Mike currently leads the LPRC Research team, working with Director Dr. Read Hayes to shape, manage, and execute the LPRC’s yearly research load. He writes a monthly column for LP Magazine, and has been featured on Fox News, ABC News, and in depth on Fox Network.
We would love some background on your education. What did you study in college (what was your major)?
Sure! I was a psych major in undergrad at SUNY Buffalo, which it turns out means grad school is almost mandatory to land a great job. My sister was at Cornell 2 hours away working with some awesome professors studying marketing and consumer behavior. I got an internship there, and I haven’t left a research lab since!
When did you discover you had an interest in research?
I think future research scientists make the most annoying children on earth. “Why is that the way it is? Yeah but how does it work? Yeah but what if you took this part away, would it still work? Yeah but? Yeah but?” Sorry mom and dad.
How have your previous work experiences shaped you and your transition into your current role?
A typical academic research lab does a fantastic job of training you to form great research questions, come up with great plans for studying those questions, and analyze and interpret the results. The business world, including retail, does a fantastic job of challenging you to make sure your research questions matter to more than a handful of people, and to transform your results in to actionable insights.
Loss prevention is a hot topic largely because theft is so prominent, especially for large retailers. How would you say you approach your research with this in mind?
It’s actually really interesting how the general public views shoplifting. If I ask people to close their eyes and picture someone stealing from a store, they’ll probably picture a poor person stealing a loaf of bread, or a young kid stealing a pack of gum. What’s the big deal, right? Why are retailers getting so worked up? They picture Aladdin, not Tony Soprano. Understanding and reacting to that public perception is hugely important for our retailers.
What do you love most about your job?
I see a lot of people my age that are doing cool things, but what they’re working on doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of exposure that my ideas do. If I come up with an interesting study, I get to run it and share the results with hundreds of people. It’s really cool to know that my ideas and contributions are being put to real world use.
Have you ever had a surprising finding? If so, how did it change the way you approached data and future research strategies?
All the time. One of the most important reasons that research is so vital to AP is because we’re trying to understand the behavior of a population we don’t belong to. Offenders will routinely share a perspective on an LP deterrent with me that I wouldn’t have thought of in 1000 years. They’ll think a hole in a tag is a camera. They’ll show me how to pop a so-called “unbreakable” clasp open in seconds. There’s an incredible wealth of information that they have to offer us, albeit often hidden in a sea of not-so-useful ramblings, brags, and curse-word-laiden hot takes on global politics and economics
Where do you think the loss prevention industry is headed? What factors do you believe are/ will be influencing those changes?
I think big data and smarter analytics are going to completely change the game on us knowing when a bad person walks in to a store and is up to no good. However, I also think retailers will increasingly value customer experience over preventing theft, effectively handcuffing the LP team. Benefit denial technologies and technologies that serve the overall business as well as LP (i.e. inventory control, personal data for customer experience) have the surest future in our field.