A Conversation With
One cold December morning, a jolly man sporting a flowing white beard and a red outfit brought a very welcomed holiday surprise to the excited students at Devonshire Elementary in Charlotte, NC, where poverty is the norm. But this was no ordinary Santa—their surprise visitor was none other than Lowe’s Vice President of Loss Prevention, Safety and Hazmat, Claude Verville, better known during the holiday season as “Santa Claude.” Dressed in a bright Santa Claus suit, Claude delighted the eager students with new bicycles as part of the USS Foundation’s Adopt-a-Bike program, for which Lowe’s LP and Safety Department supported the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) to raise money.
“I have a big heart for kids, especially kids in need,” he said. Claude explained that he grew up poor and never had a new bike. “I got a used bike once and it was stolen from me,” he continued. “That’s why I relate to their situations and know the need to do my part to help them overcome their current circumstances.”
His childhood planted a deeply rooted passion and concern for children in need. When Claude met USS Foundation Founder Adel Sayegh about two years ago, they discovered that they have similar backgrounds, having both experienced poverty in their lives. “When I found out what Adel was doing with his foundation, I wanted to be directly involved. I knew immediately that this was a great way to encourage kids in need.”
Claude’s heart breaks knowing that there are so many kids in the same situation he was in, with either an old bike or no bike at all and, most tragically, a bleak potential future. “My passion is to be a positive role model, and Adopt-a-Bike is the perfect venue to bring hope to these kids by showing them how someone can overcome the obstacle of growing up poor and go on to achieve success.”
His overflowing altruism catalyzed this past holiday season when he championed his team, along with the LPF, to raise over $10,000 for the deserving Devonshire Elementary students who live in poverty. Through dedicated planning and perseverance, they were able to get many other businesses involved, including Walmart, Food Lion, Family Dollar, Visually Creative Video, Security Resources, Spark Enterprises, Inc. and Iverify. “It’s so wonderful how others have hearts for these kids too,” said Claude. “Because of the teamwork, the bike event was an incredible success. The looks on the kids’ faces– I can’t put into words how it felt. I could tell that the bikes meant the world to these kids. We were all very blessed to be a part of it this year, and I am so grateful that it worked out so well. I got much more out of the season by giving.”
Claude shares the same overt passion for children as he does for his team at Lowe’s. As Vice President of LP since 1998, he believes in the need to constantly commend his associates, as that is what encouraged him early on in his career to strive for his professional accomplishments. His most influential mentor in retail loss prevention is former Lowe’s VP of loss prevention, Bob Oberosler, who believed in him from an early stage. “I felt I was one amongst many, but Bob helped me to see my capabilities,” Claude reminisced. “Bob didn’t have a big ego. He saw my potential and reminded me that I had what it takes. He told me, ‘You can take this career of yours as high as you want to take it.’” Little did they know that Bob’s words would remain deeply engrained in Claude years later.
As leader of a successful LP program, Claude now follows Bob’s selfless leadership model. “Be an assertive leader who is not insecure to say, ‘You can be better than me one day.’ Instill confidence in the people in your surroundings,” he suggests. Claude constantly praises his subordinates by reinforcing their attributes, whether it is building their loyalty, integrity, or work ethic. “It’s about others’ development, success, recognition and their contributions. By showing trust in them, I hope to develop their success the way that Bob helped me.”
Claude’s committed team mentality is one of his foremost attributes that was developed early on as a young athlete, and he credits it as being key in maintaining his winning department at Lowe’s. “It’s not about me; it’s about everyone else.” Claude says regarding being a team player. Supervisors notice who is making contributions, so he encourages them to keep a “team first” attitude and perform at high levels, as an athlete would. Giving back to others and developing their successes is one of Claude’s proudest accomplishments. “I want to do everything in my power to bring the best out in my team, just like a winning coach would.”
His incredibly successful career in retail loss prevention began unexpectedly when he was a 20-year-old student with hopes of making a career out of playing baseball. While looking for work, he saw an ad for a job at Robinsons-May in California as an LP agent. Unsure of what the job entailed, Claude went for an interview and learned that the position was to catch shoplifters. Although he had no prior experience in LP, he took the job.
Much like a fish takes to water, Claude excelled as an LP agent and was soon promoted to store detective at their Santa Monica location. He spent five years there in that position and then moved on to a regional manager, later being promoted to the corporate director of investigations reporting directly to the VP of LP, Bob Oberosler. Along the way, Claude discovered that he had an incredible talent for conducting employee interviews and investigations. This skill served him extremely well as director of investigations, where he was responsible for case preparation for regional investigators and conducting investigative interviews.
As he looks back, the director of investigations position was the favorite job of his career and required the skills of an athlete, such as training and preparation for performance and success. Although the job was stressful at times, he found it extremely rewarding. “Studying facts and evidence and preparing for potential denials were very stressful. But in the end, having the ability to relate and empathize with people from various social, economic and diverse backgrounds, Claude was highly successful in gaining solid admissions while conducting the interviews in a respectful manner that preserved the individuals dignity and level of self worth.
A major change in Claude’s life occurred in 1993, when his mentor at Robinsons-May, Bob, was recruited by Lowe’s to their headquarters in North Carolina. After witnessing Claude’s efforts and dedication, Bob told him, “I’m taking you with me to head the investigations department.” He asked Claude to make the move to North Carolina, and Claude boldly accepted, although he initially had no staff and was required to travel extensively and personally conduct many of the internal investigations. Claude would later be placed in the position of taking on a staff of eight as divisional director in 1996, and, in 1998, he was promoted the Vice President of Loss Prevention position when Bob left Lowe’s. “I am infinitely grateful for Bob’s contributions in developing me in my early years,” Claude recounts. “I owe him a debt of gratitude for his mentoring that is second to none.”
Besides athletics, another major passion for Claude is technology. He constantly strives to stay current in LP technological advances, so he makes it a priority to stay involved with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF), attends exhibits, and reads often. In addition, his team partners frequently with the Lowe’s IT innovation lab that tests technologies to drive efficiencies and advance the industry. Claude prioritizes his major involvement in their activities as they involve LP
In looking into the future, Claude continues to operate the Lowe’s LP and safety platform in a manner that preserves the customer experience for what he calls the 98% honest, loyal customers while finding innovative methods to deter the 2% less desirable types. He laments that too often LP programs are built with the single-purpose mindset of deterring criminal activity and fraud, when not penalizing legitimate and loyal consumers should be just as important. He emphasized. “Delivering world class service to our loyal customers by ensuring a positive experience while in-store or online, or having installion or repair service perform is our primary objective at Lowe’s.”
When Claude is not involved with his loss prevention team, he likes to stay busy reading, exercising and spending quality time with his wife and two children. He admits that it has been tough to balance work and family, especially in his early years in retail when he put in a lot of overtime, sometimes working 70-hour weeks. Though he sacrificed family time at the beginning of his career, his dedication and sacrifice have led him to leave an unforgettable legacy in the retail LP world. “I missed out on a lot of family time in the early years of my career. I was not around as much as I would have liked when my kids were growing up. I am making up for my absence by spending more time with them now and being an eager fan at as many of their sporting events as possible.”
Claude’s hard work and devotion has paid off as he runs one of the most successful LP programs in the country. Managing loss prevention at Lowe’s, finding time to give back to the community and spending time with family– it seems that he has found the key to a balanced life.