A blog for all things retail and licensing.

Retail Success at Any Age

By Stephanie Crets

Entrepreneurs come in all forms…and ages. For Max of MAX’IS Creations, he started his business when he was just eight years old. He wanted to put a basketball hoop on a mug he was crafting in his art class at school because he believes “the world would be a better place if you could play with your food.” He simply wanted to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while throwing marshmallows into the hoop.

“The Mug with a Hoop” was such a hit among his classmates and teachers that he got a 3D prototype made of his creation to show even more people. Max was then invited to present his idea at The Blank Center for Entrepreneurship in Wellesley, Mass. He then entered the Product Pitch at Fenway contest and was picked as one of ten finalists from a pool of 145, eventually winning the fan-favorite vote on Facebook.

Max soon realized that he wanted his idea to reach a wider audience and to make a profit from his unique idea, while also bringing attention to a learning disability that he suffers from: dyslexia. This language-based disability can make leaning and participating in school more difficult, but Max believes it is a gift that gave him the idea to create his mug. And with October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, his cause is more important than ever.

Max and his parents set up an Indiegogo to raise $5,000 for initial start-up costs for design and production; to test the market and determine interest and support for manufacturing and distributing the product more widely; and to leverage the Indiegogo platform to feature and celebrate the upside of dyslexia and promote awareness and support for dyslexia research. Thanks to the support of contributors, Max raised a little more than $6,000 to launch his business.

Big-name retailers like Nordstrom, Amazon.com and UncommonGoods took on his product and sold more than 18,000 mugs during the 2014 holiday season. But the profit wasn’t and still isn’t for him alone. He donates five percent of every sale to dyslexia-related charities and nonprofit organizations such as Understood.org.

Max isn’t stopping at The Mug with a Hoop; he recently launched other sports-themed mugs, including The Mug with a Glove, The Mug with a Goalpost, The Soccer Mug with a Goal and The Hockey Mug with a Net. Nothing can stop this young entrepreneur and businessman from taking over the dining ware business world.

Merchandise Monday: Fashion Forward

Fashion always finds its way to the forefront of my mind once the weather gets a little cooler. When October hits, I’m ready to wrap myself in sweaters and pull my boots on. I’m even contemplating purchasing my first-ever pair of UGG boots before the freezing temperatures hit Chicago. Whether you want a cute cat sweater or want to check out a new perfume scent, this post offers that and much more.


Melissa McCarthy Seven7

The Melissa McCarthy Seven7 Line via Sunrise Brands targets a wide range of women, including the long underserved plus-size customer, at a better, contemporary price point. This is a true collection of high-quality, thoughtfully tailored and on-trend fashion, offering versatile daytime separates with an emphasis on denim.





The Pendulum Collection

California-based lifestyle company Bucardo launched its newest product line: The Pendulum Collection on Kickstarter. This collection is a line of premium accessories that transform the Apple Watch into a classic pocket watch or stylish pendant necklace. Featuring silver and gold plating and crystals by Swarovski, this collection includes offerings for both men and women.


Hothouse Beauties
Isabel and Ruben Toledo have created a magical world of scents, led by botanical characters Kuba Rose and Crystal Honey. The Hothouse Beauties exude love, couture, art and joy of life; fundamental values to the Toledos. Hothouse Beauties is both the Toledos and Lane Bryant’s first foray into the world of designer fragrance.


Classic Luxe

UGG will launch an entirely re-imagined, limited-edition line of UGG boots with Carolyn Murphy as the face of the new collection. Classic Luxe is a sophisticated take on the venerable, world-renowned UGG Classic boot, designed in Italy.


G-Shock Mudmaster

Casio America Inc. will once again reinforce durability and toughness in timekeeping with the introduction of the new G-Shock Mudmaster into the Master of G line-up this fall.




ARI by Ariana Grande

Actress and internationally acclaimed recording artist Ariana Grande announced her signature scent, ARI by Ariana Grande. The megastar’s highly anticipated first fragrance, in partnership with Luxe Brands, is set to take over prestigious retailers globally.

See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

A Retailer’s Secret Weapon

By Stephanie Crets

InnerWorkings makes marketing happen. It helps companies execute their big ideas into something tangible, acting as a liaison between the corporate/brand/procurement level and the individual stores. From retail environments, print management, events, branded merchandise, product packaging and much more, InnerWorkings solves the complexities associated with attempting to execute a global marketing plan.

“The agencies are good at big ideas, while we’re the sweet spot in between,” Chief Marketing Officer Leigh Segall says. “We apply those ideas to real-life scenarios.”

To bring these solutions to life, InnerWorkings utilizes a technology called VALO. The company is able to put specs in for any job, from display to quality to price and much more. The system will then put these specs out for a bid to InnerWorkings’ more than 10,000 vetted suppliers in the system.Through this program, there is total transparency of business for the company and supplier. Before VALO, dealing with suppliers was a cloaked process, but this technology platform allows InnerWorkings to value-engineer a marketing solution for any client.

“There was no visibility with suppliers,” Segall says. “Now clients know exactly what they’re paying for.”

As a global company with 65 offices around the world, InnerWorkings has developed integrated solutions for top brands such as Levi’s, Party City and Callaway. One of its top offerings is creating retail environments for brands’ retail locations. This includes fixtures, displays, signage, window clings, promotional materials and more. While InnerWorkings takes care of how to merchandise each location – some brands might have 6,000 different locations around the world to design – the brand is allowed to focus on other aspects of its campaign.

“We focus on the executional elements that clients don’t always want to think about, but it’s also the make or break for your campaign,” Segall says.

One new trend is the idea of a “neighborhood store,” which allows a brand to localize a physical location with merchandise and displays that best resonate with consumers in that city.

At InnerWorkings’ headquarters, prospective clients can experience an example of one of its neighborhood stores. You can walk inside and feel like you’re in a brand’s store, as it is outfitted with displays, merchandise and signage representing a successful merchandising experience for the client.

“I spend a lot of time working with clients and prospective clients, understanding their challenges,” Segall explains. “I hear the same realities and challenges over and over again. There’s an execution gap that people haven’t solved, and it’s our team’s job to figure it out with them.”

Many companies refer to InnerWorkings as their “secret weapon,” thus no one knows who’s really working to execute these marketing solutions.

“When we sit down with a marketer or visual merchandiser to talk about the impact we’re having across the portfolio of brands we support, there’s a high degree of interest,” Segall says. “I don’t want to be a secret weapon. I want to be a known entity. But I love that our brands feel like we’re driving impact in innovation and helping them to create the right experience.”

Luxury E-Commerce: 3 Hot Emerging Markets

By Charles Whiteman
SVP Client Services, MotionPoint

Compared to retail sectors such as consumer electronics, books and entertainment, the luxury sector is a relative newcomer to e-commerce. Even today, with global online retail sales increasing 17% annually, “about 40% of high-end brands don’t sell via the web,” Bloomberg recently reported.

Despite the thriving growth opportunity, the industry’s prudence isn’t misguided. For some of these prestige brands, e-commerce represents the antithesis of a luxury retail offering – it’s a mass-market approach that lacks exclusivity, and an intimate sales experience.

But change has been on the wind in recent years. Why? Luxury brands learned they needed to cater to a new generation of luxury customers. These consumers are younger, digital-savvy, pressed for time and very practical.

As a recent business feature in The New York Times put it, luxury retailers “believe in the primacy of the customer experience … in touch, and talk. They also, however, have come to believe that the future of their business and a route to global expansion lie online.”

This pivot is paying off. According to a McKinsey report, luxury e-commerce sales are expected to reach $21 billion in the next five years. Furthermore, the luxury e-commerce industry is seeing much larger growth than many other e-commerce sectors. “E-commerce has been described as the ‘next China’ for luxury in terms of opportunity,” worldwide director of JWT Intelligence Lucie Greene recently said.

It’s clear luxury brands are starting to win big online. But those brands that are launching e-commerce sites in international markets stand to win even more. Indeed, global e-commerce is on track to hit $2.3 trillion by 2018, and most of that robust growth is hailing from overseas consumers.

But where to expand? Here are three hot markets for luxury e-commerce. They’re largely untapped by competitors, have strong economies and a demonstrated appetite for online shopping:


Cheap oil prices might have deflated the economies of many BRIC nations in recent months, but not India’s. Low fuel costs have actually positively impacted inflation and growth. That bodes well for consumer spending, especially in luxury e-commerce.

India’s population of 300 million Internet users is mobile-savvy; smartphone and tablet online use represents about 70% of the country’s Internet connections. E-commerce thrives here. In India, the luxury e-commerce market will grow to $25 billion by 2016, according to one report, with a compounded growth of 25% annually.

Research indicates high-end apparel, accessories, watches and electronics is where most of the luxury e-commerce action will happen.

Better still, the Indian online luxury market isn’t very competitive right now, which can prove profitable for first movers. Of the 500 leading international luxury brands, only 30% have a presence in India (compare that to China, which has 70% of these top brands present). Thanks to the country’s blooming economy, rising middle class and favorable regulatory environment and FDI rules, India is an ideal market for luxury e-commerce.


Thailand is Southeast Asia’s largest luxury goods market. Last year, its luxury expenditures reached $2.5 billion.

Relatively low housing costs help spur luxury spending here, as does plenty of consumer disposable income: the largest share of Thailand’s population (20.5%) is between 30 to 34 years old and earns over $150,000 annually. Residents 35 to 39 years old account for 18.6% of the population and are also increasingly affluent.

Internet penetration in Thailand is robust (54%), and mobile adoption is through the roof (150%). Our research indicates Thailand is poised to become one of the biggest m-commerce markets in Southeast Asia. In fact, some analysts believe m-commerce is the “last explosive sales channel” for luxury retailers.

We believe huge potential exists for luxury goods players, especially those that can persuade the many smartphone users who aren’t yet shopping online to hop onto the m-commerce bandwagon.


While other countries are struggling with economic recessions, Poland entered 2015 walking tall. According to Brookings, its “GDP per capita based on purchasing power exceeded $24,000 and reached 65% of the Western European (eurozone) level of income.”

Next year, Poland’s spending in the luxury market will be estimated at around $3.4 billion. Interestingly, its e-commerce spending will grow to $12 billion during the same time frame, suggesting clear overlapping opportunities for luxury e-commerce. At 67%, Poland’s Internet adoption rate is very good, too.

The Polish market provides an ideal frontier for clients who wish to enter an economically stable and safe central European market.

Should Luxury Forget BRIC?

With such stability and growth happening far from the borders of the much-touted BRIC growth nations, should luxury brands permanently abandon e-commerce expansions to BRIC? We advise against this.

Even though Brazil, Russia and China are presently facing recessions, this economic turbulence will eventually pass. Further, shoppers in these countries embrace unconventional buying practices, which can generate revenue.

For instance: We’ve found that a considerable number of savvy Brazilian customers shop for luxury fashion products on Portuguese-language websites operated by non-Brazilian companies. Why? They do this to enjoy a better selection, and avoid high domestic luxury taxes.

And while the Russian market isn’t as strong as in years past, its neighboring Commonwealth of Independent States nations are. Shoppers living here speak Russian, and shop on Russian e-commerce sites. As noted in our recent report on Russian e-commerce, one of our client’s Russian e-commerce sites has generated over $8 million in revenue so far this year – not from Russia, but from customers in the Ukraine.

In light of its current economic and political struggles, China is a different story. Chinese customers are shopping outside China via e-commerce sites, and this applies especially so to luxury goods. Many Chinese are now buying their luxury products in South Korea. In 2020, Chinese luxury consumers will spend $29 billion at South Korea luxury retailers.

Wrapping Up

Now’s the time for luxury brands to take their e-commerce efforts to the next level and expand internationally. With global Internet and smartphone adoption skyrocketing, and B2C e-commerce sales hitting stratospheric heights year after year, luxury brands can ill-afford to sit on the sidelines.

Engaging these thriving emerging markets, especially in their languages of choice, is a bold step in ensuring new customers and revenue streams, and immediate and sustained sales growth.

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform. He may be reached at cwhiteman@motionpoint.com. MotionPoint is headquartered in Coconut Creek, Fla.


Merchandise Monday: Briggs & Stratton

Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small engines and is chosen by eight out of 10 leading power equipment brands in the United States to power their equipment. “We’re an iconic brand that’s been around for more than 100 years,” says Steve Kruger, director of brand marketing for the Milwaukee-based company. “Briggs & Stratton is associated with engines and equipment that helps people get work done. We are a highly authentic brand that is strongly associated with trust, reliability and power.”

Read more about Briggs & Stratton in the profile piece by Jim Harris in our September/October issue of RM.



Rubber Garden Hose

Briggs & Stratton Premium Heavy Duty Rubber Garden Hoses have nickel-plated brass couplings, available in 25, 50, 75 and 100-foot lengths.



Combo Fuel Can

The Briggs & Stratton chain saw Combo Can holds 1.5 gallons of gas and 2.5 quarts of bar and chain oil. Additionally, it comes with a self-venting SMART-FILL nozzle system.



Dexterity Gloves

Briggs & Stratton Dexterity Gloves offer PVC sure group palms, brow wipe and protective knuckle pads.



Premium Fuel

For your racing needs, Briggs & Stratton has Ethanol Free 4-Cycle and Pre-Mixed 2-Cycle Premium Fuel with Advanced Formula Fuel Treatment and Stabilizer.


Air Compressor

New to the market is Briggs & Stratton 3 Gallon 1/3 HP DC motor, oil free air compressor.



Synthetic Oil

Using Briggs & Stratton SAE 5W30 Synthetic Oil offers better wear control your engine, even under severe operating conditions. Since synthetics have better “inherent strength” they have the ability to keep functioning at the highest level for the longest possible time.

See more New & Notable products here.
By Stephanie Crets

Petco’s “Bootique” is Ready for Halloween

By Stephanie Crets

It’s finally October, which means it’s Halloween month! I’d rather celebrate the whole month than just one day, wouldn’t you? And if your pets could talk, they would probably agree. Well…maybe not, depending on how compliant they are. When I put my cat’s fairy wings costume on, she tends to just fall over onto her back until I remove them. Or she does the classic cat move of backing up until she can wiggle free.

Regardless of how your pet feels about getting dressed up, according to a survey conducted by Petco, pet participation in Halloween festivities has climbed with 50 percent of respondents planning to dress up their pet this year. This number is up 11 percent from past years. Of these respondents, 84 percent noted that their dog will be the pet joining in on the trick-or-treat fun. Cats are much less cooperative, as is their way.

To help your pets celebrate, Petco has launched a new collection of Halloween costumes, available now at Petco stores nationwide. And with the rise of Star Wars merchandise, you can count on dressing your pup or cat up as an Ewok, an X-wing pilot or Princess Leia with a hair bun headpiece. Some other new costumes include pumpkin hats, devil capes, superhero costumes and more.

But it’s not all about costumes, as your not-so-furry children know. You must have treats, too. That’s why 68 percent of respondents confirmed they plan to purchase a special Halloween treat or toy for their pet. Some of the Halloween-themed toys and treats include a rope dog toy covered in candy corn, a spider chew toy and a dog treat bar made with a blend of pumpkin, cinnamon and clovers. Even the dogs get in on the fall pumpkin spice action!

Petco will also be offering a number of Halloween-themed events throughout the month of October, both in store and online. Events in store include:

  • Paw Impressions: On Saturday, Oct. 10, pet owners can bring their dog in to create an imprint of their paw as a fun family keepsake.
  • Reptile Rally: On Saturday, Oct. 17, head to your nearest Petco for the Reptile Rally – a celebration of reptiles, arachnids and amphibians. A “Reptile Meet and Greet” will take place for families to get to know these fascinating companions and learn useful care tips from knowledgeable Petco partners. Enjoy cool giveaways and a “Most BOOtiful Reptile Costume Contest.”
  • Petco’s Halloween Pet Costume Contest: On Saturday, Oct. 24, bring your pet into Petco for the Halloween costume contest. Prizes and treats will be awarded, with a grand prize including a free mini make-rover.

Beginning Oct. 1, Petco is also offering an Instagram contest. If you plan to dress your pet up in a creative costume this year, you can participate in the “Make a Scene” photo content. All you need to do is take a photo of your costumed creature in a scene that matches the costume and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #MakeASceneContest. You could win a $5,000 grand prize! You can see the adorable past participants here.

By treating your pet to Halloween festivities, you’re also treating yourself to some guaranteed laughs and fun. I know I will have fun trying to put a costume on my cat this year. What are your pet(s) costume plans this year?

A Credit Waterfall

By Kevin Lawrence

It’s no secret most big ticket retailers – those offering home furnishings, flooring, jewelry and automotive accessories – count on credit to drive sales and profits. Credit sales have become the norm as consumers require assistance to afford these large purchases.

The most successful retailers are taking steps to ensure additional credit is both readily and easily available to their shoppers. Ideally, credit opportunities should be available at both a retailer’s physical locations and online store — as is often the case. But so-called brick-and-mortar stores can gain a competitive edge by offering an in-store credit experience that can’t be matched online.

Here’s a look at the potential shortcomings of applying for credit through a retailer’s online site:

Many retailers use online services to pre-qualify a potential customer for credit. If the credit application is denied, the customer not only won’t be able to make a purchase, but also may not return to the site or visit the physical store. That’s a lost customer.

A lack of a secure network or the inability to verify the applicant’s identity may also lead to lower amounts of approved credit. Less credit equates to smaller purchases and lower profits. Then, too, there is no way the retailer can assist the consumer to make the best credit choices or be available to answer questions during the application process.

Fortunately, there is an in-store solution offering many of the benefits of online credit, yet with consistently improved outcomes for both consumers and retailers.

A self-service credit solution allows consumers to enter their application data into a kiosk-based touchscreen located in the store. Shoppers can choose to keep the process entirely private – saving embarrassment should the application be denied. Yet store personnel is available to answer questions and help point applicants to the lending solution that best fits their needs.

Instead of offering only a single lender, the kiosks offer a solution that instantly sends applications denied by a primary lender cascading to secondary lending sources. This helps retailers reduce credit denials by up to 40 percent. The solution can even be configured with a no-credit check rent/lease-to-own option.

The highly secure direct link between lenders and the kiosks generally return decisions in seconds while delivering an average of $4,000 in credit. Those are results likely to win customer loyalty.

There are still more benefits. Once store associates see an approved line of credit, they can direct customers to merchandise within that range. Often that provides an opportunity to sell more than the customer may have originally planned to spend. Since most consumers choose to use the kiosks alone, sales associates are largely removed from the credit process – allowing them to assist other shoppers. And the kiosks leave nothing for the retailer to protect. Retailers never see their customers’ sensitive financial information and no data is stored on the kiosks.

The solution generates more applications, returns more approvals and generates larger transactions. Both retailers and consumers win. And it’s one more customer-friendly option physical stores can offer that online sites can’t match.

Kevin Lawrence is vice president, sales and marketing for Versatile Credit, the leading provider of in-store, self-service credit application solutions.

NYCWFF: Fall Favorite

By Janice Hoppe

The crisp air has blown in and the smell of pumpkin is everywhere – from your morning latte to the incense in the office – and that can only mean fall has arrived. The new season begins, bringing with it the highly anticipated annual New York City Wine & Food Festival, one of the largest wine and food festivals in the United States.

“We are excited to unveil our 2015 event lineup, which includes the return of festival fan favorite events and a variety of new experiences for our passionate attendees,” says Lee Brian Schrager, festival founder and vice president of corporate communications and national events for Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc. “Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to see their favorite chefs and culinary personalities, including both veteran and new faces from the Food Network & Cooking Channel, plus interact with leading winemakers and spirits producers from the Southern Wine & Spirits of New York portfolio.”

The eighth-annual Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival will take place Oct.15-18, 2015. The festival attracts more than 50,000 attendees, world-renowned chefs, winemakers, spirits producers and culinary personalities for a weekend filled with unique experiences.

Favorites and Firsts

Last year’s festival offered more than 100 events throughout New York City, including intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs such as Beldium’s Kobe Desramaults, Italy’s Dario Cecchini, England’s Yotam Ottolenghi, Mexico’s Enrigque Olvera and France’s Philippe Baranes, Christophe Boucher and Gregory Marchand. It also offered late night parties, educational seminars and panel discussions.

Pier 94 hosted New York City Wine and Food Festival’s Grand Tasting where guests sampled dishes from the city’s best restaurants, enjoyed tastings from suppliers of the Southern Wine and Spirits of New York portfolio and interacted with top culinary and lifestyle brands. More than 20 Food Network, Cooking Channel and other celebrity culinary personalities hosted demonstrations on the KitchenAid Culinary Demonstration stages.

This year, the festival will feature favorite events like the Italian-themed feast hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, Chicken Coupe hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Rock ’n Roll Sushi hosted by Masaharu Morimoto, Meatopia hosted by Michael Symon and Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray – plus the return of her Feedback™: Chefs & Cocktails party.

There are also plenty of new fêtes to keep everyone’s taste buds tantalized at the 2015 festival, including brunches hosted by Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart and Geoffrey Zakarian, a Harlem-inspired midnight Jazz breakfast and a celebration of ramen with Chrissy Teigen and Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt. A new signature Art of Tiki: Cocktail Showdown, intimate dinners and seminars with celebrated chefs and beverage personalities will also tempt attendees.

A Worthy Cause

The 2014 New York Wine & Food Festival drew a crowd of about 55,000 and raised $1 million for the nation’s leading hunger-relief organizations. “Eradicating hunger, both here in New York and across the country, is something we know we can always count on our talent and fans to support,” President of the Food Network & Cooking Channel Brooke Johnson said last year.

The festival has raised $8.5 million for the Food Bank for New York City and the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli attends both the New York and South Beach Wine & Food festivals regularly and says she teamed up with the No Kid Hungry campaign because she is a chef and a mother raising a child in America.

“My daughter goes to public school and I can see the impact breakfast – or lack thereof – has on children in starting their day right,” she told us last year. “It affects, ultimately, their chances for starting their life right and working towards a bright future – a future where everyone eats breakfast and starts off the day with great energy for learning.”

Guarnaschelli believes people in the food and beverage industry still have a great deal to learn about the fight to end hunger and the New York City Wine and Food Festival helps take a step in that direction. “We are a community infused in food that works better when we pool our efforts and effectively, ‘share our strength,’” she adds. “Tag lines like ‘eat, drink, end hunger’ sends the message loud and clear. They delineate the problem clearly and I believe it inspires people to join the cause.”


Photo credit: Getty Images

Merchandise Monday: Mars Brand & Star Wars

Star Wars is taking over the retail world with apparel, kitchenware, action figures, pet costumes and even candy. With the launch of Force Friday earlier this month, Star Wars has piloted itself back into our aisles. The different kinds of items will likely continue to grow in abundance to fit the needs of any kind of Star Wars fan. This week’s Merchandise Monday features Mars Brand Star Wars items for those fans with a sweet tooth.

M&M’s Brand Star Wars Character Keychain

These character keychains feature M&M’s characters dressed like popular Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader, Darth Maul and a Clone Trooper. The keychain comes with a mini flashlight and is filled with M&M’s.




M&M’s Brand Star Wars Lightsaber

Whether you fancy yourself a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord, you can take your M&M’s on the go for every battle with this light-up lightsaber.


M&M’s Brand Star Wars Fan

Stay cool fighting the Rebels with these portable fans featuring M&M’s characters dressed as Darth Vader, Bobba Fett and Darth Maul. And, of course, there are M&M’s candies in the handle.




M&M’s Brand Star Wars 12” Dispenser

For a handful of M&M’s anytime, have a dispenser on hand. These 12-inch dispensers are topped with an M&M’s character dressed as Darth Vader, Clone Trooper or Luke Skywalker.



See more New & Notable products here.

By Stephanie Crets

Engaging Front-Line Associates to Drive Down Shrink

By Ric Agostini

Shrink losses inflicted on retailers are widespread and staggering. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and University of Florida survey, “inventory shrink amounted to $44 billion in losses to retailers in 2014.” How much could be attributed to internal or customer theft? The survey determined that 35 percent of shrink stemmed from employee or internal theft while customer shoplifting was responsible for 38 percent of the loss. In some years, internal theft loss has been estimated as high as 43 percent exceeding customer shoplifting losses.

Establishing a culture of engagement

Retailers of all sizes and categories are acutely aware of shrink’s impact on their profit margins and are constantly working on loss prevention approaches to combat it. The first step is to create a store culture that engages employees and commits them to reducing inventory shrink. Employee engagement and alertness is fundamental to a successful loss prevention program.

But training and keeping employees engaged around loss prevention topics is not always easy. According to the Employee Engagement Study released by Gallup in January 2015, only 31 percent of U.S. employees described themselves as “engaged” with their work. The other 69 percent responded that they are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” The disengagement situation is actually worse for retailers who mostly hire 18-34 year old (Millennial) workers. Nearly 70 percent of Millennials surveyed said they were unengaged – an eye-opener for retailers who need their support to combat shrink. Retailers who rely on traditional forms of training to educate about loss prevention such as classroom learning and print messages are losing the battle, especially with this age group.

New technology approaches

Millennials are “digital natives” who grew up on smartphones and tablets. While they do not always engage with traditional training approaches like classroom instruction or printed manuals and signs, they do engage with digital, interactive communications. Smartphones and tablets have the capabilities to provide new ways to tap and engage Millennials as well as older employees who are also tech-savvy.

The use of technologies such as tablets and smart phones is imperative since these devices command the attention of Millennials who tune out print messaging. Above all, this demographic group insists upon two-way interactions rather than a top-down approach common to traditional classroom or print-based learning. Two-way communications allow for immediate feedback, which is a key component in employee engagement. Most Millennials have no issue with offering their opinions, particularly through their smart device apps.

Another communication outreach popular with Millennials and their older colleagues is social media. Leading retailers are using social media (internal, secure and curated) to encourage employees to ask questions through their devices with responses curated and securely published to appropriate employees. One retailer reported that questions on its social learning forum skyrocketed from 3,500 in May of 2014 to more than 16,500 in April 2015—a barometer that illustrates employees are engaging with the company using secured digital forums.

Another promising technological innovation on the horizon is Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality uses tablets and training simulation software to enable employees to interact with the training much like an airplane pilot uses a flight simulator. But instead of multi-million dollar simulators, AR uses cheap tablets and low-cost software to create engaging and realistic on-the-floor trainings and simulations. While still in the early stages, the early indicators are that employees of all age groups respond positively to the experiential learning that AR provides.

Another digital technology used by leading retailers is digital signage in break rooms to engage employees with short burst trainings and tips on effective loss prevention tactics and reminders.

Retailer experiences with digital communications

A major retail department store chain recently focused on loss prevention in its 100 highest -risk stores. By leveraging digital communications, the company cut shrink and reported an “18:1 return on investment” during a 10-month period. A regional grocery chain reported a 139 percent increase in associate theft resolution.

Mike Limauro, vice president of asset protection for Weis Markets, can attest to the benefits of engagement through technology. Weis operates 163 stores in five Eastern states and employs more than 18,000. “When we went digital, we found that we could make training fun and engage our associates,” Limauro said. Weis relied on “multiple touch points” combining digital and print to get messages across to its associates. “People respond to different things and that is why multiple touch points are important,” Limauro said, noting the results speak for themselves. “Our shrink has declined by 17 percent this year, while internal and external case resolution continues to improve year over year, and (use of) our associate hotline was up more than 200 percent in the first month of the program,” he said.

Limauro reported another positive aspect of this approach is that employees are not hesitant to notify managers about thefts by fellow associates. “We’ve given them the tools to do the right thing and our associates appreciate it,” he said. “It’s how you embed asset protection (into store culture).”

As the experiences at Weis and other retailers demonstrate, emerging technologies require a comprehensive strategy for their use in the war against shrink. When strategically implemented, they have proven successful. The successes indicate the use of smart and interactive technology to communicate with and ultimately engage front-line employees will continue to grow. So will the number of retailers who take advantage of it.


Ric Agostini is vice-president-communications of Catalyst Awareness, a division of Alchemy Systems.. Catalyst Awareness designs integrated loss prevention and workplace safety programs for leading general, home improvement, food and specialty retailers. Ric can be reached at (866) 749-3697.