Johnson, Vice President, Loss Prevention for The Vitamin Shoppe &
newly appointed Chairperson for the National Retail Federations LP
His background, his commitment, his mission
Graduating from Western Illinois University with a BS Degree in Law
Enforcement Administration, Gary embarked on his career as Osco Drug's first
ever LP intern. The internship exposed Gary to the world of LP and after
hiring on, he advanced quickly. He soon covered 31 stores as the LP
Coordinator in Chicago where he learned and excelled at the fundamentals.
Understanding the value of flexibility and sacrifice at an early age, Gary
joined Ivey's Department Stores as a Corporate Investigator just 20 months
after starting his career. With a packed U-Haul and youthful enthusiasm,
Gary continued his journey and gained invaluable experience in understanding
how to deliver Loss Prevention tactics in a completely different retail
sector; the Department Store.
In 1987, Gary once again relocated. This time to Fort Worth, Texas, where he
joined Pier 1 Imports as a Loss Prevention District Manager and began his
Specialty Store career. Operating out of the Corporate office and covering
160 stores, Gary spent the next 3 years developing his skills and expanding
his business knowledge while gaining corporate exposure that helped define
his interpersonal skills and leadership abilities. Working in an autonomous
environment and being given Corporate responsibilities in 1990, Gary was
promoted to Senior LP District Manager where his span of influence grew
tremendously; he helped manage three LPDM's, developed and managed the
company's check collections program, supported six distribution centers,
helped develop the DC's drug screening program, and worked on special
projects, all this while still coordinating the LP support for his original
In six years, Gary's career had grown from LP intern to having Corporate and
Field responsibilities that would challenge even the most seasoned managers.
Gary credits his experiences at Pier 1 as critical to strengthening his core
competencies of time management, developing-managing-and-leading
cross-functional relationships and partners, learning how and when to
compromise, being a team player, and understanding the importance of
aligning the loss prevention needs with the company goals.
In 1991, Gary took on a challenge (and another relocation) that most
wouldn't have done. He moved to New York City, his 3rd relocation in six
years and his first Directorship at Barnes & Noble Bookstores. His
willingness to sacrifice, move, and totally commit himself to his career
paid off early on and he's never looked back.
Gary entered the Bookselling industry when the format was typically
mall-based. While Barnes & Noble had its own brand, the portfolio was
anchored by about 700 Dalton Bookseller stores. Over the next 13½ years, he
helped give birth to and participate in the industry's evolution to
Superstores. Reengineering Loss Prevention deliverables during this huge
transition, without the benefit of existing models to benchmark, Gary
developed one of the first shared services LP models in the industry with
mall-based specialty stores and superstores combined.
During this challenging and exciting time, Barnes & Noble opened over 400
superstores. Gary built an LP program that, at its core, was all about
hiring and developing a team comprised of the absolute best LP executives.
To bring it all together, Gary sought candidates that matched his vision,
had outstanding LP core competencies, and solid retail business acumen.
Their search efforts were exhaustive and Gary didn't hesitate to hire highly
talented people, some former Directors, to ensure high-quality and
innovative LP services would be delivered to the stores. New technologies
were explored and Gary was one of the first to successfully introduce split
frequency EAS systems in the retail industry.
Stepping into a brand new world in 2005, Gary joined A&P Grocery stores as
their Vice President of Asset Protection. Like others in the Grocery sector,
A&P's program followed an "old school" model and Gary was hired to transform
the approach to a more modern and progressive one. However, Gary's mission
was cut short when Vitamin Shoppe's CEO (and former President of Barnes &
Noble Superstores) recruited him as their first VP of Loss Prevention.
Vitamin Shoppe has grown from 177 stores when he joined to its present 505
stores and Gary has once again transformed the LP Program and instituted "a
culture of honesty" philosophy that is based on transparency and active
participation of all associates. Vitamin Shoppe's strength is in the
associates' knowledge and engagement with customers. That holds true for LP
as well and Gary's focus has been to develop an LP program that is truly in
lock-step with the company values, mission and Critical Success Factors.
This focus on people, training, and in-store execution are working as Gary
and his team have reduced shrinkage year over year and this past year posted
record shrink results.
Gary's history with the NRF goes back many years to when he gave his very
first presentation. In 1997, he co-presented with Max Arenas, Cato's Vice
President of LP, "Deterrents in a Specialty Store Environment." In 2000, he
was named to the LP Advisory Council and he chaired the newly created Awards
& Recognition Committee from 2004-2008. In 2008, Gary was named Vice Chair
of the Council and has served on the Conference Planning committee, the
Regional Investigator Network committee, and the Awards & Recognition
committee. With Bill Titus's term as Chairperson expiring, Gary was recently
selected to assume the Chair. His term began at the closing of this year’s
highly successful NRF LP Conference.
Having served on the Council alongside Bill, Gary appreciates Bill's
mentorship and guidance, and is committed to maintaining the Advisory
Council's momentum on several key initiatives. Gary fully understands and
humbly accepts this new challenge. Given Gary's track record of involvement,
it comes as no surprise that his mantra will be one of inclusion and
participation. The NRF offers tremendous opportunities for people to learn
and get involved in their Industry. Gary believes this participation is
paramount to success -- for the Industry, for Retailers, and most
importantly to the individual LP executives.
Our Industry will be facing new demands, challenges, and changing
skill-sets. Gary's advice is simple -- "LP is not a spectator sport! Get
involved. Invest in your career, commit to your Profession, and be sure to
give something back."
For the next two years, Gary will be leading the way and we wish him the
best of luck.