Organized retail crime is a complex issue that’s often misunderstood. Bringing awareness to the impact retail theft has on businesses and communities is best done by sharing stories, something JCPenney is aware of.
JCPenney strives to be a place where customers have exceptional shopping experiences as well as provide an excellent workplace environment for employees, Angela Marshall Hofmann, head of government relations for the retailer, said last month at NRF PROTECT. That’s a growing challenge due to the increase in ORC affecting stores. “This is highly organized crime happening in our stores that then impacts our communities as well,” she said.
It’s important to build partnerships to ensure all parties are equipped with the necessary resources, tools and data to combat crime. Hofmann and JCPenney’s Director of Asset Protection Operations, Global Security and Investigation Liz Burkholder utilize the unique connection between asset protection and government relations at JCPenney to connect the dots.
JCPenney’s loss prevention team provides tangible information and the government relations team helps facilitate meaningful conversations with policymakers. The partnership began after a string of several burglaries and break-ins involving six locations across six jurisdictions. Burkholder and the investigative team identified the suspects but found uniting the jurisdictions to be a challenge, so Hofmann picked it up and learned about a new law in Ohio that would allow them to aggregate and take it to a felony level by using a racketeering provision.
“We’ve been replicating that model in other states since then,” Hofmann said.
“Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of what we’re trying to do with legislators can be a lot,” Burkholder said. “However, [a government affairs person] will walk you through that so you can tell your story. We have the real-life experience … and we’ve gotten a lot of traction around ORC because of retail theft and fraud and the aggressiveness that our customers and our employees are experiencing right now in the shopping environments. Most people see it in the media, but we see that every day and we feel it.”
Jon Gold, NRF vice president of supply chain and customs policy, stressed the importance of conveying the ongoing challenges organized retail crime causes. “We need to be telling the story from a perspective where it’s not just the loss of product where we’re really seeing the challenge, but it’s the human impact both on employees and consumers and on the community.
“Telling this story at the federal, state and local level is an important part of seeing action on this issue,” Gold said. “Speaking from your brand’s perspective sends a strong signal during conversations with legislators. It’s important for them to hear from you — whether it be in Washington, D.C., or back home.”
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NRF facilitates those connections through store tours, which provide retailers an opportunity to not only express their challenges directly to legislators, but also to explain, for example, why everything is now behind plexiglass. Plexiglass isn’t a proactive measure; rather, it’s a response to the fear of what could happen if your store becomes the next one hit.
All present on stage agreed that making your story resonate with policymakers is the most important aspect of their work.
Organized retail crime isn’t a problem limited to a brand or contained by state lines. “This is an area where we may be fierce competitors in the retail space,” Hofmann said, “but we work together and share data, we share information, because these are happening in our communities. It’s not just our stores or your stores, it’s our stores and our communities.”
Join NRF in calling on Congress to address rising retail crime today by participating in our grassroots campaign.