By Alex Brundle
I sat down with former NEXT executive and retail loss prevention expert Colin Culleton to talk about how economic changes, and COVID-19 are changing the distribution center, loss prevention and asset protection industry and how executives can deal with it going forward.
- The revolution is now. There is a revolution occurring in retail now with the shift from in-store to online shopping. COVID-19 is accelerating these changes. The shift means that distribution centers, and loss prevention and asset protection are going to be more important than ever. Customers want goods available and shipped asap and companies need to control costs. Employee morale is critical. Loss prevention teams need to be ready, especially in distribution centers where employees are periodically searched before or after beginning a work shift.
- Leadership. Ensure you are fully engaged with Covid-19 contingency planning across the business. If necessary, insist on a seat at the business continuity leadership meetings as its far better to be involved and fully aware of key business changes, rather than be notified late in the process.
- Flexibility. Recognise the need for compromise in some areas but in consultation with your leadership teams, ensure you are clear about how far you should adjust from existing best practice.
- Employee search procedures may change. Search procedures for distribution center employees may have to be adjusted with increased staff and shifts. Ensure there is a strong deterrent in place within your processes through the use, for example, of random searches. If searches have to be reduced to meet business needs, focus on the quality of searches and implement processes that ensure staff with access to the most attractive products are searched more frequently. Ensure that any temporary or contract Loss Prevention staff are aware of desirable and easy to steal products in the warehouse or distribution site.
- Reduce physical pat downs and implement safe distance searches. Current guidance discourages physical searching and personal interaction within 2 metres. Work with HR teams and unions where applicable to understand how these guidelines can be adhered to by implementing effective “self-search” protocols. Consider implementing new people screening technologies. Sony DADC and NEXT use a technology from Thruvision, a UK-based loss prevention technology provider, which can safely screen employees at distances of up to 9 feet.
- Communication, communication, communication. Many businesses will transfer retail staff into warehouse and distribution roles. Be prepared to offer training and to communicate early and often to help them adjust to the new environment.
Colin Culleton is a Risk Management and Loss Prevention Consultant with extensive experience in retail profit protection with a proven track record for improving compliance and profit in successful and challenging businesses. Alex Brundle is Vice President of Sales at Thruvision, a leading provider of contactless and safe-distance people screening solutions for loss prevention and profit protection.