Magazine Article | March 1, 2018

Ask The Board

Q: What did you think of the 2018 NRF BIG Show?

A: I WAS MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO the innovation lab at NRF but when I got there, I was disappointed. I already knew half the companies in the lab, and the other half did not strike me as that innovative. Facial recognition? A tablet on a shopping cart?

More interesting to me was discovering innovation in big vendors’ booths and several mentioned that some of their innovations were last-minute collaborations with other vendors — things that took just a couple of weeks to set up. To me, that’s a promising development.

Nikki is VP of Retail Innovation at Aptos, a market leader in retail technology solutions. She has over 15 years’ experience in the retail technology space and is a Vend Top 100 Retail Influencer.

Q: Cavender’s has made significant technology investments to improve the business. What advice do you have for other SMR C-level executives considering replatforming their e-commerce channel?

A: THE FIRST STEP IS ESTABLISHING THE RIGHT PROJECT TEAM. It should include participants from every area of the organization impacted with an authority level high enough to off er inputs and make decisions. This is especially important when you start calling on people from each department to dedicate time for data conversion, testing, and training. It also helps ensure ownership and commitment to the project and remove interdepartmental politics that can undermine the work. Lastly, it strengthens the camaraderie among the team members which will have long-term benefits beyond the project. The next critical component is the RFP. It needs to be well thought out with detail requirements. Include a section that defines expectations and an explanation of resources the customer has available. Too many times that doesn’t get vetted until after a vendor has been selected, and it results in change orders, timeline extensions, and tension between the customer and vendor. A detailed RFP helps the vendors tailor their presentations, allowing responses to be evaluated and scored with more precision. Use of outside consultants can be helpful. They bring expertise and experience that the company may not have, a network of contacts, and an independent voice. There are many other factors that impact success but investing time and funding in the beginning will help avoid land mines down the road and will move the project toward a successful outcome.

Jim has been CFO of Cavender’s since 1998. He has over 30 years of financial professional experience in public and private company environments and has worked in retail, wholesale distribution, and public accounting.

Q: What are some best practices for reducing employee theft?

A: THE BEST WAY to reduce employee theft is to create a culture of honesty. A culture of honesty begins with an environment where employees feel valued. By feeling valued, they will be more vested in the success of the company. They will be better employees and will be less likely to steal; however, even in the best employee cultures there is internal theft. Therefore, it is important to “trust but verify.”

Reducing internal theft starts with creating effective policies and procedures that are designed to control loss. For example, employee package checks when employees leave the store. Once your policies and procedures are in place, you need a strong awareness program that clearly communicates those policies and procedures and that the company has zero tolerance for any type of dishonesty. An awareness program is critical so that employees know what you expect of them.

To fully understand how to reduce internal theft you must start at the root cause. The number one reason people steal from their employer is because there is an opportunity to do so. By being proactive, you can minimize opportunity and create a deterrent to internal theft. It is critical to implement a comprehensive program of “inspecting what you expect” to ensure that people are adhering to all company policies and procedures. To be impactful, there must be consequences for noncompliance and benefits (i.e., a bonus) for compliance. Inspecting what you expect creates a deterrent by making employees believe that there is a risk of detection to noncompliance or theft. Without a risk of detection there is no deterrence.

Make it personal. If employees understand that employee theft impacts them personally, which it does in terms of company performance, which, in turn, can negatively impact their raises and bonuses, they will be less likely to steal and more likely to report those that do. Most people do not like to get involved when they see something wrong, like employee theft. If they truly understand how internal theft impacts them personally, they will self-police those around them. If employees believe that those around them will report them if they steal, they will be deterred.

Clearly communicate how to report suspected dishonesty. One of those ways must be anonymous. Using an independent service is the most effective way to enable employees to report dishonesty confidentially. Put an award program in place to reward people who report suspected dishonesty but keep it confidential. Employees do not want to be publicly recognized for reporting someone who is stealing.

Finally, make sure that, once reported, it is fully investigated. If you know who reported it, get back to them with a resolution. Employees who report things and don’t see any action will not report things in the future and may even steal themselves if they think the company doesn’t care.

Creating a culture of honesty is a multi-layered approach that will reduce internal theft and increase your company’s profitability.

Mike is the managing director of retail loss prevention with TAL Global. He has over 35 years of experience leading LP efforts in major retailers. He is a certified protection professional (CPP), a certified forensic interviewer (CFI) and is LP certified (LPC).

Q: With a heavy focus on AI in retail, what are your recommendations for IT executives as the business adopts AI?

A: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is being embedded in several aspects of the consumers’ lives, and as retailers we need to tap in and leverage our brands to remain relevant. Similar to paid search, retailers will work with third-party providers to ensure their algorithms include their brands during customer online/social interactions to remain “top of mind.”

From a designer and merchant perspective, there are several tools now scanning images of the leading trends in fashion apparel for the upcoming season. From colors to cuts, these algorithms are aggregating social and printed media to provide the retailer with insights into the hottest colors and designs that will be in demand for the upcoming season, providing buyers/planners fact-based data to determine their buy and assortment strategy.

Incorporating some of these methods into other areas of the retailer’s business will be the next differentiator for the retail landscape.

Thomas is currently senior IT executive with Century 21 Department Stores. Tom has 30 years of retail and healthcare technology experience with companies such as Macy’s, Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor, and more.

Q: What are your thoughts on the 2018 NRF BIG Show?

A: I ALWAYS FIND THE NRF BIG SHOW EXHAUSTING and productive at the same time. This year I learned from past mistakes and wore much more sensible shoes, which helped me power through two 14-hour days. As a VC investor, I found the Innovation lab particularly well put together. The content of the panels wasrelevant and some of the conversations were fairly candid. I enjoyed a debate on stage with my VC colleagues about the hiring challenges (for tech talents) the retail industry faces. The booths in the lab are well organized and curated. Generally, I felt more hustle and a stronger sense of urgency among retailers/brands to leverage technology and data to transform their businesses.

Janie leads deal sourcing and manages portfolios at Fung Capital, whose investments focus on early- to growth-stage B2B technology companies that enable omni-channel commerce and improve supply chain efficiency.