I had the opportunity to chat with Mike Lamb, a well-known loss prevention professional. Lamb spent his career at top retail companies like Walmart, Kroger, and The Home Depot in their top asset protection leadership role.
Lamb’s career in retail started when he was looking for part-time work while attending school. He started as a salesman at Miller’s but was soon asked to join the security team. When he moved to retail security, Lamb still didn’t think that’s where he would spend his career. He joined security, “because it paid more,” said Lamb with a small laugh.
When Miller’s was purchased by Rich’s Department Stores, Lamb had the opportunity to join the company in Atlanta as a store security manager, which launched the rest of his career. Rich’s eventually sold to become part of Macy’s, but Lamb had already moved on. From there he went on to The Home Depot, Walmart US, and the Kroger company, setting shrink records with each team along the way.
When Lamb retired in 2020, he was the Vice President of Asset Protection & Safety at Kroger. “Some people,” said Lamb, “get their careers jump started by who they know. But I did it by what I know and applying those strategies.”
After a career that spanned more than four decades, Lamb knows a thing or two about asset protection (AP) and loss prevention (LP). While most people believe that AP and LP is focused on keeping thieves out and preventing theft, it actually goes much deeper than this. Lamb explained how the primary responsibility of an AP or LP department is to “leverage profitability for the retailer.” While this does include reducing theft and shrink, which Lamb explained is the difference between what you have on paper and what you actually have in stock, this also includes managing the customer experience, ensuring customer and employee safety, and protecting company assets in all forms. This is accomplished, not only through keeping the bad guys at bay, but also through supporting the retailer’s broader mission and goals, safety initiatives, and more. In fact, “the vast percentage of the industry’s responsibilities is not theft prevention,” said Lamb. Instead, asset protection and loss prevention are, “really about operational effectiveness and improving the customer experience.” For example, Lamb had teams responsible for COVID-19 protocols, among them customer signage and enforcement to deep cleaning practices.
Lamb emphasized how AP and LP are in a unique position in the retail world. They have to find the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness without compromising sales. “Quality AP teams are holistic leaders and are business savvy. They are part of the solution, not sales prevention,” said Lamb. For example, if a store was experiencing high shrinkage because of increased theft, a natural solution is to post guards. However, if the company values clean, fast, and friendly service, the guards had to fit those values just as much as the other employees. They had to be customer centric in their approach, not overbearing or negative.
Lamb, who used LiveView Technologies (LVT) throughout his career, also stressed the importance of deterrence. “Crooks seek the path of least resistance which is why an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of the cure,” said Lamb. Traditionally, AP and LP teams are playing catch-up to bad actors, trying to stop and prevent future crimes after an incident has already happened. But tools like LVT and highly visible LP employees at the doors are some of the efforts used to get ahead of criminals, and they’re working. “At one retailer, we were seeing thousands of shoplifters per year. We came up with the yellow vested employees which we stationed at the exits. We wanted them highly visible and able to provide great service with a smile,” said Lamb. They stationed these employees near the doors and saw a drastic decrease in shoplifting. “We found that a strategy focused on prevention was much more effective than a sole focus of detection.”
Proactive security efforts ensure that, “The bad guys see it, get it, and ultimately fear it” Lamb explained. LVT uses this same principle in our mobile security trailers. We want our units highly visible. They act as an obstacle for any criminal activity.
The past year showed just how important AP and LP are as riots and looting broke out across the nation. In fact, Lamb said, “The significance and value of the asset protection industry is more relevant today than it has ever been. The well-versed and thought leadership AP executives are leading the teams that are truly winning.”