Emerging technology, ORC to be focus at upcoming NRF LP show

Monday, June 11, 2012

NEW ORLEANS—Attendees of next week's National Retail Federation Loss Prevention Conference, to be held in this city, can expect extensive conversations about emerging technology and organized retail crime, among many others.

The NRF expects approximately 2,700 attendees at this year's conference, which is in line with last year's attendance. Besides educational sessions, the conference will offer opportunities to network with other retail loss prevention professionals, technology vendors, and representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Security Director News spoke with Rich Mellor, the NRF's vice president of loss prevention, about what attendees can expect from the conference, including a few new features he believes will increase the conference's value to loss prevention professionals who attend. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SDN: You're kicking off the conference with a keynote panel that will feature Steve Sadove, CEO of Saks, talking about how loss prevention teams play an integral role in transforming an organization. What can people expect from that conversation?

Mellor: Over the past decade loss prevention executives, team leaders, etc., have been promoted up the line to senior vice presidents and some even higher than that. And on their career path they have been involved in decision-making in their companies. The role has become more important as the years have gone by and the complexity of what companies are dealing with today have grown to include technology, organized retail crime, investigations—all of those things are very important to the company's health and well being and Steve Sadove will no doubt be talking about the importance of the loss prevention executive in the decision-making in his company, and what kind of talents and abilities they need to bring to the table.

What do you think will be the big conversation topics this year among attendees?

I think that the topic of conversation will be about emerging technologies. A headliner session is called the E.T.s of Retailing: Emerging Technologies and Emerging Threats. That presentation is going to be done by the NRF's own Joe LaRocca and Gary Johnson from the Vitamin Shoppe. We expect that to be a very interesting topic. It involves mobile point-of-sale technology. It's a technology that retailers are spending considerable time, effort, energy and expense to bring into their stores, and along with it comes lots of complexity in how it impacts the loss prevention team and how they do their job. The presentation will highlight near field communications, the mobile POS touchless payment, e-receipts, chip-and-pin technology, and radio frequency, as well. There are many aspects of those technologies that make the job of a loss prevention team a bit more difficult. Joe LaRocca will focus on what those vulnerabilities are and what are some of the techniques being deployed to counteract those.

Secondly, I think there'll be a significant amount of conversation going on about organized retail crime.

What can loss prevention professionals expect from the Fusion Center?

We're always excited to do the Fusion Center. This year we're going to have more than 40 law enforcement agencies going from the local police departments on through up to the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security. The ability for those agencies to interact with retail executives and exchange ideas and network to become collaborators in fighting crime is so important today. You've seen a lot of information out there on organized retail crime. You don't get your hands around that unless you're communicating with law enforcement. The Fusion Center is a highlight of the conference each year and we continue to grow the number of participants in it.

What can attendees expect from some of the other sessions they'll be able to attend at the conference?

Attendees will be presented with topics that include new types of interview training in a town hall format. That's brand new. We've never done it before.

"What's IT"—meaning information technology—"got to do with it" addresses the collaboration and partnership of loss prevention and information technology divisions in a company, how important it is and how you go about understanding all of that technology.

Another session topic is how to develop a comprehensive workplace violence program and responding to critical incidents. It used to be that we just talked about how to develop a critical response program in your company, but in recent years the events that get on the news and that are visible and happen—some very scary, very violent incidents—requires going well beyond how you need to educate your retail associates and how to tactfully put together programs for quick response. You can't go out and look for instructions when these incidents happen. You have to know it, understand it, and know how to react and how to communicate properly.

Any big announcements planned for the conference?

Well, the award ceremony is always a closely guarded secret as to who is going to win the loss prevention case of the year, and who the recipient will be for the law enforcement retail partnership award, which is always given to members of the law enforcement community. We, of course, will be announcing winners there and it will be a surprise who they are. We get a couple dozen cases submitted in the nomination process and they're all terrific investigations on both parts—both the loss prevention case of the year, which is awarded to a retailer, and the partnership award, which is awarded to a law enforcement agency.

Anything else you'd like to add?

One thing I would say is that one topic that is brand new is a session called "The Impact of Human Trafficking on the Retail Industry and Our Economy." That's a groundbreaker, too. It's going to be something a little different for the audience. This is going to be a panel discussion with a couple of experts in this area. [DHS] Secretary Janet Napolitano this past year launched the Blue Campaign, a first-of-its-kind initiative to attack the problem of human trafficking. The moderator of the session is Napolitano's senior counselor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Her name is Alice Hill. Human trafficking is a widespread international organized crime with implications for the entire community. It is the third largest source of profits for organized crime and encourages corruption, fuels other crimes and erodes both government and the legal structures.

So the idea is that the organized criminals involved in human trafficking are likely also to have a hand in organized retail crime?

That's exactly right and the purpose of the presentation is to utilize the LP community as the eyes out there for detecting this type of crime in and around retail establishments. This will be a training session for how to pick off signals of the typical behaviors of people who are being held hostage. We are hopeful and the secretary is hopeful by making them better aware of what to look for, how to detect it, how to report it, it will have positive impact on bringing more people to justice for this crime.