The Retail Risk conference series is the biggest risk and loss prevention conference series in the world. And delegates attending their second New York conference, which took place at the Downtown Marriott in the heart of New York’s financial district, could clearly see why…

Delegates were treated to a veritable feast of new and exciting presentations by outstanding speakers, brought together from around the world, freely giving their expertise, experience and inspiration to the assembled audience.

RFID is impacting more and more LP departments, most of whom have no ownership of the process driving its adoption. Jon Wright of River Island, flown in from England just for the conference, gave a slick, thought provoking presentation on how his business had adopted RFID not just to reduce shrink, but primarily to increase sales and improve the customer experience. Not only has his department taken ownership of the adoption process, but managed to achieve it without any involvement from IT – making the system quicker to adopt without burdening other departments. John’s point by point guide provided a blueprint for those present to follow in their own businesses, avoiding pitfalls and learning from hard won experience. All in all, an excellent take away for most of those present – but this was only the beginning…

David Thompson, Director of Investigations, Research and Innovation at Wicklander Zulawski & Associatesgave an energising and inspiring insight into WZ interview techniques underlining why they have such an outstanding reputation in the industry. Real video interview footage was shown and analysed demonstrating the approach in an enthralling presentation, with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson dramatizing some of the techniques learned in the famous “You can’t take the truth” scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster “A Few Good Men.” David then went on to expand on his techniques in a free training workshop provided for delegates later in the day.

Following the first coffee and networking break, David Bhattacharjee, Vice President of Data Analytics for Stanley Black and Decker made the unfathomable understandable and even entertaining, as he romped through a very informative and educational presentation on using Big Data & Analytics to improve store profitability. Big Data seems implicitly incomprehensibly complex and David showed great skill in simplifying the approach in order to make quick big wins in stores using existing infrastructure to reduce shrink, improve hiring decisions and improve the customer experience as well as boosting profits by millions of dollars.

Then followed Skip Myers, hot from his breakfast session for those early risers determined to beat the New York morning traffic. This time Skip talked about his Agile loss prevention approach to addressing challenges posed by the business. Skip is Director of Loss Prevention and Risk Strategy for Micro Center who promises their customers that if they order online they can pick up their purchase within 18 minutes of placing the order! This remarkable service level also posed remarkable challenges for the LP department. Skip demonstrated a thought process that not only supported the, frankly, impossible-sounding customer service level to help make it a commercial reality for the business, but also could be used by others to help “Ruin A Bad Guy’s Day.” Remarkable!

After lunch and a further networking opportunity, Rand Fernandes of Oracle spoke engagingly about the problem everyone in LP is talking about around the world – How to define mobile POS risk and what to do about it. The presentation was replete with insights, practical advice and brilliant take away pieces too numerous to mention.

Then came Chris McDonald Senior Vice President of Loss Prevention and Gary Moncur, Director of Loss Prevention at Compass Group NAD. The inimitable “double act” have been hits at several Retail Risk conferences around the world and New York was no exception. Inviting the audience to give their own performance appraisals, Chris and Gary used real anonymised case histories to show the disconnect between employees and their managers. Their easy, entertaining style combined with audience participation was a great way to take the audience through a process of self-realisation; both as managers and employees! Some brilliant practical advice was provided to fundamentally change the annual review dynamic – material that is doubtless being put to good use in businesses immediately by those fortunate enough to hear it – both to improve their staff performance and to enhance their own career progression.

Following the third and final break for coffee and networking came two gems from out of left field.

First Dr Clare Sullivan from the Law Centre, Georgetown University spoke most engagingly on the emerging area of law around digital identity. In a thoughtful, fascinating and charming presentation, which it is suspected many thought might be dry and boring (what law isn’t!) Dr Clare held the audience’s rapt attention, which did not falter as she unleashed one “bomb” after the other. The inalienable right to a digital ID, countries offering digital citizenships, the doctrine of mistake and the way in which contract law would be changing forever are not hypothetical concepts – they are all arriving in the next few years. Retailers will have to fundamentally review their processes around customer information and store cards because damage to a person’s digital ID will constitute damage to their intellectual property and give rise to civil as well as criminal prosecutions – with retailers in breach of the new required standards being held to account through imprisonment or damages calculated with reference to the standing of the individuals adjudged to have been wronged – worrying for all retailers, but terrifying for those dealing with high net worth individuals. The most frequently heard description after the conference uttered by delegates was “mind-blowing!” Those present can consider themselves very fortunate to have been given the early heads up on what promises to REVOLUTIONISE the use and retention of data by all businesses over the coming TWO YEARS!

Rounding off the show came a live video link to Tony Sales. The man dubbed by the Press as “Britain’s Greatest Fraudster” gave no presentation. For 40 minutes the audience simply got to ask one of the finest criminal mindsanything they wanted. Key questions were posed by audience members keen to gain a unique and invaluable insight into the working of the criminal mind. “What weaknesses would Tony and his gang of 50 look for in choosing their retailer targets?” “What security measures would put them off hitting a target?” “Where would Tony spend his budget if he were an LP director looking to protect his business?” “What new threats did he see emerging over the next 12-18 months and what could retailers do to prepare for them?” The allocated 30 minute slot was significantly overrun as audience members piled in their questions, all of which were answered in a humorous and engaging style by the man once described as “underworld royalty.” And on a practical level Tony provided real insight into a new threat that is likely to hit every single retailer in the USA over the next 12 months and what businesses need to look out for to combat it. Sheer gold dust.

Other popular free training workshops were run by Matthew Attwell of ai Corporation, Chargebacks 911 and Ken Rayca of Checkpoint Inventory Control Solutions, at which the writer was not present.

The day was wrapped up by Chairman Chris McDonald, who provided excellent chairmanship throughout the day, thanking all concerned for an innovative, world class conference. Chris pointed out that the unique value of the Retail Risk conferences was that they provided retailers, free of charge, with the opportunity to expand their relationships and understand where crime is coming from elsewhere in the world, before it hits the USA, as well as understanding how others were successfully dealing with threats that the US is experiencing too.

As Chris pointed out in his closing remarks “It’s not just about what you need today, because you never know where you are going to be tomorrow…”

Retail Risk – New York will return to the city September 14th 2017.