Michael Case: The Balancing Act in Retail Security
A Security 500 Thought Leader Profile
“Retail is never boring, and that’s a good thing,” says Michael Case, Director of Loss Prevention for Art Van Furniture Inc., an American furniture retail store chain. Founded in 1959, the company was family-owned for the past 57 years and headquartered in Warren, Michigan in Metro Detroit. This past January, the company was sold to a private equity firm, TH Lee out of Boston.
“Retail is continually changing, not just in the merchandise and the seasonality, but also, because our company is expanding and continually entering new markets, not only by building and growing stores, but also by acquiring different companies.” Art Van Furniture is one of the top 10 furniture retailers in the U.S. While it’s traditionally been a Midwest company, it’s expanding through franchises, which means new retail stores in Idaho and Missouri. And because its furniture is manufactured outside of the U.S. (as most furniture is), it has a satellite office in China that handles quality control for manufacturing from countries like China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Indonesia.
After college, Case applied for a job at a retailer to earn extra money while attending graduate school. He moved up quickly through operational management jobs and found that he enjoyed the work. His first exposure to retail security was as a safety specialist for the corporate loss prevention department. He spent 18 years with the company, eventually being promoted to regional loss prevention manager and becoming part of the company’s special response team. “As a SRT member, we dealt with union issues, executive security, executive protection, and with workplace violence intervention. As the team responsibilities grew, we became specialized for the type of details we worked. I specialized in emergency medicine and trained as an EMT, obtaining my license and eventually working weekends for a local ambulance company.”
He joined Art Van Furniture 13 years ago and has enjoyed developing its loss prevention department. In addition to safety, security and the executive protection component, he manages workers compensation, fraud, internal auditing, risk management and more, all of which is done out of the corporate office.
“With my previous employer the biggest thing we dealt with was shoplifting. At one point we had more than 30,000 arrests companywide for customer shoplifting. Needless to say, joining Art Van Furniture was different. People aren’t shoplifting sofas out of the front door. There is really not much of a need for an in-store detective staff. Most of what we deal with is internal and external fraud attempts, workplace violence, policy violations and, unfortunately, employee theft.”
Still, he notes, within the retail stores are the rare customers who do break the law. “Ninety-nine percent of the folks that enter our stores everyday are great customers looking for products and making purchases,” he says. “But when you have an open environment, we sometimes have individuals that come into our stores with less than good intentions.”
Case has always had strong C-suite support for funding and new programs at Art Van Furniture. “When I joined the company, we had a loss prevention and security department, but it was never an organized effort. So when I came on board, we structured that. The C-suite believes in loss prevention and in the safety all of our associates. So, I have access to them whenever I need it. I report up to the legal department, but I have access to all the leaders of the company 24/7. They respect what I do, and they appreciate the work my team and I do for the company.”
Part of the security structuring included how the company’s ecommerce department is secured – which is essentially, furniture that is ordered online and delivered to a customer’s home or business. “We currently stop 98 percent of the fraud coming into our company’s ecommerce site,” he says, “just by carefully examining and vetting all Internet orders. Just this year we project to save more than $800,000 in fraud that was stopped by our loss prevention team.” Another area was employee safety, including accidents in the company’s 1.2 million square foot warehouse. “We have really examined the root causes of most employee accidents and corrected it so it doesn’t happen again. We are being very proactive with very specific plans and metrics.”
Last, the company is C-TPAT certified for cargo. Case was instrumental in completing the application and validation process through the U.S. government. “We are now validated as both an importer from overseas and as an international highway carrier, which is our trucking and delivery side, since we deliver to Canada. It was not an easy process, but we receive 30-50 overseas cargo containers per day, so it was necessary.”
In his free time, Case is an avid snow skier and a member of the national ski patrol at Mt. Holly. He is a reserve deputy Sheriff, serving on the bike division. He also loves to road bike, run and CrossFit with his wife.
Annual Revenue: $770 million
Security Budget: $1.7 million
• Company Growth
• Workplace Violence
• Workersʻ Comp/Risk Management