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ORIS Forums

Why It’s Good to Talk

Collaboration Is the New Competition as ORIS Forums Scoops Industry Award 

Time-poor and resource-challenged retail risk practitioners understand the importance of collaboratively “talking shop” with their industry peers about everyday evolving threats against their businesses. More importantly, they understand how this differs among the membership of industry “talking shops,” where outputs and outcomes reflecting their everyday experiences are thin on the ground.

In this context, ORIS Forums established an “action speaks louder than words” agenda at its inaugural meeting in February 2006. This has become the main point of differentiation as ORIS Forums has again won the Best Collaborative Solution Award at the annual Fraud Awards, the second time it has secured this accolade.

The not-for-profit facilitation organisation picked up the award at the Retail Risk awards ceremony that was held at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith on July 22, 2021, nine months after the original event was cancelled because of COVID-19.

ORIS Forums secured the award for its ability to enable members to reach out for advice or benchmarking to their sector or discipline-specific “opposite numbers” during the dynamic and existential crises impacting the high street in the last eighteen months.

This “collaboration is the new competition” approach has proved a lifesaver for many risk managers from both a loss prevention and health and safety perspective.

ORIS Forums, which specialises in information and best practice sharing, initially scooped this award at the first Fraud Awards in 2014, and in the intervening years it has been highly commended in the category on multiple occasions.

This longevity owes everything to the organisation’s retail members, without whom it could and would not exist, but also because of its continued relevance during uncertain times. 

While members of competitive retail organisations fight for sales, they are happy to collaborate and share best practice when it comes to reducing the increasingly wide range of risks that impact their businesses.

Sharing during the Pandemic

Seven years on from that first award win, ORIS once again truimphed because it had taken the initiative in 2020 to replace its traditional face-to-face collaboration with more regular online meetings as the pandemic continued to morph.

Uncertainty meant that members of the eleven sector- and function-specific forums were looking for greater peer-to-peer advice and more dynamic risk assessments on everything from increased violence to sanitising protocols and social distancing enforcement in stores and DCs. 

This was in addition to the “business as usual” agendas that became immovable certainties in the LP and risk calendars around peak trading, stock counts, audits, and what was then the potential juggernaut of Brexit at the end of the year.

Commenting on the award, Managing Director of ORIS Forums Louise Kadege said, “We are delighted to have won this award. It’s a testament not only to the hard work of the ORIS team, but also to the commitment shown by our members.

“While the UK locked down during 2020, ORIS Forums was busier than ever hosting daily and weekly Microsoft Teams calls for members trying to make sense of what was an ever-changing business landscape for retailers and those operating in the hospitality sectors.” 

Louise added, “We became a vital conduit through which many organisations learned of the changes that were happening every day. We shared information and circulated daily reports and announcements as they happened. That level of contact and collaboration made a big difference.” 

The Evolution of ORIS Forums

Launched in February 2006, the Fashion Forum was the first of the not-for-profit forums. Since then, ten other sector-specific or discipline-led forums have taken shape in both the UK and Ireland, offering support to members, including access to influencers and decision makers in Government and law enforcement. 

The eleven forums now represent more than 140 brands with a collective turnover of more than £300 billion in the following sectors:

Despite lockdown, during the last year, ORIS Forums has welcomed fifteen new members from the retail, distribution, and hospitality sectors while fourteen existing members have joined multiple forums to extend their knowledge reach. 

Each has evolved as requirements change. The SOC Forum is the latest example, as many retailers are now moving from traditional Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) models towards in-house monitoring in response to the need for better collaboration with law enforcement, providing “eyes on” video and audio evidence of incidents in real time so that Police can respond accordingly. This is both in the UK and in Europe as many British-based SOCs link with stores and DCs across the Channel. The SOC Forum is now lobbying for safety and security accreditation in line with that granted to ARCs. 

Many of the risk issues discussed by the forums are generic and overlapping, such as colleague welfare and safety, but other topics are sector or discipline specific and require more granular expertise and advice. 

For example, while Health and Safety speaks for itself in its focus, the Café, Dining and Hospitality Forum covers a multitude of risk-related subjects from voucher abuse, licensing, and operating in the nighttime economy to wastage, all of which present profitability challenges to the businesses.

Feedback from this forum, one of the first established by ORIS, reveals a wide range of benefits to members including what one member describes as “the opportunity to spend quality time with like-minded professionals and the fostering of good conversation, sharing issues, best practice, and solutions.”

One long-standing senior member said, “We have numerous points of contact if members have a problem and need some support or insights from others. Likewise, the sharing of incidents in the moment allows other organisations to review their setups and needs. Overall, it is an incredibly good use of time and return of the investment for my business.” 

Likewise, John Rimmer, head of health and safety risk and insurance at Dunelm, and a member of ORIS’s Health and Safety Forum, commented, “ORIS Forums has had a massive influence on all matters of safety, especially through the COVID crisis. For all H&S managers, this is a ‘go-to’ group of colleagues that can help understand and guide businesses through the regulation jungle. We have saved thousands of pounds over the last five years by being a member of ORIS Forums. Being able to share experiences with other retailers and engage with expert speakers on health and safety matters is a massive tick in the box for our business.”

Where the Forums Began

ORIS Forums began in what was then the Oxford Street offices of New Look in February 2006. Laurence King, the former head of LP for B&Q and the then-chairman of ORIS, was tasked by New Look’s Managing Director Phil Wrigley to bring together the heads of risk for other fashion retailers to compare and share best practice around shrink reduction. Phil, who went on to become the chairman of Majestic Wines, coined the phrase: “Shrink was the last free money on the table.” He suggested that by openly sharing and working together, retailers could help each other target the existential external and internal threats that drive the shrink figures.

From this embryonic meeting that involved Monsoon, House of Fraser, JD Sports, Next, Matalan, Jaeger, GAP, and Peacocks, the fledgling Fashion Forum was born.

Laurence, who still has the minutes from that first meeting, said, “The idea was simple. It was getting fashion retailers together to compare notes. However, the brief grew as did the membership, and we fashioned the forum into a lobbying force with some striking results.”

He explained, “Many of the retailers were experiencing issues around stolen items appearing on eBay. We met with the Home Office and eBay to raise the issue, and after several meetings brought about some significant changes and a recognition of the challenges from eBay.” 

As a result of that early engagement, eBay has become an integral part of the wider ORIS Forums community, has made its PROACT offering available to forum members, and works with them to remove sellers who can’t provide an audit trail or provenance for the items that they are selling.

Early on, Laurence held a specific vision as to the role of ORIS Forums. “We were clear from day one that the forums belonged to the retailers who set their own agenda and that ORIS was merely the facilitator that brought everyone together. This is still the case fifteen years on.”

Other topics driving the early meetings included subjects as diverse as data mining and Police engagement, a subject of many lobbying meetings with forces from the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, and Greater Manchester Police. Latterly, ORIS has been instrumental in forging stronger links with the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC), the UK-wide business engagement body that now sits at City of London Police under the stewardship of its new head, Superintendent Patrick Holdaway.

There is also now a mutual respect and pragmatic working relationship between ORIS and the UK’s forty-three Police forces, and the creation of a greater understanding of issues faced with the Police and Crime Commissioners, business crime partnerships, and business improvement districts, all of whom work with ORIS.

At Government level, ORIS Forums also has a close working relationship with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) and sits on the National Retail Crime Steering Group (NRCSG) at the Home Office, which is overseen by Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse.

Other lobbying activity and collaborative engagement has taken place with diverse groups from the Magistrates Association to Facebook and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Cross-sector Safety & Security Communications (CSSC), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), National Business Crime Solution (NBCS), the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW), the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IoSH), and the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

International Bridges

Outside of the UK, ORIS Forums has strong links to An Garda Siochana (or Garda). The Irish Police is a member of the Irish Forum that is pushing for stronger legal sanctions against persistent store thieves across the Republic of Ireland, including the introduction of burglary charges for offenders who ignore banning orders, a practice already in place in Belfast. The Irish Forum, with the assistance of the Garda, is taking up this matter with the Irish Ministry of Justice and has developed a victim impact statement as to the economic and social effects of persistent shop theft to support its case.  

International bridges have also been built between ORIS and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the Government body forging alliances with global crime agencies to fight the ever-increasing influx of fake goods, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), and the Asian Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (ACACAP). 

Also at that first meeting of the Fashion Forum was ORIS Director and Forums Co-founder Kerinda Trigg, who said, “The main point about ORIS Forums for me was the ability to punch above our weight. ORIS was, and still is, a small but connected team, and getting a lot of rival retailers into a room to talk and share information about their losses was no mean feat. It was a big deal then and is still relevant today.”

Kerinda explained, “Communication and cross-brand sharing with competitors was always seen as taboo, but ORIS brought retailer collaboration and open forum meetings to the top of the agenda. This was always the ambition of the original retailer founders, including New Look, which is still a forum member today. 

“ORIS has evolved and grown over the past fifteen years, but the issues and challenges around stock loss and shrinkage remain the same. Yes, there are different challenges, particularly around the ever-evolving fraud landscape and technology having advanced several fold from where we were, but the organisation has remained consistent throughout. 

“Collaboration still very much remains at the heart of the ORIS Forums brand. Whether it’s with members, competitors, or suppliers, championing this cause has significantly changed the face of retailer co-operation from stuffy, guarded meetings to productive, open discussions, all of which has delivered value in terms of savings and efficiencies.” 

She added, “We know that there is ‘no silver bullet solution,’ as do the member retailers, which is the reason why collaboration is so important. We all recognise that tackling these issues requires a strategic, top-down and bottom-up, joined up thinking approach. Everyone needs to be invested. In short, we are all stronger together. ORIS is unique. It has remained a small, not-for-profit business but big in what it delivers. It is chaired by the members with the focus of giving everyone a voice, both as individual brands and as a collective.

“To see ORIS go from strength to strength and be recognised by its members, especially during the unknown challenges that faced our members through the pandemic, really speaks for itself. And the awards we earn are the icing on the cake,” Kerinda concluded.

Matt Laycock, group head of profit protection for Halfords and chairman of ORIS’s Speciality Forum, commented, “The methodology of the forums is all based around making a difference. I can discuss issues at the meetings, or I can simply reach out to members directly. It’s like a friends and family sort of arrangement. 

“What is so good is that it is different from anything else. It is a fantastic network. Yes, I can go to retail conferences a few times a year and catch up with people I haven’t seen for a long time, but then I don’t see them again for another year. With ORIS I can simply pick up the phone or send a text,” he said.

“It’s not taking it too far to say that I see membership of the forums as an extension to my team at Halfords in the same way that I recognise our trusted suppliers.

“What I have learned is invaluable over the time I have been a member, and it has saved me time and money. The retail sector faces millions of pounds in losses every year, and having an outlet that allows us to share on a professional and personal level through reaching out is vital to me in finding a way forward.”

Matt added, “What I also like about ORIS is that it is not over the top in terms of administration and fuss. It is informal discussion with a focus on sharing. We have been having the meetings virtually because of the pandemic, which have been really useful, but the longer, face-to-face meetings are really helpful in that they are fun and everyone looks forward to attending. It is a superb immersive experience on a personal level, as I always come away with lots of useful information. 

“In terms of my professional development, ORIS has also been really useful. Halfords recognises the value of my attendance and appreciates the level of intelligence that the business can get. It is a force for good and, as the old saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’” 

Membership Costs

One of the attractions of the forum is the cost. Annual membership of a forum is £700, a figure kept low by the fact that meetings are hosted by their members, either at stores or DCs across the UK. For this annual subscription, members have access to the quarterly meetings, unparalleled networking, and attendance at the annual Risk Summit and Analysts Days, events exclusively for members only. 

The fee importantly covers the business rather than the individual member, so attendance is not restricted in terms of representatives’ numbers. In addition, membership of any subsequent forum comes at half price (£350). Members are also able to send questions to the entire ORIS network and receive the collated feedback as part of the wider risk conversation.

On October 12–13, 2021, ORIS Forums will be staging its ninth annual risk summit at the stunning Wokefield Park, a stately home and former school near Reading, Berkshire. One hundred and sixty delegates will take two days out of their schedules to engage in networking, presentations, and roundtable discussions about the existing and emerging threats impacting their businesses. 

The retailers will be joined by member-nominated supportive vendors in the risk space, without whom the event could not take place, and representatives of law enforcement, all of whom will be engaged in the conversations at the event. The dates for the 2022 summit are May 17–18.

Next spring, analysts from the member companies will get together to discuss technology, best practice, and the ever-morphing scams identified by their businesses during the ORIS Analysts Day on a date yet to be confirmed.

ORIS has proved over the last fifteen years that collaboration is the new competition and that talking together and daring and caring to share is good, especially when that talk is action- and people-focused rather than merely a talking shop. The agendas are democratically designed—set by the retailers for the retailers—to make the best use of the limited time that members have as part of their day jobs. It is a cost-effective, practical, and pragmatic approach that has earned ORIS Forums its stripes in delivering more for less and helping its award-winning credential stand out.

For more information about joining ORIS Forums, contact the organisation at enquiries@orisforums.co.uk

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