The RILA Retail Asset Protection Conference took place April 30th - May 3rd in Denver, Colorado with “resilience” and “we’re shaping retail’s future” as the themes. Those themes were spot-on and truly connected the entire week.

There were many breakout sessions between retail and law enforcement thought leaders. Some of the topics and talks mentioned throughout the week were:

  • Bridging the Investigations Gap Between ORC Teams, E-Commerce Fraud Teams, and Brick and Mortar AP Teams
  • The Auror Next-Gen Experience Room
  • From Reactive to Proactive: The Evolution of a Retail Operations Center
  • Meeting the Needs of a Changing Workforce and Culture: People-Centric Investigations Strategies
  • Leveraging Law Enforcement Relationships to Build Strong Partnerships and Cultivate Community Engagement
  • Fostering an Active and Accountable Safety Culture

Community, connectivity, & partnerships for good

Monday morning kicked off with a fireside chat between Ulta Beauty CEO David Kimbell and RILA President Brian Dodge. It was great for the room to hear David’s perspective as a leader known for spending time in-store.

At Ulta Beauty, they’re focused on delivering a world-class (and integrated) store experience. Simply put, crime disrupts that mission – and no one retailer or solution can solve for that alone. It will require partnerships and networks for good.

The same morning, Lisa LaBruno (RILA) hosted a panel discussion with three district attorney offices: Beth McCann (DA - Denver, Colorado), Jeff Reisig (DA - Yolo County, California), and Jordan Stockdale (Chief of Staff, Manhattan). Community, connectivity, and partnerships were powerful themes in this discussion. And it was especially helpful to hear the DA perspective when it comes to addressing retail crime.

One notion that kept coming up was the importance of communications among retailers, law enforcement, and legislators. There were several questions where the answer began with “communication.” It’s more than that of of course – Jeff Reisig specifically said,

“They’re killing us with a lack of data.”

This was in relation to AP/LP teams communicating insights to law enforcement. Without accurate data, law enforcement is not empowered to pursue case closures or communicate the scale of the problem to governments. This lack of data is mostly due to a lack of reporting, an issue that also creates silos and a lack of visibility within our very own organizations too.

$1M in sales tax revenue loss from retail theft

One DA mentioned their county lost over $1M in sales tax revenue from retail theft in 2022. That’s money that could have been invested back into the community, even into addressing the retail crime problem.

77% increase in retail crime 

Another DA said their community has seen a 77% increase in retail crime in the last two years. 

Cross-org collaboration & ecosystems for safety 

Another keynote co-presentation that set the tone for conversations throughout the week was delivered by Scott Draher (Lowe’s) and Paul Jaeckle (Meijer). Scott is the VP of AP and Safety at Lowe’s and Paul is the VP of AP at Meijer. Every time multiple leaders collaborate on a learning session like this, it reinforces to the community how we’re all in this together.

Scott talked about the importance of communicating up the chain within AP and retail organizations so leaders across functions have visibility and context into their challenges (and needs). Both Scott and Paul talked a lot about the importance of process and deploying an intentional, connected approach to keeping stores safe.

400% increase in reported customer threats 

Meijer has seen a 400% increase in reported customer threats to associates since 2018.

Scott commended Meijer’s survey methodology in that they (Meijer) have sent out customer safety surveys. In fact, Paul said these safety surveys are the highest response rate of any survey Meijer sends which tells us how important the topic is to customers. Related to this, Paul and Scott also spent time on parking lot safety and the solution ecosystems they have used (or are piloting) to address it.

“Your risk starts before the customer enters the store.”
– Paul Jaeckle, VP of Asset Protection at Meijer

Redefining the future of retail, together

RILA was a true connected experience in that the kickoff was perfectly tied to the finale, and everything in between. Bobby Haskins, VP of Retail Partnerships at Auror, delivered the opening remarks for this year’s event and focused on the importance of connectivity and collaboration.

“We all need to evolve our approach, our technology, and the way in which we all collaborate. Because our customers, our associates, and our communities are counting on us.”
– Bobby Haskins, VP of Retail Partnerships at Auror

The final keynote was delivered by Joshua Ridgeway, Senior Director of Asset Protection at Walmart, where he talked about creating a customer-centric AP organization – as well as the vital importance of privacy, trust, and cross-org alignment.

Joshua’s team has put in work to identify customer friction points and then search for ways to address them. “Convenience is the thing that will determine who wins and who loses,” he said. He also hit on how new solutions, while potentially effective, won’t work at scale if they don’t take privacy and trust seriously. To that point, Joshua said “If we don’t govern ourselves, state legislators will do it for us,” and discussed the Internal Digital Citizenship team at Walmart.

Joshua made time for Q&A at the end of his presentation where he received several process and product questions. When it comes to these topics – and actually redefining the customer experience and retail safety – this quote put a bow on the presentation and conference:

“We’re all in this together. I need you on this journey with me.”

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May 16, 2023

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