The retail industry continues to undergo massive transformation, as do the careers of the people in it. Loss prevention is one such career path that might look quite different than it did 20 years ago — executives today might have started their careers physically chasing shoplifters and now spend their days devising strategies for using emerging technologies to prevent fraud.
Loss prevention professionals are often the unsung heroes keeping retail company assets, employees and customers safe, and the NRF PROTECT awards seek to honor those who do this difficult work.
Dan Doyle, a senior vice president for Bealls Department Stores, was inducted into the Ring of Excellence — the highest loss prevention and asset protection recognition in the retail industry — in 2014 for his contributions and outstanding leadership during a 40-year career. A former chairman of the NRF LP Advisory Council, Doyle previously was a private investigator who worked for Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor. He led loss prevention at Bealls for 22 years before becoming senior vice president of human resources for the retailer.
We sat down with Doyle to chat about his career in LP, why the profession matters and the upcoming NRF PROTECT 2018 conference, to be held June 11 – 13 in Dallas.
How did you start your career in retail?
I started my career in retail by accident. At that time in my life — which was a long time ago — I was looking to go into federal law enforcement and trying to get some experience after college. I was introduced to retail LP when I was given retail store undercover work at a private investigation company.
What sparked your interest in retail LP?
I saw it as an industry that was growing, developing and had lots of opportunity for people to rise within the ranks and work for iconic, reputable companies. It really gives you the ability to grow within the exciting world of retail.
How has your career prepared you for your current role?
I am a student of human behavior, which led me toward the HR world. I’ve always had a great love for problem solving, assessing people, developing talent and understanding what makes employees want to do a good job. My career in LP specifically has exposed me to all parts of the retail business, improved my communication skills and introduced me to some great people.
Can you tell us about the mentors that helped you grow as a professional?
My most important retail LP mentor is another Ring of Excellence guy by the name of Lew Shealy, whom I met while working at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. Considering that was almost 30 years ago, I’ve since been mentored by other LP bosses, as well as others in different areas of the business.
I’ve been with my current boss, the CEO and chairman of Bealls, for 28 years. Although he’s not an LP guy, he’s taught me lots of things related to the running of a retail business. It’s the mentors outside of your discipline that can help you become more well-rounded.
What’s a common misconception about a career in loss prevention?
I think the biggest common misconception is that you’re running around, chasing shoplifters all day. There was probably a time where that was the primary function of LP, but it’s now just a very small piece. LP today focuses on things like disaster recovery, cybersecurity and risk management. The laymen have historically thought of LP people as retired cops or people that didn’t make it in law enforcement, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
"I think the retail industry’s transformation requires the LP practitioners to transform as well."Dan Doyle
With retail undergoing massive transformation, how does this affect the role of LP?
I think it creates a lot of uncertainty. It may drive companies to need a bigger loss prevention presence, because people are uncertain about what’s going to happen. Regardless, we need to continue to learn, evolve and grow with the business and develop adaptable skills. Ecommerce, for instance, is growing wildly and there is a greater need for LP people. I think the retail industry’s transformation requires the LP practitioners to transform as well.
What new technology should LP professionals keep an eye on?
Although analytics and data are not new topics in loss prevention, it’s certainly something that we should continue to use and leverage. There’s always the game of trying to stay ahead of the bad guys, so we need technology that allows us to do that. We should also partner with our IT world to learn how to better use the technology we have, as well as to consolidate our resources.
Because retail technology is moving so fast, people ought to go to conferences. That’s one way retailers can stay abreast of the new technologies in the industry. It’s hard to take in new information and understand how it works if you’re sitting in your office, so going to conferences like NRF PROTECT can help you stay ahead of the game.
What is the biggest issue LP professionals should be focusing on right now?
As an HR practitioner, I want to make sure that I say: Don’t underestimate the need to find and develop good talent. It’s important that LP focuses on finding and developing talent, as well as having succession plans. LP professionals should not be left out of the talent quotient.
NRF PROTECT 2018 is coming up in June — what are you most excited about?
I always look forward to networking with my colleagues from other companies and being able to connect with them after the conference. I’m also excited to learn about new and emerging technologies, like advances in facial recognition software.
There’s always a lot of good things at the conference and you could spend days checking out the vendors. In the end, you always walk away with new connections and information from the educational sessions that you can use in your own business.