When Lisa LaBruno took the stage at the RILA Retail Asset Protection Conference to simply offer a “welcome” to the community, over 900 retail executives (the largest crowd I have ever seen at RILA) took to their feet and offered a standing ovation.

The round of applause lasted several minutes – we were reunited as a community after three years without a trade show. The excitement and gratitude to be back amongst peers and friends was electric. I am not ashamed to say that it legitimately brought a tear to my eye (not surprising to those who know me).

The RILA Retail Asset Protection Conference kicked off in Orlando a couple of weeks ago, from April 24th to April 27th. The show was arguably the most well-attended ever, with a multitude of sessions and keynotes that demonstrated how much we missed being together and sharing compelling insights. Let’s explore my takeaways from the event, as well as some possible implications for the near future of retail trade shows.

Community as a central theme

Community is a word that seemed to echo throughout the entire conference. There were sessions that discussed our retail asset protection community, the retail community in general, our law enforcement community, and especially the impact retail has in the communities where it serves.

The term “community” is one that I have used when talking about retail asset protection now for many years. I used to say the “retail asset protection industry,” but it struck me once during a conversation that we are not simply an industry like so many others. Rather, we are a community. We are a community of retailers and solution providers. We are a community of asset protection and law enforcement professionals. We are a community of friends.

Collaborative solutions, not sales 

The show kicked off with a session on “Effective Sales Strategies from a Retail Veteran.”  Long-time industry veteran, Brand Elverston, shared his impressions, irritants, preferences, and the winning recipe for not only a successful sale, but a sustainable business relationship for solution providers when working with retailers.

This was a session near and dear to my heart. More solution providers could benefit from the knowledge of how NOT to sell to retail AP professionals, but rather work with them to help them buy what they need. It is very much a collaborative approach today as opposed to traditional sales strategies. This was a great way to begin the conference as it served to help the solution provider community understand the real needs of the retail AP community.

Learning & growing together 

There were also key sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion which will further strengthen our retail community. Beyond that, there was an additional focus on workplace safety and what it means (and what it takes) to become Loss Prevention Certified and Loss Prevention Qualified. Education in our community is paramount, and that was brilliantly reflected through these types of sessions at RILA!

A major talking point at RILA this year was how retailers are working within their communities to be a part of that community, as opposed to just a store that happens to be there. It was encouraging to hear leaders talking about the role we all play in this community and the communities where we serve – from engaging with law enforcement to supporting initiatives within the local communities themselves.

One session with Oscar Arango (VP of Asset Protection at Target Corporation), Erin Hiatt (VP/CSR at RILA), and Paul Jaeckle (VP of Asset Protection at Meijer), covered the notion of retailers being more than businesses; They are community partners wherever they operate. Leading retailers are leveraging their stores to help communities tackle locally relevant challenges, from serving as a refuge in the aftermath of tragedy to addressing homelessness and hunger. In a similar way, it was refreshing to hear them discuss ways to work with your store associates to be more than just their employer, but a part of their total support system.

Understanding & solving Organized Retail Crime (ORC) 

Of course, it was especially encouraging to see how the retail community was approaching Organized Retail Crime (ORC) and repeat offenders. 

Whenever the topic of ORC was discussed, the idea of working together as a retail community and collaborating with each other (as well as law enforcement) was discussed in the same breath. The need to engage across store brands, state lines, and specific roles was showcased as never being more important in order to win.

I have heard it said for many years: “the only way to defeat a network of criminals is to create our own network to share information and collaborate.”

ORC is a complex issue with far reaching implications that go beyond the retail storefront. We all know the impact theft can have on a retailer, but very few understand the ORC impacts on consumer prices, availability of product, violence, drug activity, human trafficking, terrorism, weapons trafficking, and more. Only by coming together as a community, can we combat this issue. Thankfully, we’re observing increased collaboration throughout North America and around the world between retailers and law enforcement.

The human aspect of retail communities 

The opportunities to network and catch up with old friends at RILA was the best part for me. These receptions and chats are the most fun I’ve had in retail in three years. That’s probably because the conversations were not about new products, new opportunities, and other tactical topics. Rather, they were filled with smiles, laughs, and human conversations about our lives and what we have all been up to.

Reconnecting with our community was fulfilling and reassuring. We are still connected, and we still care about this movement. To partner together against ORC, that’s exactly what it will require. Stay safe and stay connected!

Interested in learning more about Auror’s approach to resolving ORC and recidivist offending? Start here.

Learn more about Hedgie Bartol.

May 25, 2022

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