You’ve heard of PayPal, and you may have downloaded your mobile payment app, but do you know what “bitcoin” is? Have you ever heard of BitPay, Gyft or BitFash, or MtGox? If these terms are unfamiliar, then don’t skip the rest of this article.
When I started in retail as a financial executive in a Macy’s subsidiary in 1974, we accepted cash, personal checks, and charges on our own company credit card—that was it—no American Express or Visa. We had our own credit and collections department, so we managed the entire process from beginning to end. Our only financial middle-man was the cash-collection service.
Fast-forward forty years and the world is on the verge of accepting payments for goods and services in bitcoin, which according to bitcoin.org is a “decentralized, digital currency that enables instant payment to anyone, anywhere in the world.” The idea, first promulgated around 2009, is to use cryptography, meaning secure communication, to control the creation and transfer of money, rather than relying on central authorities.
Bitcoin came to my attention in a recent news story about the Winklevoss twins…the two brothers who sued over the rights to Facebook…who have invested a fortune in the currency. “We have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error,” said Tyler Winklevoss.
As one would expect, the online community was first to embrace the bitcoin in commerce. Now, people are starting to use bitcoin in retail. In mid-May CNNMoney reported that payment processor BitPay joined with mobile payment app maker Gyft to offer simple software that allows customers to buy gift cards for stores, such as Sephora, Burger King, Gap, and others. These retailers don’t directly accept bitcoin yet, but customers can effectively pay for merchandise in over 50,000 of their stores in the U.S.
The Bitcoin Money blog reported that brick-and-mortar merchants are beginning to accept bitcoin directly, especially in locations like New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, and New Hampshire, where clusters of enthusiasts can use them in bars, restaurants, and other retail businesses. A New York bar called EVR contended that bitcoin payments accounted for about 10 percent of its overall revenue in the month of April 2013. An Australian real estate brokerage now accepts bitcoin as payment for property.
In theory the bitcoin process eliminates the threat of payment or collection security breaches, and cuts down transaction processing time and cost. Will bitcoin be the wave of the future? The investment community thinks so. Millions of dollars in seed money have poured into bitcoin payment-processing startups and online sites that sell brand-name merchandise. The industry estimates that about $1 billion worth of bitcoin was traded in April. It appears the buzz is just beginning.
U.S. Management Buys
All-Tag, Expands U.S. Factory
The senior management team from All-Tag Americas Inc. recently acquired most of the assets of All-Tag S.A. of Belgium, the world’s second largest manufacturer of RF EAS labels, behind Checkpoint Systems.
Immediate plans call for the transfer of most of the remaining label production equipment to Florida, resulting in the creation of an unspecified number of well-paying production jobs. All-Tag had moved about 25 percent of its production capacity to Florida in mid-2011. The original factory in Manage, Belgium, had been in operation since 1992.
All-Tag is the only major EAS manufacturer currently producing labels in the U.S. “We saw an opportunity to make a few structural changes that will bring back full-time jobs to South Florida, consolidate our engineering, manufacturing, and management footprint, and provide even better service to our growing list of customers,” said CEO Stuart Seidel.
Corporate headquarters will be moved to the existing facility in Boca Raton, which will house worldwide sales and customer service, in addition to the vast majority of the company’s EAS label production. While All-Tag S.A. was strictly a manufacturer of disposable EAS and RFID labels, All-Tag Americas has a long history of designing and marketing the full spectrum of EAS accessory products, including tags and benefit-denial devices compatible with virtually all AM and RF detection technologies. The company has recently introduced a people-counting system.
The new entity, called All-Tag Security Americas (All-Tag), also acquired All-Tag Security U.K. Limited and All-Tag Security Hong Kong Limited. The management group includes seasoned veterans of the EAS business, led by Seidel and Andy Gilbert, the sales and marketing director. “This investment illustrates the dedication our team has to the success of All-Tag,” said Gilbert. “We have some innovative plans under development that will provide significant growth opportunities.”
All-Tag’s founder, Olivier Boels will assume the role of president of Europe. The new entity is privately held. Financing assistance was provided by a Florida-based investment group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
AP Leadership Team
By Jim Lee, LPC, Executive Editor
Recently we had an opportunity to speak with the new asset protection leadership team at Walmart U.S. Sonya Hostetler, vice president of asset protection and safety, has appointed three experienced and dynamic retail executives to lead the program. Here is a summary of our conversation and a chance for all of us to get to know them.
EDITOR: Sonya, you placed two experienced operations executives in key asset protection leadership positions. What was your thought process with that decision?
HOSTETLER: For me, team dynamics across our AP leadership team are critical to our ability to deliver optimum results. Leaders who are knowledgeable around the total business, not just the asset protection aspect of the business, are equally critical. My decision to place both Paul Jaeckle and Nikki Bayne in our organization was in line with that thinking. Both bring diverse experiences and backgrounds with a proven track record of delivering results. Diversity of thought, experience, and background are force multipliers, and I truly feel we have accomplished those things with this move.
EDITOR: At the same time, you added Mike Lamb, a well-known LP executive. How did you get so fortunate?
HOSTETLER: Coming into the AP organization, I recognized very quickly that I would need to have a leader who not only had strong leadership skills, but had the institutional knowledge and experience of asset protection. Mike has had a very successful career in loss prevention and has been able to bring a new prospective into our AP organization. Leveraging his experiences outside of Walmart to help optimize our business model has been an advantage for us.
Mike Lamb, LPC
Senior Director, Asset Protection Operations, U.S. Stores
Mike Lamb’s retail loss prevention career spans thirty-plus years, most recently as VP of asset protection for The Home Depot. His responsibilities for Walmart include the development and implementation of AP strategies and awareness programs across the brand along with leading transformational and innovative change in conjunction with the AP executive. Lamb has been active in the LP industry, serving on the board of directors for the Loss Prevention Foundation, the Loss Prevention Research Council, and RILA’s Asset Protection Leaders Council.
EDITOR: After six months on the job helping to lead Walmart’s AP efforts, what have been the challenges and successes?
LAMB: Two thoughts immediately come to mind relative to that question. First is personally adjusting to the enormous scale and velocity of the world’s largest retailer. Second is effectively engaging across the critical business partners both from an asset protection and cross-functional perspective. From a success point of view, I would call it “positive progress” versus “success.” While one’s work across the challenges and opportunities is never complete, I feel good about our approach and progress thus far. Further, from a team point of view, we recognize where the challenges lie and are laser focused on our strategy and approach.
EDITOR: What are the goals with asset protection at Walmart?
LAMB: The answer to that question is very clear in my mind. Continually deliver on the desired asset protection business results for the organization. That first begins with people and then process development and execution. Identify, hire, train, and retain the very best people, and in conjunction with that, design, implement, and execute world-class asset protection programs. I would like to think we are well on our way with regard to those things.
EDITOR: What are your thoughts on the addition of two experienced stores and operations executives into senior leadership roles in AP?
LAMB: I truly believe the addition of Nikki and Paul to our team provides an invaluable depth of knowledge and insight into the business. More importantly, it helps identify how we approach problem solving and gives us enormous diversity of thought and perspective. The critical importance of diversity of background and experience is often overlooked in key AP leadership roles. With both having a myriad of professional experience ranging from operations to innovations, we have a unique advantage that has and will continue to add tremendous value to the team.
Senior Director, Asset Protection, Central Business Unit
Over the past twenty-four years, Nikki Bayne has held various leadership positions in human resources and store operations within Walmart. Prior to her appointment to her current position in AP, Bayne served as director of operations in the Texas area, where she led all operational initiatives across several markets. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in criminal justice from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Bayne has served as a board member for The Plano Symphony Orchestra as well as The Giving Movement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to hunger relief. She has also served as president of the women’s division of the McKinney (Texas) Chamber of Commerce.
EDITOR: What was the attraction that made you accept this new challenge in asset protection?
BAYNE: I have always been intrigued by areas of the business that allow me to expand my knowledge and contribution to the organization. While I did not have prior AP experience, I was impressed by the more recent strategic direction, objectives, and excitement that I observed within the AP organization. That aligned very nicely with my goal of making a significant contribution to a company that I care so deeply about.
EDITOR: After a couple of months on the new assignment, what personal challenges do you see ahead?
BAYNE: I would have to say that the greatest challenge is ensuring we deliver flawless execution around the tactical and strategic objectives and goals that have been outlined by our vice president. In addition, I see the critical need for me to connect with my field team as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure we are identifying and celebrating wins, as well as identifying and addressing opportunities. One of the most surprising aspects of this job is adjusting to the rapid pace and ever-changing dynamics of the asset protection role.
EDITOR: If you could achieve only one objective in the next year, what would that be?
BAYNE: That’s a very easy question for me. My primary objective is to develop and grow the talent on my team, which ultimately ensures we deliver on our performance goals. I believe leadership is about galvanizing a team, working hard, and having some fun along the way. If we accomplish that over the next year, I will feel as though it’s been a successful one.
EDITOR: You recently attended your first national asset protection conference. What were the positive takeaways for you?
BAYNE: The synergy I observed and the tremendous knowledge that was shared by the presenters really opened my eyes to the complexity and importance of what we do in asset protection. It’s a great opportunity to exchange the best of ideas and network amongst your peers.
Paul E. Jaeckle
Senior Director, Asset Protection, East Business Unit
Paul Jaeckle brings sixteen years of loss prevention, innovations, and store operations experience inside Walmart to this role where he is responsible for the AP functions for 1,380 Walmart locations extending from Puerto Rico to Maine. Jaeckle has served on the Sage Colleges alumni board of directors since 2010 and was recently appointed to the board of trustees. He earned his master’s degree in organization management and design from Sage Colleges in 2009. Jaeckle has also served as the VP of the loss prevention committee of the Retailers of Massachusetts, was a member of the Retail Council of New York State’s food, safety, and LP committee, was the New York State Emergency Management Organization retail representative, and was on the board of directors for the Greater Washington, D.C. Urban League.
EDITOR: You graduated from college with a degree in criminal justice from Western Illinois and began a career at Walmart in asset protection before moving to operations. Why did you make the move into operations?
JAECKLE: I made the decision to go back to complete my master’s degree while I was working as a regional AP director. During that timeframe, I really began to strategize on what I wanted my full career to look like and how to further use my education. I tried to balance my education, experience, and exposures to position myself to learn the business from a more holistic approach, understanding that much of what we accomplish in AP is an extension of operations. I realized that I needed to understand the operational functions better in order to allow me to make better decisions in AP and become more credible to my internal customers. Walmart was going through significant changes in how stores operated with inventory management, so it was a great time to learn myself and teach my customers how to be more effective when it comes to inventory management and where the gaps lie related to processes or where risk resides for the potential of shrink.
EDITOR: What caused you to make the full circle back to AP?
JAECKLE: My heart has always been in asset protection. Our organization is filled with great people and the role inspires me for several reasons. AP had been an exporter of talent inside Walmart for several years, but had not seen the same inbound transitions to balance the organization. When Walmart named Sonya as the AP executive, it was very refreshing to me to see someone with credibility and understanding of asset protection, operations, and strong people leadership commitments being leveraged to lead such a great organization. In addition, my education, experience, and knowledge of both AP and operations, plus my commitment to developing talent and working for a great leader all made this an intriguing and easy decision for me.
EDITOR: Do you see common goals and objectives between stores, operations, and asset protection?
JAECKLE: I do. The mission remains the same though the subject matter may be a bit different—develop leaders, seek to understand how and why things work, remove barriers, and drive strong execution of business objectives. For the most part though, everything mirrors very closely between the different disciplines. As I mentioned before, AP is truly an extension of operations and a critical discipline to complete the business model and make it successful.
EDITOR: What were your impressions and takeaways from the Retail Industry Leaders Association LP conference?
JAECKLE: The attendee commitment and the breadth of knowledge in the presenters were most impressive to me. I was extremely excited to see industry leaders not so much focused on managing the business for today, but focused on the current trends and how we manage against the risks of innovation and where the business is going. Things like mobile retailing, addressing the speed and adaptability of the business needs, seeing the number of industry leaders working together to mitigate common risks and sharing learnings; all were refreshing to see. The commitment for our industry suppliers to keep us out in front of those risks was also really impressive to me.
George Luciano Added to NRF Ring of Excellence
George “Pops” Luciano was inducted into the Ring of Excellence at the 2013 NRF Loss Prevention Conference and Expo in San Diego in June. This distinction recognizes the lifetime contributions made by Luciano to the loss prevention profession. Jim Lee, executive editor of LP Magazine and a long time friend of Luciano, asked the new inductee a few pointed questions.
LEE: Tell the young people reading the magazine how you started in LP.
LUCIANO: I was working as a robbery/homicide detective in October of 1966 when I was offered a job at Vons Grocery as assistant director of security paying $200 more per month, plus a car. I had been number one on the promotion list for sergeant, but was passed over for the number three on the list, who happened to be female. So, I took the Vons job.
LEE: What was your first directorship?
LUCIANO: I became regional director of security at Smith’s Food King in 1971 and corporate vice president of LP at HRT Industries (Zodys Discount Stores) in 1976.
LEE: You’ve always been a people person, correct?
LUCIANO: Yes. I wanted to surround myself with professional people who wanted my job. In fact in one company, I hired the person who lost to me when I got the job.
LEE: What were the qualities you looked for in people who worked for you?
LUCIANO: Initiative, technological knowledge and skills, a personality conducive to a cohesive company-wide management team, results-oriented, independent thinking, and honesty.
LEE: You’ve been a pioneer in civil demand. When and why did that come about?
LUCIANO: In 1978 I became aware of CA Penal Code section 490.5, which was a new law and one of the first in the country. We introduced the program a year later and recovered a quarter-million dollars. But the most important factor was that we reduced shrinkage by $5 million. Because of this success, our company became the training center for many other retail chains, at which time we not only provided the law and AG opinion, but also case studies and apprehension forms.
LEE: Let me think, how many times have you retired?
LUCIANO: [Laughing] I’ve retired three times. On two of the occasions, you were the master of ceremonies. My last job was VP of LP at Petco in San Diego, which was a great job.
LEE: Will we see you come out of retirement for the fourth time?
LUCIANO: That depends on whether I go “up” or “down”
after I die.
LEE: What does the Ring of Excellence mean to you?
LUCIANO: It’s hard to put into words how honored I am to have been chosen to be among the LP professionals who have made LP what it is today. There have been so many innovators who were out-of-the-box thinkers as well as examples of honesty and integrity. This group worked with a variety of vendors who helped create the sophisticated LP tools that are in use, and still evolving, today. Getting this honor is definitely the highlight of my career.
LEE: What would you tell our readers about being an LP professional?
LUCIANO: An LP professional must be extremely loyal to his company, his people, and his profession and must realize that his conduct affects all three. You must give back to the industry by sharing your experiences, including successes in dealing with shrinkage. Egos need to be left at home. You must make a concerted effort to continue working with vendors to foster innovative ideas to the benefit of all. Last, but not least, you must remember that your reputation means everything to the industry, to yourself, and to your family.
EDITOR’S NOTE: George Luciano was featured in the magazine’s “Legends in Loss Prevention” series in the November-December 2006 issue. A PDF of that article is on the magazine website, LPportal.com.