As we come to the close of 2010, I have reposted below the resolutions I posted for this year for our industry in 2010 exactly one year ago today. I think most of them still apply today for 2011…Your thoughts?
As we come upon the new year, I thought I might humbly suggest some resolutions for the retail loss prevention industry for 2010. I’m sure some of them will be controversial but they are all made in the spirit of moving our industry forward. Please feel free to comment.
#1 – Don’t make numbers up
In our quest to quantify what we do, let’s be careful about simply pulling numbers out of thin air or estimating numbers and presenting them as fact. In fact, there are several parts of our business where we simply don’t have accurate numbers. Let’s strive to change that fact, not make up facts.
#2 – Don’t make the case for loss prevention by acting like Chicken Little
The primary message I have gleaned from news articles about retail loss prevention during this past year is that things are really bad. I mean, historically bad. We’re talking drastically bad. ORC gangs are hitting all the malls, shoplifting is up because of the economy, on-line auction sites are siphoning millions, if not billions, of dollars via fenced and counterfeit goods, there are no laws on the books that help us address these issues, retail theft is funding terrorism, our budgets have been cut, senior loss prevention positions are being eliminated, cats and dogs are living together…wait, that last one was actually from the movie Ghostbusters.
And, as a result, what has happened to shrinkage? Well, if you believe the numbers in the National Retail Security Survey (see resolution #1 above), retail shrinkage in the U.S. came in at its second lowest level in the 17 or so years the survey has been done. I say kudos to all the practitioners in our business who have continued to improve the way we do our business, who have leveraged technology, and have evolved their approach and response to the emerging threats listed above.
#3 – Demand that our industry associations fund research and education
I like our industry associations. I participate in several of them. I think they are well-intentioned and have expanded what they do for our industry over the past 15 years. The staff members of the associations are hard working, helpful, and eager to serve the industry. Their advisory boards are comprised of individuals who give a broad representation of the retail industry. But, the one area where I think they need to step up is in the area of funding research and education in our industry. The lack of rigorous study and research in our industry is largely the reason that we need resolutions one and two above.
There are models for how this could work and it does not have to be difficult. The Europeans, working through the ECR framework, have figured out how to do this effectively with the process being driven by the retailers. I don’t see any reason this can’t happen in the U.S. However, this will only happen if practitioners demand it. When I look at other large professional and trade organizations, they typically have more robust offerings to their membership in this regard.
#4 – Don’t create a new name for what we do
Retail security, loss prevention, assets protection, profit protection… I really don’t care what we call our industry (I know there are some that care passionately about it), but I do know that having multiple terminologies and nomenclature does not help others understand our profession. Look at established professions like medicine, finance, IT, HR, and others. By and large, they have established consistent labels for positions within their industry. There is a clear distinction in medicine between a doctor, a physician’s assistant, a registered nurse, etc. In finance, there is a clear distinction between a bookkeeper and a CPA. I don’t hold illusions that we are going to reach consensus in 2010, but hope we don’t have more diffusion.
Recent trade talks with the Chinese government have put the issues of counterfeit and pirated goods back in the news. Last year, China launched a six month campaign focused on enforcement of intellectual property rights but U.S. officials want to establish benchmarks to better measure progress and enforcement. It seems that much of this attention is focused on technology products but retail products such as handbags, apparel, and DVD’s are still very much part of the mix. Here is an article from the Business Standard and an article from Market Watch on the trade talks and the underlying issues.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., several high profile law enforcement raids show the goods have a steady demand from the buying public here. This article highlights a raid in Las Vegas that netted $350,000 in countfeit goods while this article reports a Los Angeles raid that seized over $4 million in counterfeit goods.