Canadian Retailer - Holiday 2016 - 36
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
GAINING GROUND IN THE
FIGHT AGAINST LOSS
Stephen O'Keefe recognized for his commitment to leadership in
loss prevention and dedication to retail and the people who make
it such a dynamic industry.
BY ANDREW HIND
STEPHEN O'Keefe is one of the leading loss prevention authorities in Canada today. On September 29th, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) honoured him with the prestigious Loss Prevention
Lifetime Achievement Award for his enormous contribution to the
industry at the Association's 2016 Loss Prevention Conference.
When asked what the award means to him, O'Keefe is characteristically modest. "It's validation that we are on the right track
when it comes to loss prevention."
That "we", as an industry, are on the right track has a lot to do
with O'Keefe's contributions over a career spanning more than
three decades which has seen him work with some of the most
successful international retail brands as a leading authority on
loss prevention, security, risk management, health and safety
and process improvement.
In the beginning
ing the film-retail employees-were a solution
to avoiding theft. By making them aware of customer behavior and helping them understand
signs of shoplifting, they could be integral to
the defense against any company's loss.
The power of people
Despite employees' critical role in preventing
loss within organizations, however, they can also
be responsible for the very loss that threatens to
undermine the retail industry. Since 2008, reports indicate that internal theft has risen from
18 per cent to 33 per cent, a troubling trend that
contributes to Canadian retailers losing 4 billion
a year to shrink. Nevertheless, O'Keefe is insistent that employees are part of the solution, not
"Engagement is an overlooked aspect of loss
Before establishing his own consultancy firm (Grist Mill Solutions), O'Keefe held a variety of loss prevention management positions with Sears Canada, Zellers, The Hudson's
Bay Company and Walmart Canada. But de- "Engagement is an overlooked aspect of loss prevention.
spite this impressive list of employers, O'Keefe Creating an emotional connection between an employee
originally had no intention of making a career and the company is vital. We're not talking about money,
in retail permanent.
but recognition-things that make people feel good.
"I wanted to be an actor!" O'Keefe laughs. "After
college I moved to Toronto, 'Hollywood North', to Engagement reduces shrinkage because people have an
pursue a career in acting. At first, loss prevention emotional investment in the company. How you treat
was just a part-time job for me; I began working at your employees is central in efforts to secure your profits.
Employees are not a risk, they are an ally."
The Bay arresting shoplifters."
While acting never panned out, O'Keefe's
- STEPHEN O'KEEFE
training proved useful in his loss prevention
career. "Loss prevention is a social job. It's contingent on rela- prevention. Creating an emotional connection
tionships," he explains. "My theatre background helped with between an employee and the company is vital.
public speaking for engaging employees, understanding behav- We're not talking about money, but recogniiour, and building trusting relationships."
tion-things that make people feel good. EnO'Keefe also used his theatre school skills in the production of gagement reduces shrinkage because people
a number of industrial training films for clients including Petro have an emotional investment in the company.
Canada, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Department of Nation- How you treat your employees is central in efal Defense, starting in the 1980s when the concept of training forts to secure your profits. Employees are not a
videos was still in its infancy. One of the videos he is most proud risk, they are an ally," O'Keefe explains
of was called '70,000 Solutions to Theft' for the Hudson Bay
By way of example, O'Keefe points out studCompany. It encapsulates his belief that the very people watch- ies involving the employment of closed-circuit
CANADIAN RETAILER | The Loss Prevention Issue