The Perishable Puzzle: Finding all the pieces

Posted by Ryan Bauss on June 3, 2021

Every retail vertical has its own unique shrink challenges. Grocery, however, will always be among the most complex due to its fast-paced environment and wide-ranging product assortment. Grocery stores have all the familiar shrink challenges their traditional retail counterparts face, such as internal & external theft, compliance, and security. However, the presence of perishable shrink adds an additional layer of complexity that very few have battled and even fewer have succeeded against.

Success in grocery is largely predicated on an LP/AP leader’s ability to navigate the treacherous and mostly uncharted waters of the upstream corporate complex and a laser-focused approach to downstream operations. To excel in food supply chain and relationship management is one thing, and to excel at operational rigor and security management, is another. To have mastery in both is, well, unheard of. The reason these supermarket unicorns almost always exist as figments of our imagination is because these skills typically reside in roles that rarely intersect with one another. To say it another way, today’s grocery LP/AP leaders must solve problems for which they have little or no expertise. So, how do leaders bridge such large knowledge and experience gaps? Aside from being a quick study, putting together the right team should provide the needed cover while you “fake it ‘till you make it.”

Solving for grocery shrink is like building a puzzle. Each person you hire onto the team is a puzzle piece designed to fit together in a way that brings your strategy to life. In doing so, be thinking about the department’s most critical (and misunderstood) needs:

Supply Chain / Procurement – It is no secret that buyers are motivated by gross margin. Getting the best cost on products sometimes means buying additional units (or trailers) of highly perishable fruits and veggies. That makes good sense…sometimes. Stores ultimately pay the price when they begin receiving product deliveries they never asked for, often short-dated. Understanding the complexities between pricing, sales, and shrink requires someone on your team that has been there and done that. More importantly, someone who has the credibility to foster relationships when those upstream teams need a voice of reason.

Operations / Execution – Although more LP/AP professionals are coming into the field from operations roles, the vast majority began their careers as store detectives. These security and investigation pros are good at what they do but may lack the institutional knowledge required to influence the business. The goal here is to find a leader that not only understands store operations, but also the real-life challenges of running a store. Leaders that have “earned their stripes” have also earned the respect needed to effect changes at the highest levels.

Product life cycle / Best Practices – These grocery gurus are neither operators nor merchants, they are a special breed of retailer that possess deep knowledge around process and products. They are the engineers behind the scenes that know exactly how store-level shrink occurs and the processes needed to prevent it. The grocery business continues to evolve and redefine itself with the services they provide and the products they sell. Product and process specialists are needed to get out in front of these changes to have the right processes in place each time the business makes a change.

Once you have these pieces in place, carve out time when this team can spend meaningful time together to discuss strategy and projects they are working on. This is where the magic happens. The diversity of skill sets adds additional value when their deliverables holistically align with the organization. Now – set these guys and gals loose with clear expectations. Your shrink problem is not going to fix itself.

That is your job!

About Ryan Bauss
Ryan Bauss, CFI is Vice President of Calibration Group, LLC. Previously, Ryan served as Director of Asset Protection at The Kroger Co, a company with more than 2,800 stores in 38 states. While serving at Kroger, Ryan was responsible for shrink, best practice execution, and the division asset protection and safety teams. Ryan also led the organization’s transformation to a holistic asset protection strategy from a traditional loss prevention approach. Previously, Ryan worked as Director of Asset Protection for Harris Teeter Supermarkets, where he was responsible for asset protection operations, safety, and security solutions. He also held various leadership positions in program development and management on an enterprise scale. Throughout his career, Ryan has led change and awareness strategies that have helped organizations maximize shareholder returns.

About Calibration Group, LLC
Calibration Group, LLC, is a full-service marketing, communications, and consulting firm specializing in providing relevant, educational content for loss prevention, asset protection, safety, and security professionals. Calibration has mastered the ability to move beyond simple awareness and communication. We create. We deliver. We inspire.