Q&A: RILA's SVP Of Retail Operations Talks Rising To The Cha

RILA recognizes that ubiquitous internet access, changing consumer values, preferences, and lifestyles, coupled with the desire for increased on-demand shopping, have led to unprecedented disruption in virtually every industry; retail perhaps more than any other. America's retailers are transforming, and their supply chain and asset protection operations are helping lead the way. RILA is committed to helping our communities of supply chain and AP executives meet consumer needs with knowledge and innovative solutions. As part of these efforts, we maintain a network of retail executive leaders from our member companies, which gather each year for benchmarking, networking, and peer-to-peer discussions around leading issues in the field. 

We recently sat down with RILA's Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Lisa LaBruno who oversees Retail Operations to learn more about how the industry is evolving and how our member companies are rising to the challenge. 

Q. Tell us a little about your role at RILA. 

LL: As RILA's Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, I oversee supply chain, asset protection, and digital. I'm over-simplifying but essentially our team works closely with functional leaders in these areas to identify and solve common priority challenges they are facing. In doing so, we help member companies enhance their organizational efficiencies and we advance the retail industry. 

Q. What are some of the topline goals and/or challenges for retail supply chain executives? 

LL: Retailers are keenly focused on delivering exceptional customer service. In today's environment, that means getting the customer the product they want, when they want it and where they want it. Retail supply chain executives are putting a lot of time into developing effective strategies that deliver (no pun intended) on that mission. Many of the challenges supply chain teams are facing relate to the need to meet consumer demands – like inventory accuracy and allocation, digital integration, maintaining profitability while meeting rapid fulfillment timelines (i.e. balancing economics with customer expectations), last mile, flexible supply chains, demand planning and forecasting and end-to-end supply chain visibility. Labor availability, recruitment and retention and transportation capacity limitations are other topline challenges our supply chain community is tackling.  

Q. What are some of the topline goals and/or challenges for retail AP executives? 

LL: AP teams are working to proactively identify and mitigate losses in the multi-channel environment in which their companies are operating (e.g. buy on line, pick up in store).  Also, social engineering is a growing problem. New and sophisticated criminal schemes are rearing their ugly heads every day and AP practitioners are working very hard to stay ahead of these criminal perpetrators, particularly those who target the most vulnerable consumers. Last, AP teams are reporting an increase in shoplifting in urban areas across the country, fueled by a variety of factors including the opiate crisis, increases in state felony thresholds, overcrowded jails, reduction in law enforcement resources, and legal challenges to diversion programs.   

Q. What is RILA's role in helping members meet these challenges? 

LL: Our team drives collaboration to solve common industry problems. RILA's membership is comprised of the retail industry's thought leaders.  Our team taps into that brain trust to address the most pressing challenges retailers are facing. We do that in a variety of ways, including face-to-face meetings, facility visits led by member companies, benchmark studies, research projects and of course, our annual conferences. And, we recognize the important role our solution and service provider partners play in this process, especially our high-level committee sponsors including IBM, Intel, JDA, Profitect, and Zebra Technologies. In addition, through RILA's (R)Tech Center for Innovation and the (R)Tech Innovation Awards, we're able to bring retailers and industry disruptors together to collaborate on ways to solve for these challenges as an industry. 

Q. One surprise from your seat. 

LL: Not too long ago, supply chain, AP and other functional areas operated in silos, essentially operating independent of each other. Over the past few years, the lines have blurred.  Today, there's a lot of overlap between supply chain, asset protection and digital.  In many instances, they need to work together to ensure their company's success. It's been interesting to watch these relationships mature and exciting to witness the collaborative spirit develop among these groups.   

Q.  What's got you most excited? 

LL:  Total Retail Loss! In October 2016, RILA in partnership with Professor Adrian Beck published the Beyond Shrinkage: Introducing Total Retail Loss report, the culmination of two years' research work focused on helping the retail industry develop a more overarching definition and typology of the full range of losses it experiences. Since then, the TRL concept has received critical acclaim across the globe, and early adopters are reporting significant benefit.  This month, we launched TRL 2.0 to examine the experiences of those who have adopted TRL and the challenges of those seeking to adopt it, and to understand how TRL needs to evolve to take account of its exposure to the 'real' retail world. 

Q. Are there any recent or future notable events coming up for this group? 

LL: Our Retail Operations community has a busy Fall planned. Each event affords members a unique and unprecedented opportunity to learn, benchmark and network with leading industry experts. In addition to these in person meetings, we have our (R)Tech Supply Chain Innovation Awards and Asset Protection Innovation Awards getting underway soon, which is a great opportunity for retailers to engage directly with startups and recognize the game changing technology for our industry. Below is a snapshot of our upcoming Supply Chain and Asset Protection activities.

If you are interested in attending an event, please contact Ellen Jackson at Ellen.jackson@rila.org

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