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Counting your way to greater profitability…

As half a dozen WIS colleagues notch up 20yrs of continuous service, we look at how the annual stocktake is being replaced with shorter count cycles, and why…

Job Centres need to start hiring. They are going to be busy.

Mind you, I have always thought that working in the Job Centre must be a tense job; knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day!

Tragically since the start of the pandemic 800,000 people have already lost their jobs. And now Rishi Sunak has said that things are going to get worse before they get better.

That’s a lot of people looking for work.

Yet recruiting GOOD people is just as hard as ever it was. So, it was great to receive an email from Amanda, our Head of Human Resources, that gladdened my heart – once I had worked out how to open it…

Amanda’s email was sent on a password protected system. Got to be careful with these things – GDPR and all that. Anyway, I gamely set about “cracking” my own code.

First of all I tried the date for the wife’s birthday, and then the date of “her” wedding anniversary. Neither worked. But that’s not a surprise because, as Mrs C points out, I forget them both every year!

Moving to safer ground I tried the registration number and year of manufacture of my first car, a Vauxhall Chevette Mk1 that I bought for five hundred quid in 1978 with the proceeds of my Saturday job at Woolworths, plus a loan from me old gran (A year later I sold it for just £100, after the window fell through the bottom of the completely rotten driver’s door and the exhaust fell off at a set of traffic lights in the High Street!). I thought I looked the bee’s knees in that car. A Whitley Bay babe magnet! But even that password was rejected. Then I remembered…

I had been in flippant mood one Friday afternoon, slightly stir crazy from the first Lockdown, when I was asked to set a password for an upgraded system we were installing. My initial attempt was vetoed by the system that told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was unsuitable; even though ABC123 seems completely reasonable to me, because it is easy to remember. But “the computer said no.”

In bold red letters, highlighted for effect, I was told that I needed a password with at least EIGHT CHARACTERS. So, I picked… snowwhiteandthesevendwarves. A minor act of rebellion but an important moral victory, just the same.

Just twenty-seven keystrokes later (a hollow “victory,” upon reflection) and I was “in”…

Having cracked my own code and got access to Amanda’s email, I read the good news – a list of upcoming WIS long service awards, including half a dozen people who had notched up 20 years with the company. And incredibly the soon-to-be recipients include a brother and sister, who have been with the company almost from the first day we opened in the UK.


And even though my mate at the delivery company jokes that “nostalgia is a thing of the past,” that got me thinking about the early days and how much things have changed over the years…

Back in day used counting machines when counting products. In the 60s a minor revolution occurred with the introduction of barcodes and the ability to count stock items by scanning batches or individual items. Today RFID is promising a similar revolution, although as a man who makes his living from stock accuracy, I can tell you there are numerous pitfalls that wait for the unwary retailer (more of that in a future article). But barcoding and scanning was revolutionary at the time.

In terms of personnel there were a lot more people involved, not just in stock control but in retail generally. Hundreds of staff and tier upon tier of management all dedicated to their one little part of the big retail machine. Of course, that has all changed now too.

I have said in previous articles about my concerns about the falling levels of skill employed in retail today, but commercial reality combined with technological advances have made it possible to legitimately reduce tiers of management, so that now people have to multi-task. However, there is no escaping the fact that with the demise of the specialist we have inevitably lost some of the “quality” in retail.

UK retailers did not outsource their stock takes. Generally, the only time an independent company was allowed near a retailer’s stock was to independently assess the value for the statutory year end accounts. And even then, we did not count the stock. All we did was sample for accuracy and add up their totals.

WIS played an important part in changing all of this.

In those days ASDA did their own stock counts. They had done for years. However, Walmart in the USA had long outsourced its stock takes to the US based arm of WIS International, taking the view that frequent independent checks meant less errors and better availability. That, they believed, led in turn to happier customers, better brand loyalty and greater profitability. Turns out Sam Walton was way, way ahead of his time!

When Walmart bought ASDA, they asked WIS in the USA to open in the UK, to provide their new acquisition with the same service that Walmart had profited from in the USA. That’s how WIS International came to be in the UK, and how I got involved in the business.
From an initial 50% share of the work required by Asda, we progressed quickly. As a valued partner, we have provided 100% of their stock count requirements for the last seven years. And we have also won other new clients too, of course. 
Today the problem with counting your stock once a year is that you only give yourself an annual chance to get it right. Given the way in which retail serves customers these days, the old fashioned annual stocktake is just not up to the job.

Stock drift through an incorrect process or code can grow and grow. Something that initially identifies a product erroneously can have adversely impacted thousands of customers a year later and created tens of thousands of pounds in missed opportunity and actual loss.

Today smart retailers are counting their stock four or five times a year. And the reason they do that is because accurate stock has been shown to increase revenues by as much as 6%, through increased accuracy, stock availability and customer satisfaction.

If I were to summarise what has changed in the last 20 years, it would be this. Customers want what they want NOW. And having accurate stock to meet that demand in a modern multi-channel environment can be worth around an addition half a billion pounds to a big retailer.

In modern retail, only having an opportunity once a year to check and resolve stock inaccuracies through an annual independent check is not really enough anymore.

I am proud of the team at WIS. In a high turnover business that we have so many long serving team members is not only gratifying, but also a huge benefit to our business and our clients’ businesses.

And despite what Mrs C might say, it proves I am not “impossible!”

WIS International are sponsors or Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™ AND the Fraud Awards, which both take place on 20th May 2021. To register for the conference click HERE…  For more information about the Fraud Awards click HERE…

Geoff Chaplin
Managing Director
WIS International



It’s all systems go for Retail Risk – Melbourne L.I.V.E™ in 2021!

Taking place on 22nd April 2021, Retail Risk – Melbourne promises to be HUGE

For over 18 months the pandemic has prevented Loss Prevention managers meeting in-person. The opportunity to exchange ideas, catch up on gossip and get the inside information on what people have been doing has been greatly missed. So, for the industry this conference cannot come soon enough…

Now the Australian Government has given the green light for our event, removing restrictions for large gatherings that had been preventing us from running the conference. So it is all systems go for an in-person Retail Risk – Melbourne 2021. PLUS broadcasting from the L.I.V.E Lounge™ we will also be offering delegates who cannot make it on the day the chance to join us virtually…

With the fastest pace of evolution ever, retail has morphed into a very different animal over the last 18 months. And so has the risk landscape. The massive growth in online coupled with new initiatives to overcome pandemic restrictions, has created many new risks for retail and LP managers often are finding themselves in unchartered waters. Kerbside deliver, virtual assistants trading on social media platforms, dark stores functioning as logistics satellites and the sheer volume of returns to DCs are just a few of the  plenitude of new areas of risk that retailers need to rapidly develop best practice to support.

Add to that the expectation of recession coming over the hill in 2021 and the significant additional pressures put on LP departments by evolving expectations of investors, consumers and all stakeholders around sustainability, insurance, working practices, sourcing policies and data issues mean that LP managers have more to discuss than ever before.

Retail Risk – Melbourne 2021 promises to be an important milestone along the road to recovery for a greatly changed and somewhat battle scarred retail industry. You can stay away and learn the hard way. Or you can compare notes with others who have fought “in the trenches” these last 18 months both in Oz and elsewhere around the world, get insight from their experiences, find out what they are doing that works and what they have tried that didn’t.

In short, you’d better register now for Retail Risk – Melbourne 2021. After all, the day is free – including lunch!

To register for Retail Risk – Melbourne 2021 click HERE…

Tony D’Onofrio named CEO of Prosegur Security’s global retail business unit

Prosegur Security, a global leader in security technology, has appointed Tony D’Onofrio as new CEO and managing director of its Global Retail Business Unit. D’Onofrio is a recognized top 100 global retail influencer and his future-looking articles on retail, security, leadership and emerging technologies are widely shared on multiple platforms in the US and internationally. Tony has been a frequent contributor to Retail Risk conferences around the world…

“Tony will be instrumental in leading our efforts to expand the reach of our retail solutions on the global stage,” said Matt Sack, executive chairman of Prosegur Security USA. “His strong reputation among global retailers and his dedication to always pushing innovation, combined with our technological expertise, makes this a perfect relationship. Tony brings strategic insight, transformative leadership, and over 30 years of retail experience to the Prosegur family. We are excited for him to begin this journey with us and we look forward to his leadership.”

“Covid-19 has become a highly impactful accelerator of digital transformation trends that were already underway,” said D’Onofrio. “The world that the virus leaves behind will include increased implementation of new technologies and services, both of which will accelerate the importance of the loss prevention function. Prosegur is uniquely positioned to strategically partner with global retailers with innovative solutions and people to deliver a more prosperous future of retail.”

Prior to joining Prosegur, D’Onofrio served as CEO of TD Insights, a retail and security consultancy firm. He also served as chief customer officer at Tyco Retail Solutions (now Sensormatic), where he managed global customer relationships, marketing, source tagging, and transitioning key security solutions into “as a service” models. His career has spanned both security and information technology companies.

D’Onofrio is a board member and advisor of multiple private equity portfolio companies that focus on advanced technologies, and regularly mentors Silicon Valley, European and Indian start-ups. He also serves as an advisor on the boards of retail industry groups such as the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC) and ReThink Retail. He holds an MBA degree from Cleveland State University and a BA degree from Case Western Reserve University.


“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past…”


What can recent events tell us about the best way to meet the future challenges of lockdown?

Across “the Pond” extraordinary events have been taking place.

Capitol Hill was besieged. Protesters entered the White House.

Five people are killed, including a police officer who was “executed” by protesters.

The American President has been impeached for the second time and faces a trial after leaving office, as his presidency ends in just a few days.

Commentators say this is a desperate time for democracy and that lessons must be learned. However, I feel that these events also demonstrate a need in retail to carefully consider how we will act during lockdown, what intelligence we base those decisions upon, and about how well prepared we really are to implement those decisions.

My six year old came into my office yesterday, desperate to tell me a joke that one of her classmates had told her. It was this…

Question: “What do you call a magic dog?”

Answer: “A labracadabrador!”

As it happens our family pet is a clumsy Labrador named Leo. During lockdown Leo has been operating in more restricted space than usual due to the number of people at home all day. What is in equal measure both hilarious and frustrating is his apparent lack of awareness of the destruction caused by his thumping tail.

As Leo gets excited (usually incited by cries of “walkies”) his tail starts to thwack back and forth sending houseplants, ornaments, shopping and pretty much anything else (including my aforementioned daughter!) flying.

One good “thwack” of his tail and even the most unlikely things can be batted right across the room. And every time it happens, Leo sort of “stumbles,” looks around and seems surprised. I swear that his expression is one of “how did that happen,” and if he could talk he would be protesting “that was ME!?! And he does this every time, even though these things happen with monotonous regularity and total predictability.

Is Leo the only one who keeps being surprised by the results of his actions?

I am not making a political point here. The politics of the USA are the business of the American people. However, I do think that the recent events have led to consequences as predictable as one of Leo’s tail-thwacking episodes!

Given the devotion accorded President Donald Trump by his supporters, viewed from afar it was to me at least highly likely, if not absolutely obvious, that this was going to end in tears.

When you tell your followers to “fight like hell” to avoid giving up the elections, blue collar, right wing Americans with guns on their hips are not going to just meekly sign a petition in protest and present it to their local Congressman.

If you give a green light to certain behaviour through your actions, does it not follow that people will behave as they think they have been told they can? What does this have to do with our retail industry. Well everything…

Before Christmas the Government legislated to make it compulsory for people to wear face masks in public places. Before the ink was dry on the legislation the Police announced that they did not have the resources to enforce this legislation. Retailers protested that neither did they. And what has been the result? More and more people are not wearing face masks when they do their essential shopping.

Further collateral damage to the Government’s strategy has also been done through this slipping of standards. If nobody is going to enforce the face mask law, then people become lax about social distancing. And when social distancing is not a priority and your kids are at home because the schools are shut, you may as well take your kids shopping with you. And there it is, families all shopping together and less people wearing face masks.

As a result, this week the Government has felt compelled to launch a campaign reiterating that people must wear face masks, shop alone whenever possible and keep to social distancing requirements. As soon as the announcement was made, Cressida Dick herself made an announcement that, where people were flouting the lockdown rules, there was an increasing likelihood that the rule breakers would be fined. Almost immediately the big essential retailers came out to say that they would be denying customers entry to their stores if they were not wearing masks. Terrific! Everyone acting in unison and all maintaining the official line.

Except unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle…

President Trump is now unable to control the rabble that made the assault on the White House. Americans fear that the inauguration ceremonies could be the target of armed mobs of Trump supporters looking for trouble.

The security being deployed is massive. And the reason people are scared is because, even though the President has appealed for non-violent protest and some 160 protestors are facing prosecution, the vast majority of supporters will simply carry on without taking heed of the President’s appeal for peace, believing they have moral justification to do it – a cause celebre.

In just the same way there is open discussion in retail about the inability of the authorities to enforce any of these lockdown restrictions. Repeatedly we are told that the Government is concerned that if they introduce tougher laws then they will be ignored. People figure that just a few weeks ago the police did not have the manpower to get involved. So, what has really changed.

And that brings me to my second point.

A dog walks into a Job Centre. “Wow, a talking dog,” says the clerk. “With your talent I’m sure we can find you a gig in the circus.” “The circus?” says the dog. “What does a circus want with a plumber?”

The Capitol was ransacked. Elected officials were running for cover escorted by security. The crowd ran amuck. Contrast this with our parliament buildings at Westminster.

Think back to the hunting lobby and how those demonstrations that were repelled from the parliament buildings, as others have been. True a handful of individual attacks have resulted in incidents, including the injury and even murder of brave individuals sworn to protect the institutions. However, the building has never been stormed in the way we saw events unfold in Washington.

Clearly the US has all the resources it could need, both in terms of physical security and intelligence. However, unlike the Brits, the US had not used that intelligence.

For three weeks they had been aware of the intentions of the protestors to travel to the Capitol. And two weeks before they had information that a storming of the White House would be a distinct possibility. However, they did not act upon that intelligence. As a result the authorities were made to look foolish. They were inadequately prepared.

The White House Security service were working on a false premise based upon erroneous assumptions and so open to attack. Just as our man in the Job Centre was first surprised by the presence of a dog, then that it talked and then that it aspired to being something other than a dog. How he addressed the situation was wrong at every point, always a step behind, as were the officials responsible for White House security on that fateful day. And I worry that UK retail is in danger making similar mistakes…

There is a slew of organisations available to provide retail intelligence. And third party security providers, such as Amberstone, have so much historical data and real time information available that it allows our clients to make informed decisions on what is likely to happen and what to do in the event that it does.

So, we know that when locking down a store it is not just important to have an alarm system in place, but to have it armed. And then it may seem obvious, but when the alarm is tripped it is important to make sure that the person with the key who would usually respond is not on furlough and so not picking up company emails or phone calls.

And, as we heard happened to one retailer, make sure that you can identify which key you need to use to open the store in the event of an alarm to assess what the problem might be. In this case the 200 plus keys from a large number of stores had all been collected in one box, held in an offsite location, with no labels to indicate which keys were for which stores!

Use your retail intelligence to identify which stores are most likely at risk and deploy the correct resources to the sites that need the protection most. Turning up at the right place at the right time with the right tools and people for the job may sound obvious. However, in practice we know that retailers often struggle to do this because of a lack of real time data or planning.

Our Risk Management on Demand Service achieves significant savings for clients simply by using data to accurately allocate what resources are needed and no more. This eliminates inefficiencies, built in redundancy costs and effectively mitigates risk. At a time when businesses are in unchartered territory as stores, some open 24/7, are suddenly locked down, there is a need to look beyond normal operating procedures, collaborate with others who are or have been in similar positions or situations, and plan how to deal with the new challenges that we all hope will soon be gone and forever.

It seems that the role out of the vaccine is gathering pace. Our country has a glimmer of hope that by the summer there will be return to normality.

Until then we need to be careful about what impressions we give the public regarding what is appropriate in our stores. And we need to double down on intelligence and experience to make sure that, unlike the officials who have resigned following the troubles on Capitol Hill, we not only have the tools to deal with risk but also a correct plan for how to use them.

Amberstone Security are sponsors or Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™, which takes place both in-person and virtually on 20th May 2021. To register click HERE…

Dan Hardy
Managing Director
Amberstone Security


Book your place for “Retail Risk – The Reunion” today…

Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™ takes place on 20th May 2021, followed by the Fraud Awards. What could possibly go worng?

The new vaccine is approved and already being rolled out. And that’s a real “shot in the arm” for Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™ taking place at the end of May…

The conference will be the first major in-person gathering of senior risk managers since October 2019. Followed by the Fraud Awards – sponsored by WIS International – the day is being feted as “The Reunion” for our industry.

Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™ will be an in-person conference as in previous times. However, through the L.I.V.E. Lounge™ we will simultaneously broadcast some content live from the event, such as special presentations, discussion groups, sponsors’ workshops and interviews to a large, virtual audience.

And that’s good news, because those of your team who cannot justify a whole day out of the office can still join in. And so too can colleagues from other departments, such as Logistics, HR, IT, Operations and Finance for whom perhaps only part of the day is relevant to their remits. They don’t have to miss out.

To book your place click HERE…


Click here for essential information for all VIP delegates attending Retail Risk – London L.I.V.E™

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