Having proudly supported the charity retail sector for over 30 years, we thought you might like to understand more about our company and how we operate. Pete Thomas, who leads our Charity Retail Division, explains how Lodge Service was founded and how we have developed over the last 100+ years.
1. How long has Lodge Service been in business and how did it begin?
Lodge Service was established in the USA in 1919 by John Lodge Snr, the Great Grandfather of the present owner as a ‘point of sale’ test purchasing company, focusing on the integrity of staff handling cash in retail environments. Legend has it that a friend of John’s ran a peanut stand in Times Square and noticed that his income always went down when he went on holiday. He asked John to arrange for someone to make a visit and buy some peanuts; the feedback he received made him realise that about 50% of the sales were going straight into his assistants back pocket! And so a ‘test purchasing’ business was born.
2. Tell us about your journey that led to you leading in this industry?
Lodge Service quickly expanded to become one of the UK’s major suppliers of Security Solutions to the Retail, Hospitality and Entertainments sectors, plus major partnerships across Europe and South Africa. Our services include Manned Guarding (where we provide officers for names including Nike and Primark amongst others), a full range of Technical Solutions such as CCTV and Data Mining and, last but by no means least, our bespoke Charity Retail Division which supports a wide variety of charity retailers with a wide range of sector-specific Loss Prevention and Security Solutions.
3. How many people do you employ? What is special about your team?
The Lodge Service Charity Team consists of around 30 Loss Prevention Specialists, all of whom are either ex-police officers, former Loss Prevention Managers or Ex-Charity Retailers. Our team are hugely experienced in the charity retail field and are available on a nationwide basis at short notice to provide AD HOC or Planned Support to our charity partners. Charity retail is our passion and we always put the client first, appreciating the unique challenges faced by the sector.
4. What are the three major changes you have seen in the charity shop/supplier relationship since Lodge Service began?
I’ve been supporting charity retail though Lodge Service since 2005 and have noticed the following changes:
- Charities are now run as businesses, not just social enterprises. In the old days, there was often little guidance or understanding about running a shop as a means of generating income and it was all very amateurish, with sales often being recorded in ledgers and no real governance or set procedures to follow. Nowadays, charity shops in the main are professionally run and well managed, whilst still retaining their unique place in the Hight Street supported by their dedicated network of volunteers.
- Charities are now more proactive and expect higher standards from suppliers. This comes with greater business acumen and closer scrutiny of business arrangements. In the past, a lot was done simply on trust but in todays world we would rightly expect to be challenged on performance and delivery in the same manner as we would when dealing with a major corporate client.
- Charities now rightly expect the suppliers they use to be ethical and to operate with a high degree of regard to corporate responsibility, including areas such as sustainability, equality and community involvement. The reputation of the charity can easily be tarnished by partnering with a company of poor repute, so it’s vital to ensure relationships are established and maintained based on mutual trust, integrity and openness
5. How did Lodge Service manage during the Covid-19 pandemic? What was the learning that came out of it?
As a company, Lodge Service came through the Covid-19 pandemic better than most; security companies were deemed to be essential services and our manned guarding division actually saw an upturn in business, albeit needing to operate under a unique and challenging environment.
Due to our retail presence, the charity division suffered along with the rest of the sector and our teams were furloughed for long periods of time to protect our future business. Once we were able to start operating again, we worked with key clients to adapt our existing audits to new ‘Covid-19 Compliance Audits’ and we helped support shop re-openings by ensuring the retail teams were fully aware of, and compliant with, the many temporary restrictions and social distancing rules introduced across the retail sectors. Special thanks must go to our friends at the British Red Cross who reinstated our audit service with the minimum of delay, helping us to weather the storm relatively unscathed.
6. What do you think the future holds for your industry in the next five years?
Technology, technology, technology! The last 10 years has seen huge advances in technology in the security field, including remotely monitored CCTV and alarm systems, increased use of EPoS data mining, artificial intelligence such as self-scan tills and a whole host of systems aimed at supporting the retail sector in understanding the root cause of their shrinkage and providing effective ROI on their investment.
7. What do you see as the biggest challenges for charity shops in the next five years?
Charity retail will need to continue to adapt and embrace the many new challenges faced by High Street retailers. We are increasingly heading towards a cashless society and I fully expect to see the first cashless charity shop within the next 2 years. Sustainability is the new buzz-word and charities will need to be at the forefront on this green revolution.
8. What can Lodge Service do to be more sustainable for the planet?
Lodge Service are committed to lowering our carbon footprint by replacing our current vehicle fleet with all electric vehicles; we have recently taken possession of six brand new Tesla’s which are used by our mobile teams and Area Managers across the country. We have also agreed flexible and home working by arrangement and encourage staff to car share and use public transport wherever possible.
We have a dedicated ‘Corporate Responsibility’ page on our website, which contains our Mission Statement;
“We support your business goals within your carbon zero plans and underpin our services to demonstrate a joint approach.
We empower our teams to be trained on energy efficiencies to be able to work in collaboration with you and ensure we are supporting the overall objectives.
- Recycling waste
- Supply chain
- Paperless office
- Support to the not-for-profit sector
- Charitable donations and involvement in local and national charitable events.
9. Tell us more about you! What do you like to do in your spare time?
In a former life, I represented the RAF at marathon running and still like to hit the road or the treadmill whenever I get a few spare hours, although the legs aren’t quite what they used to be! I also managed the local village youth football team for a number of years and football is still a passion, with my son playing semi-pro in the National League. Teddy, our crazy Cockapoo and Dan and Ash the mini-Shetland ponies complete the menagerie!
10. And finally, what do you love most about working with charity retailers?
Their honesty, dedication and passion for the amazing causes they represent! I’d far rather work with a tiny charity with 6 shops who are grateful for your help, than a multi-global retailer who don’t really care about their people and who are more concerned about making huge profits.