Loss prevention executives working for some of Ireland’s biggest retailers met at the Retail Risk – Dublin conference on 6th July. For many of the delegates this was a reunion after the Retail Fraud event in Dublin in 2014. The venue was the landmark Shelbourne Hotel, a key meeting place at pivotal moments in Irish history.

The sweeping changes in modern retail and the implications for profit protection were the main theme of last Thursday’s discussions.

Corin Dennison, Director Legal & Compliance (Global Investigations), adidas Group (a global sponsor of the Retail Risk conference series), gave the first main presentation of the day, focusing on the need for stakeholder engagement and collaboration to meet the challenges retailers face.

Corin shared insights from his experience of tackling crime and protecting business for an iconic brand that has successfully rolled out over 230 new stores since 2015.

Next up was Eoin O’Neill, Business Development Manager, Ireland, for the worldwide logistics leader OCS Group, with a presentation on ‘Stock Control and Deciphering the Matrix’. In a fun review of inventory management from Ancient Egypt to the year 2199, Eoin reminded delegates that bad stock control was the key factor in 14% of all retail business failures in the US in 2016. That proportion is only likely to rise, he warned, as the advent of omni-channel creates new gaps in supply chains every day.

The answer for many retailers, Eoin predicted, will be RFID. With Zara and Target planning a full transition to RFID next year, he said, “it may not be for everybody, and not immediately, but it’s coming.”

He was followed by Una Dillon, Managing Director (Europe), Merchant Risk Council, who gave delegates an overview of the MRC’s work as a trade association for e-commerce merchants. Started by a few merchants including Amazon, Target and Starbucks the Council now has 500 members across the US and Europe, and advises them on all areas of payments, not just risk.

Since last year, Una said, the MRC has become closely involved in the policing of international e-comm fraud, providing information that led to the arrest of 43 suspects last October, (including one who was responsible for more than €1.6 million in fraud), in an operation involving nine countries.

Paul Bessant, founder of Retail Knowledge, then gave the new live and interactive Retail Risk Global Survey its first outing in Dublin. The third party software enabling respondents to remain anonymous was a welcome innovation here, and delegates were very receptive. A report based on the findings is now being compiled and will be circulated to all conference delegates.

Andy Martin, Business Development Manager, Axis Communications, discussed the disconnect between the capabilities video analytics can offer and retailers’ understanding of their own rapidly changing, and even unpredictable, needs.

“The message is to think again about why you deploy loss prevention,” he said, pointing out challenges that are emerging in increasingly automated stores where retailers may in future be charging manufacturers for consumers’ inspections of their goods, and where millennials’ behaviour heightens the risks of litigation and reputational damage.

The still largely unexploited ways in which video analytics can assist operations will be a key feature of the ‘Intelligent High Street’, Andy predicted, once retailers have learned to ask their surveillance suppliers enough questions.

“Bleed us dry because we’re making money out of you and it’s part of the deal,” he told delegates.

On next was Andy’s colleague, Steven Kenny, Business Development Manager, Architecture and Engineering Programme at Axis Communications, who highlighted an under-reported cyber risk that many businesses have yet to notice. This is the risk that they may not even know who manufactured equipment that turns out to be vulnerable.

He cited the case of company that identified critical vulnerabilities but was unable to fix them for six weeks because the ‘manufacturer’ was not the real maker and had no control over putting faults right. With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation looming knowing your manufacturer is becoming a priority issue, he said.

Finally, former criminal mastermind and world expert on e-theft, Tony Sales, took delegates on a video and virtual tour of business premises and digital infrastructure seen through the eyes of burglars and hackers.

“Data is the new cash” he warned, yet companies leave it lying around. With the onset of the GDPR companies suffering a data breach risk fines of up to 4% of company turnover, and brand crippling adverse publicity.

Retail Risk is expected to be back in Dublin before long. “There was lots of enthusiasm and a good day was had by all,” said Paul Bessant.