This year at Retail Risk London delegates will vote and share information anonymously in the new live & interactive Retail Risk Global Survey. A key player in developing this initiative is Corin Dennison of adidas.

Global sports brand adidas is supporting a new live and interactive retailers’ survey to be launched at the Retail Risk – London conference on March 23rd. Corin Dennison, Director Global Profit Protection and Investigations (Group Risk Legal & Compliance) with the adidas group, will be encouraging conference delegates to take part in the Retail Risk Global Survey and benefit from immediate results. Building on the success of Retail Knowledge’s previous surveys, this latest version will ask delegates to vote and share information anonymously.

“As an industry the more information we can share not just on existing trends but also on emerging risks across all channels, the better”, says Corin, a former detective with the UK Police Service. “Retailers have tended to work in silos – fashion, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or in silos by themselves, and the problem there is you miss out on a wealth of data. And as we develop omni channel retailing and push that out to new markets, that opens up huge areas where quite frankly I don’t think anyone can say hand on heart they know the risks.

“Of course we don’t want to lose any competitive advantage by information sharing – so anonymity has always been an aspiration when it comes to this kind of exercise. The problem has been how to do that.”

Delegates at Retail Risk – London will be asked to log on to a secure third party website, and respond anonymously to questions arising from a panel discussion on important and sensitive questions such as shrink levels, their main causes of loss offline and online, and what security technologies they are using.

“Trust and confidence is a big thing in retail,” says Corin, “so, with this latest initiative, to be able to honestly answer these questions without exposing yourself as a brand to others, that has to be of great value to retailers. Also I think people will be more open to answering honestly as to the maturity of their businesses in certain markets if they can see the return immediately.”

With the new-style survey, the feedback is processed, instantly tabulated, plotted on graphs and presented live as it is received. Retailers will immediately be able to make international comparisons and see how risks and threats are evolving worldwide.

Corin has led adidas’s profit protection team during the successful rollout of more than 200 stores in the past 12 months alone.

“The survey is a real advantage for retailers who either operate globally or operate in certain markets globally,” he says. “What may be a risk in the UK or the US may not be a risk in Asia Pacific – because for example you don’t have the same e-commerce environment in Asia Pacific. The differences may not just be in preferred payment methods and the legal environment but also in culture.”

He cites an example from Latin America that has clearly given him pause for thought.

“There’s a big gifting culture in Latin America so returns within ecommerce will be significantly higher than they will be in Europe. People there buy a gift for somebody and there’s a 50 – 70% chance that person will take the item back and exchange it for something else. You don’t get that in Europe. Of course all this dictates not just loss but also processes – which has an impact on P&L. Because if 80% of your product is being returned that is putting pressure on the bricks and mortar which is there to sell not to act as a depository for returned product.”

The way Corin tells it, this sounds like more than a hypothetical situation.

“Where is the product being returned to?” he asks. “If it’s all going back to a store in the south west of the region and the distribution centre is in the north and that store does not sell that inventory you now have an issue – you have product you need to sell to consumers but it’s in the wrong place and you now have to move it, either back to where it can sell or back to distribution and that is going to cost you.”

The critical thing with the Retail Risk Global Survey is going to be the accuracy and relevance of the questions, he believes.

“I think shrink is relevant still, but more relevant are things like consumer trends – the whole understanding of consumer behaviour – how people will use click and collect. We all jump on the bandwagon and say supermarkets started it and consumers love it because they don’t have to go to the shops. But just think. You buy a pair of trainers and three days later they’re delivered by DHL, great – open the box – don’t like them or they don’t fit – what are you going to do? Well maybe you’re not going to wait 3-4 days to get the money back in your account. Maybe you’ll take them back to adidas and ask for a refund, or worse still take them back to a retailer that sells adidas, without a receipt, and ask for an exchange, or whatever.

“It’s not fraud – well, I say it’s not fraud, but it’s a variance impacting on your profitability. You’re likely to have increased inventory particularly if the goods are damaged or they’ve been worn.”

The moral of the story, Corin suggests, is “it’s good to share information and see what’s coming through. I think a lot of people, 50% maybe, would be honest and would tell you things that had happened, off the record maybe. But 50% prefer surveys to be totally anonymous.

“Anyway, we don’t all have to tread the same path or create a new pathway. But if you are left out of a collaborative, information sharing group, you may find you miss out on the data, or it arrives six months too late.”