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C-Store Retailers Tackle Crime With Conversation

Industry share group takes on safety issues, theft, workers comp and more

CHICAGO -- Skimming, retail crime rings and opioid abuse: These are just a few of the challenges that convenience-store retailers grapple with each day. As coordinator for the Loss Prevention and Safety Networking Group (LPN), Chandler, Ariz., Gary Cartwright has listened in on discussions between some of the industry’s largest—and smallest—chains about these issues and others, as they seek to share best practices and advice for keeping their employees and customers safe and their businesses successful.

Cartwright, a former regional manager for Speedway, founded LPN 15 years ago. Membership is limited to c-store professionals in loss prevention, safety, security and risk management. There are no membership fees, although there is a cost to attend LPN’s fall and annual meetings. The next meeting—LPN’s 2018 Fall Training event—takes place this September, and will bring dozens of c-store retailers together to discuss topics such as workplace violence and social media.

Just like the c-store business, the discussion lineup of the meetings is always changing to reflect members’ interests and retail trends.

“What’s been interesting to me is to watch the progression of topics on both the loss prevention and safety side over 15 years,” Cartwright told CSP Daily News. He points to the topic of opioid abuse, which LPN surveyed its members about for CSP’sMay 2018 cover story. “Ten years ago, yes, drugs were an issue, but nothing like they are today,” he said. “Skimming, workplace violence—10 years ago, it was out there but was not nearly as important of a topic as it is today.”

Another example of this continually shifting landscape are the changes in the top loss categories in c-stores, which LPN surveys its approximately 400 members about in its Annual Loss Prevention Benchmarking Survey. For a while, the No. 1 loss category by dollar sales in c-stores was cigarettes, followed by beer. But seven to eight years ago, candy began trending upward. “Last year for the first year, candy was the No. 1 loss category,” Cartwright said. He cites two reasons behind the trend: the United States’ growing drug-abuse crisis and organized crime.

“For drug addicts, they need sugar, they need candy, so they will steal it for their habit,” he said. Meanwhile, many c-store retailers are reporting theft of candy by organized retail crime rings, since the product does not have any labeling to prevent its resale on the black market.

An Ounce of Prevention

LPN meetings are distinctive for a couple of things: Each one is hosted by a retailer member company, and only retailers are invited—no suppliers. The format is designed to provide participants with a confidential, secure and no-pressure environment to discuss highly sensitive issues. LPN members submit and vote on topics for each meeting; the most popular are highlighted in general-session presentations, and the rest are made into breakout roundtable discussions. 

Topics for the 2018 Fall Training event, taking place Sept. 20-21 in Buffalo, N.Y., include:

  • Data analytics with tools such as DVRs.
  • Incident de-escalation techniques.
  • Workplace violence.
  • The effect of a company’s safety environment on worker’s compensation claims.
  • Effective use of social media. 

LPN’s next annual meeting takes place Feb. 20-22, 2019, in Dallas.

“Through discussions of our groups over the years, we have prevented injuries and deaths of c-store employees by what is shared at these meetings and put in place,” said Cartwright, adding that much of this learning takes place between the largest and smallest c-store chains.

“They’ll take that discussion back and implement those policies in their companies,” he said. “It just creates a much safer work environment for employees in our industry.”

For more information on LPN or its upcoming events, contact Cartwright at lpngroup@aol.com.

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