3 lessons on collaboration from NRF PROTECT

NRF PROTECT: Retailers come together to share and develop innovative strategies to prevent crime and keep communities safe
Director, Social Media & Digital Communications
June 13, 2023

NRF PROTECT, the retail industry’s premier event for professionals in loss prevention, asset protection, digital fraud and cyber risk, convened more than 2,000 security experts, 250 retail companies and 129 international attendees June 5-7 at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. The three-day event provided tools and expertise to support leaders in these sectors with tactics to counter crime, risks and fraud.

A majority of sessions focused on organized retail crime, a growing threat that endangers store employees and customers, disrupts store operations and inflicts financial loss for retailers and communities.

Combating ORC together

Organized retail crime is not merely the loss of products due to shoplifting but is large-scale theft from groups resulting in losses that drive up costs for retailers and, in turn, prices for consumers. The money generated from goods that are resold often goes toward guns, drugs, human trafficking and other illegal activities.

Organized retail crime

Learn more about the current status of organized retail crime in the retail industry and updates on prevention.

In a session on how retailers can work with policymakers to strengthen laws that prevent ORC, leaders from JCPenney discussed the importance of framing ORC to political leaders and why telling the story of its impact can raise awareness across local and state governments, leading to adoption of sufficient criminal penalties. Retailers can help raise awareness about the impact of ORC by sharing personal cases from a sales associate or store manager to show its tangible impacts.

ORC also has the potential to impact whether people want to work in the retail industry, said Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner, who supports retailers collaborating by sharing data on the impact of ORC in their stores.

“I’d encourage everyone to think about how we work together to share data,” Furner said. “It’s hard in some cases to get your head around sharing data with who you’d consider a ‘competitor,’ but this is not an issue that we would want to ever consider in the industry a competitive advantage.”

Reshaping how we think and innovate around crime prevention

There’s always a different lens to view crime with because you never know what’s going to be the game changer when you pull out a magnifying glass, said Amy Herman, attorney, internationalist, crime fighter and art historian. Herman kicked off NRF PROTECT by encouraging leaders to think about problems differently because the problems themselves are now different. 


Checkout the recap and learn more about NRF Protect 2023, covering insights and strategies on loss prevention, asset protection, digital fraud and cybersecurity.

COVID-19’s retail impact meant constant agility, flexibility and pivoting. That constant innovation might not have allowed adequate time for assessment, Herman said: Leaders can’t solve problems until parameters around the problem are built and evaluated, because knee-jerk reactions are not sustainable.

Emerging from COVID, leaders have the tools and flexibility to innovate new tech, replicate systems that work and create new practices. More importantly, they can focus on what their findings reveal rather than what they hope they’re going to see, Herman said.

The challenge to create high-impact, low-friction solutions remains a priority for retailers. Jodie Kautt, Target’s vice president of cybersecurity, said retailers should consider “what makes sense to buy versus what makes sense to build” when brainstorming solutions and tools. For example, to address the act of digital skimming — the act of stealing payment information from consumers online — Target developed a tool in-house and offered it to the community to use for free.

Crime prevention is a business problem

Mitigating fraud, theft and security are business problems. Through creative collaboration, retailers can create better omnichannel experiences that protect goods, allow for easy shopping experiences and prevent crime before it starts.

Enabling safety while also remembering to delight the customer is possible, as long as teams can discuss what was learned and how to do better, said Andrew Laudato. During his keynote address, The Vitamin Shoppe’s chief operating officer shared case studies on how the company was able to innovate and learn from successes and reevaluations.

Andrew Laudato speaking at 2023 NRF PROTECT
Andrew Laudato of the Vitamin Shoppe at NRF PROTECT 2023.

When it comes to crime prevention, Jonathan Wackrow, senior managing director at Teneo, said, “it’s not a law enforcement issue, it’s a community issue … we feel like we are prepared but we don’t practice it … in the order of consequence.” That’s because retailers are still working through the kinks of defined roles to address attacks.

Retailers have traditionally approached physical security and cybersecurity as siloed entities. But increasing threats across all sectors of retail call for more collaboration than ever before among both loss prevention/asset protection and cybersecurity professionals. Wherever threats arise, retail teams across specialties are working in tandem to build a more secure and resilient retail ecosystem.

“We have a huge effort underway to engage CEOs and boards in understanding that combined risk of cyber and physical,” said Nitin Natarajan, deputy director at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“At the end of the day, whether we’re talking about loss prevention and theft and the economic impact of that on an organization, or we’re talking about brand recognition and public image, these are issues that are corporate issues, regardless of the vector of that attack.”

Related content

The reality of retail shrink
Shopping detectors
While we ‘squabble about shrink,’ theft and violence get worse.
Read more
NRF tackles AI, cybersecurity and fraud prevention
NRF Center for Digital Risk and Innovation
NRF's Center for Digital Risk & Innovation will help develop guidelines to inform retailers’ technology strategies.
Read more
Telling the retail story at the state and local level
Executives at the California State Retail Meeting
Retail Gets Real episode 317: Live from the Council of State Retail Associations meeting.
Read more