So much of the retail environment has changed over the last two years due to COVID-19, civil unrest and increasing cybersecurity threats. Loss prevention executives have had to adapt to all those changes.
“In today’s current environment and taking all the lessons learned over the last several challenging years, our strategy has transitioned to one focused on total enterprise security and risk management, not just fundamental LP or AP objectives as in the past,” Peter Chie, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president of asset protection and risk management, told NRF.
Chie spoke with NRF about how Bloomingdale’s adjusted its security plans in the face of civil unrest and protests and what can be done to counteract the rise in organized retail crime.
What were some of your key loss prevention goals two years ago and what are the goals today?
Pre-COVID-19 we focused on the typical risk management issues — inventory shortage, safety, internal/external theft and fraud. Yes, we had a business continuity plan, but it wasn’t really tested to its full extent. It was all about enhancing profitability and increasing the bottom line through strong execution of the fundamentals of loss prevention/asset protection.
With the onset of the pandemic, we had to pivot quickly in several different aspects of our strategy. First, we clearly placed much more emphasis on health and safety, rapidly becoming experts in pandemic response protocols.
Second, when civil unrest issues cropped up throughout the country, we focused on keeping our colleagues and customers safe with additional physical security fortification measures and training.
Finally, with the shift to more omnichannel business opportunities including ecommerce and buy online, pick up in store, we took a closer look at the increased fraud and cybersecurity implications associated with these different channels of business.
Protests and demonstrations swept through the U.S. in the summer and fall of 2020, along with workplace violence in light of COVID-19 masking and social distancing requirements. How did Bloomingdale’s adjust security plans to consider and plan for potentially volatile events both inside and outside stores?
When the first protests and civil unrest scenarios started to unfold, we executed a four-prong plan to address. First, we ensured that we had a robust communication/notification system in place to stay abreast and current on all potential events.
Second, we engaged and enhanced our collaborative efforts with our mall REIT partners, other retailers and law enforcement to ensure we approached these issues holistically from all angles with the support required to address.
Third, we reinforced our current colleague training including personal safety, de-escalation, protest mitigation and incident response.
Finally, we ramped up our physical security fortification efforts already in the works, moving up our timeline for completion. This included installation of security measures such as roll-down gates, window laminate and CCTV system enhancements/upgrades.
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The pandemic slowed down many aspects of the economy and everyday life, but it didn’t slow down criminals. In fact, organized retail crime is on the rise. Why is that and what can be done to counter that trend?
There are several factors contributing to the rise in ORC. First, COVID-19 certainly impacted stores by not only shutting them down, but also [forcing them to] operate with fewer employees and resources. This made it much easier for bad actors to operate their craft, in a larger way and with more violence.
Second is the way in which bad actors can now fence the stolen product. ORC groups took advantage of the online marketplace spike to peddle their stolen goods.
Lastly, decriminalization is playing a significant role in the increase in ORC. Legislative factors, including the raising of felony thresholds and reduction of consequences for offenders, are prime examples. Police and bail reform as well as law enforcement staffing challenges have also contributed to the rise in ORC.
Last year, you interviewed Bloomingdale’s CFO Scott Zettell on the TalkLP podcast episode “What do CFOs Really Want from LP Executives?” So … what do CFOs really want and how can company leaders make LP a value proposition within their organization?
I think first and foremost, CFOs are seeking transparency and candor in the relationship with their LP/AP executive, looking at issues curiously and holistically and problem solving for those unintended consequences. Bringing forth options to the table is welcomed as well. CFOs want their LP/AP executive’s perspective and insight to be inserted beforehand so they can make better decisions based upon the additional knowledge gleaned from the conversation.