In 2012, as in years past, loss through shrink has continued to plague retailers. While investments in security technologies have contributed to a slight dip in the numbers over 2011, shoplifting and employee theft remain considerable threats and key areas of focus for retail security professionals. Looking ahead, mobility offers opportunities and challenges in equal measure as the industry awaits standardization on a mobile payment platform and the explosive growth—and security concerns—that are bound to follow.
In 2013, traditional threats and new technologies will continue to converge, creating an environment rich in prospects for advancement in retail loss prevention tools and the professionals who wield them. Additionally, as the lines between IT and loss prevention bend and blur, it is incumbent upon security professionals to both ensure a basic understanding of underlying retail technologies and partner fully with the IT professionals tasked with supporting emerging systems such as mobile point-of-sale.
To Know the Future, Look Back
The FBI has estimated that, nationally, organized retail crime costs the industry around $30 billion a year. In response, the National Anti-Organized Retail Crime Association was created “to bring the law enforcement community and the private sectors together to fight the worldwide epidemic of organized retail crime.” The Safe Doses Act was passed in October of this year “to fight theft of prescription painkillers from points of the supply chain, from the drug warehouse to the delivery truck to the pharmacy, by increasing penalties and giving law enforcement wiretaps access, among other tools to combat drug rings.” Last year, employee theft was at the top of the list of sources of shrink according to the Nation Retail Security Survey, and shoplifting was a close second.
Traditional threats to retailers continue not only to exist but to thrive. Clearly, offering a safe and secure environment for customers and employees continues to be a top priority for retail security teams. With technological advances, however, the concept of “safe and secure” has grown to include new threats beyond personal safety and asset security to include the securing of personal information, data and even personal identity. For security and loss prevention professionals, this has led to a flurry of new information and standards that accompany the move toward digital, mobile and a vast array of tech-enabled security measures.
Maintaining a safe and secure environment increasingly requires a working knowledge of and cooperation with IT. In fact, as we move into 2013, the lines between IT and security will continue to blur as security professionals work to gain a better understanding of the technology associated with advancements such as mobility—as well as the implications for security—and IT professionals’ responsibilities continue to overlap into the realm once belonging solely to security and loss prevention.
At 1.42 percent, the average retail shrinkage in 2011, according to the NRSS, was the lowest ever recorded in the 22 years the survey has been conducted. Many in the field, including Dr. Richard Hollinger, director of the Security Research Project, which conducts the annual NRSS, credit retail technologies for the reduction of shrink numbers.
In addition to enabling a wide range of solutions to assist in the protection of employees, customers and assets, technology serves another, equally important and perhaps more visible, purpose: meeting the needs and desires of customers who want the convenience of mobility. Where IP video surveillance serves security teams by providing broader capabilities in identifying and addressing theft and loss, mobile POS gives customers what they want. With both, however, come the challenges of understanding the technologies well enough to serve as a valuable partner to IT and ensure optimal adoption and deployment.
Take the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, for example. The standard has been put in place to ensure that all companies processing, storing or transmitting credit card information maintain a secure environment. The standard applies no matter how the data is collected (by phone, online, in person, etc.). However, with mobile technologies advancing so quickly, and consumers demanding mobile options “now,” ensuring compliance to the PCI DSS will pose yet another challenge for many security professionals. Those well acquainted with mobile technologies, and working closely with their technical counterparts, stand a much better chance of ensuring compliance and reducing issues regarding consumer data and company information.
In 2013, we will see the lines between the security and IT functions continue to thin and blur as technology and security depend more heavily on one another. The demand for mobility leaves retailers no choice but to offer what consumers desire most or lose out to the competition. In the age-old battle against pervasive loss as a result of theft, we’ll see more retailers adopting IP video surveillance and IP analytics, remote monitoring, shelf-mounted cameras and, according to the NRSS’s Hollinger, POS exception-based CCTV interfaced systems. To be effective, these technologies, like mobile payments, must be carefully selected, deployed and secured. This will require IT and security professionals to come together in an unprecedented way, creating a new standard in retail security.
Andrew Wren serves as chief executive officer of Wren Solutions, a loss prevention technology provider helping leading retailers reduce loss and increase profits. Wren is responsible for corporate and product strategy, leveraging his more than two decades of security technology expertise. To learn more about Wren Solutions, visit www.wrensolutions.com.