What it means to work in retail loss prevention

7 roles in loss prevention and asset protection that align with a retailer’s organizational structure and culture
VP, Education Strategy

NRF PROTECT is retail’s loss prevention, digital fraud, cybersecurity and enterprise risk event. Learn more about the event taking place June 4-6 in Long Beach, Calif.

If you think you know what someone working in retail loss prevention is responsible for, there is a good chance you need to expand your perspective.

Sure, some roles in this discipline involve watching out for shoplifters, keeping a wary eye on cash registers, maintaining a safe environment for employees and monitoring closed circuit cameras to thwart product losses.

But as individuals advance in the field, opportunities arise to work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. It is the loss prevention and asset protection executives at retail companies who are managing organized retail crime, looking for ways to stem workplace violence and preparing teams for worst case scenarios such as an active shooter situation.

In times of crisis, loss prevention and asset protection leaders are on the front lines, working across the organization with store operations and supply chain managers to keep stores open, safe and available. Individuals with sharp analytical skills may be tapped to deliver insights and enhance company profits using advanced technology and statistical analysis.

And, for many top loss prevention and asset protection players, the scope of their responsibility extends to enterprise risk management. That involves a comprehensive approach to risk that is deployed by retailers to identify, assess and manage several types of risk, including operational, financial, security and compliance.

Every retail company approaches loss prevention and asset protection from a distinctive vantage point that aligns with its organizational structure and culture. At one company the top job may be Operations Vice President Asset Protection and Risk Management. At another, it’s Vice President of Corporate Loss Prevention.

Similarly, career journeys in this field vary widely, with some starting in a store investigative role and others shifting into LP/AP after careers in law enforcement or the military. Here are seven common roles in LP/AP with a brief description of what the job is likely to entail.

In-Store Agent or LP Associate

Many of today’s LP leaders started their career in this entry-level role in LP. It often involves the apprehension of shoplifting, handling employee theft situations and overseeing the security, safety and asset protection measures in a single location. This role provides an individual with a good opportunity to learn the profession and the retail business, and often leads in a short period of time to either multiple store responsibilities or roles involving investigations.


An investigator is typically responsible for preventing, identifying and addressing theft and fraud in a retail store or environment — both internal and external theft. Depending on their level, they may be tasked with gathering evidence through research and interviews to build a case. In addition, an Internal Investigator may be called on to develop strategies and tactical plans to resolve theft and fraud. Some retailers may have specialized groups, like Organized Retail Crime Teams, where multiple investigators utilize their skills collectively to investigate loss and work with law enforcement to resolve major theft situations.

Regional LP Manager

A Regional LP Manager oversees the safety and security of the retailer’s assets within a specific region. Someone in this role would routinely perform store visits to identify operational and theft-related issues. They may conduct in-store training programs for employees to communicate strategies and processes. This person is charged with interpreting key performance indicators and exception-based reporting with the goal of reducing loss across a span of retail locations.

Data Analytics

Over the last decade this role has greatly expanded. It requires an individual who not only understands retail and LP but has unique individual skills, allowing them to identify patterns, recognize risk and threat vectors and formulate actions from various data sets. Data analysts may not begin in loss prevention, as various disciplines such as finance, business analytics, operations, risk intelligence and cyber bring similar skills that can benefit a loss prevention function. Today’s LP function relies heavily on data, making this role a key contributor to the success of asset protection, fraud mitigation, risk management and more.

Risk Manager or Enterprise Risk Manager

This position, which spans across most industries, focuses on the identification, assessment and mitigation of potential risks that could affect a company’s financial health or brand reputation. Retail is no different; today’s retail risk landscape has expanded with more global threats, domestic risks and issues that directly or indirectly impact retailers. Some organizations may tap loss prevention leaders to also lead risk management, as the mindset toward risk mitigation is similar. For those organizations where LP and risk management are separate, you should find a strong working partnership between both functions.

Director of Safety and Security

This role entails a wide range of responsibilities including establishing and implementing security strategies and policies. Typically, this includes the physical safety of employees and customers as well as the security of assets. Conducting regular audits and inspections and training staff are likely to be de rigueur. Management of security systems will also be part of this individual’s responsibility.

Vice President of Operations, Loss Prevention and Risk

This is a top executive role within a retail organization, tasked with a comprehensive breadth of responsibilities. This individual would develop all aspects of security and risk, encompassing loss prevention, asset protection and risk mitigation in collaboration with a team that includes LP, AP, analysts and fraud professionals. Crisis management, compliance strategies and decisions involving the investment and rollout of various security software and equipment would be championed by this executive. The role demands leadership that embodies a keen understanding of operational procedures, risk management and loss prevention.

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Over the past few decades, loss prevention has evolved from a function monitoring the physical security of retail locations to a more sophisticated, business-first approach to protecting people and mitigating loss across a retail organization.

Opportunities abound, whether it be in retail locations, distribution or supply chain environments, financial and digital fraud mitigation and other areas across the retail ecosystem. Where there may be loss, risks, threats or concerns over safety, you most likely will see a role in loss prevention at the center of engagement.

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