips on how other retailers can build their ORC capabilities and protect their teams

The first major piece of advice that John offers to other organizations that want to build up their ORC capabilities is to enable open communication and collaboration. Standardize what an ORC event looks like and how it should be handled. This applies across the whole organization, as well as with other retailers and with law enforcement. 

Sharing intel with other retailers is another key tip. Even if you think your organization is too small or behind in your ORC journey to contribute anything meaningful, the intel you have could be the missing link in solving an investigation. It’s important to not think of other retailers as competition in this instance - there is no competition when you’re trying to solve crime. 

Want to know more about how to address your ORC problem? Contact our team.

August 3, 2021
Organized Retail Crime

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