When Rich Mellor joined NRF as Vice President of Loss Prevention in November, it was a natural fit. Rich has served on the NRF LP Advisory Council for more than 20 years, and now NRF is lucky to have him as our in-house LP guru directing all things LP.
Rich is the real deal. His experience spans three decades with executive leadership positions at Macy’s, The Bon-Ton Stores and Woodward & Lothrop. He came to NRF after 12 years with Helzberg Diamonds, having most recently served as Divisional Vice President of Loss Prevention. Prior to that, Rich was Divisional Vice President of Loss Prevention and Security for The Bon-Ton Stores and Regional Director of Security for Macy’s East.
As we gear up for the biggest LP event of the year, NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO, June 20-22 in New Orleans, I asked Rich about what led him to this point in his career, what’s in store for the NRF LP Community, and what to expect at this year’s LP Conference.
Your career spans more than 30 years and includes executive positions at major national retailers. What about your experience makes you a good fit for the role of NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention?
Since my first career was in law enforcement, I have a natural camaraderie with law enforcement that helps me more readily build relationships with these important partners outside the retail community. I’ve been fortunate to work for a mix of retailers in my career, which has given me a broad exposure to issues facing loss prevention teams at different types of companies. Together with the experience of working on the NRF LP Advisory Council for more than 20 years, I feel like this position was meant to be.
What are you most excited about for your new role?
Working more closely with my former peers in the retail community and helping them bring about positive change in the industry.
You’ve worked with NRF for many years on the LP Advisory Council. What did you take away from that experience?
How to interact with and conduct myself effectively with colleagues of similar experience who have very different opinions concerning the initiatives and focus of the NRF Advisory Council and NRF. The knowledge I have gained over the years from the members of the Council has been immeasurable and a major factor in my success. The positive peer pressure to do more for the industry benefits us all.
What do you think are the most pressing issues facing retail LP professionals right now?
Effective use of time and resources in an ever-changing retail environment. The role of loss prevention in all organizations has grown in responsibility and complexity. As a result, the job requires an expanded knowledge on legal issues, technology, safety, business continuity, physical security and information security. This means LP leaders have to continue to constantly broaden their knowledge by seeking out information and learning from their peers. You learn best sometimes by listening to your peers who have experienced these issues first-hand. That’s why conferences like ours are so important.
What opportunities or issues are you tackling first in your new role at NRF?
Our 2012 Loss Prevention Conference is a very important part of what we do, and I aim to continue to improve the value of education, peer networking and collaboration on industry concerns for our members and the potential members who attend our conference. It is my top priority, followed by realigning our LP committees to serve the members most effectively.
The NRF Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO is coming up June 20-22 in New Orleans. Tell us a little bit about what to expect this year and what you’re most looking forward to at the event.
Something new always takes center stage at our conference. One important focus this year will be emerging technologies and how they have changed the way retailers do business. While LP teams benefit greatly by advances in technology, it is moving so rapidly that the job of protecting the company assets and information has become dramatically more challenging. The best example is mobile point of sale devices. It’s great for customers, but it presents many challenges for LP because we lose all the security and surveillance capability that’s built into a POS station.
Personally, I’m looking forward to discussing all these new technologies and where retail is going in the future. The excitement and energy will be multiplied by having this event in a great venue like New Orleans.
How did you get your start in the retail loss prevention field?
I grew up in a family of police officers—my father, grandfather, uncles—so I always knew I would become a police officer. When an injury on the job forced a career change, retail loss prevention, although very different, had many of the same challenges and, back then, it aligned closely with police work. It was a natural decision for me when seeking a new career. It has been a rewarding experience and continues to be exciting and challenging every day.
What advice do you have for young people who are starting out in the retail loss prevention field?
This field has grown as fast as any in the retail community, and it has been a rewarding career choice for many of my good friends and colleagues. The more formal education young people can bring to the work place the better, but you don’t necessarily need criminology and criminal justice degrees. Business administration, IT and finance degrees are also desirable in the LP field. Loss prevention is wide open for advancement and has cross-over opportunities to every function within retailing, such as store operations, HR and administration. Many LP professionals have advanced to the highest levels of management in retailers across the globe. It is an exciting field to be in, and the interaction and alliances formed with agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Secret Service, Police and NRF certainly makes it even more fulfilling.