John Lewis to launch its first ever technology incubator: JLAB
As part of its 150 year celebrations, John Lewis is to launch its first ever technology incubator 'JLAB' later this year in a new partnership with technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks*. The purpose of JLAB is to identify and develop technology innovations that will provide the retailer with future strategic advantage with customers' needs at the core of each idea.
Activity to mark the retailer's 150th anniversary kicks off in May with the incubation period running from June until September. Both John Lewis and Stuart Marks will work together to select five start-up companies who will be based within JLAB during that time. While at JLAB, businesses will rapidly develop their products and solutions supported by a team of John Lewis leaders and external mentors.
Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, said: 'The Partnership's founder, John Spedan Lewis, was a radical entrepreneur and so adopting a novel approach to business and retail innovation is not new to us, it's a fundamental part of our DNA.'
'Our 150 year anniversary not only gives us the chance to reflect on our history, but to look forward at how we shape the next 150 years. We have been ahead of the game in omnichannel retailing and through our JLAB incubator we will nurture the next generation of technology start-ups while helping ensure we remain on the cutting-edge of retail change.'
Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis, said: 'As a big business we have a certain way of doing things and this is a chance to inject some of the spirit of a 'start-up'. As this is an in-house project the companies will have regular input and help from the mentor team to ensure all ideas are aligned with our brand values, whilst fulfilling the strategic innovation brief.'
At the end of the incubation period, JLAB will announce the overall winner. John Lewis will invest £50k into the winning company, which will also be matched by Stuart Marks. They will get the chance to trial their solution and should this be a success, their solution will be implemented across the John Lewis estate.
Andrew Murphy, Retail Director at John Lewis and executive sponsor for the initative said: 'The innovation focus we are looking for needs to help provide our customers with the most coherent, cross-channel shopping experience possible. We know customers really value being able to shop with John Lewis by phone, in shops and online and anything which enhances or simplifies that experience is of interest to us.'
'What I'm looking for from the successful JLAB applicants is deliverable but stretching innovation which offers real benefit for customers in both our bricks and clicks businesses.'
Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur, said: 'I'm delighted to be working with John Lewis on JLAB. We have crafted something unique in the UK retail sector that will give businesses access to the best mentors and to an environment where they can develop their ideas. I'm certain that we will find new and exciting technology that will strengthen John Lewis's leadership in omnichannel retailing.'
These main areas will form the innovation framework:
- Helping customers shop: in-store innovation, omni customer experience (for example self service product info, prices) and technology driven customer inspiration.
- Simplifying customers' lives: innovation around the 'internet of things' (how all devices will communicate together enabling a more connected home).
- Knowing each other: using data to drive real-time, in-store personalisation for customers.
- Surprise us: Any innovative product or solution that delights customers' by enhancing their shopping experience.
If you want the opportunity to be a part of JLAB, then apply on www.jlab.co.uk. The application process starts 3 March 2014 and closes 17 April 2014.
Notes to editors
*Stuart Marks' biog - Stuart founded his first business in 1990 and since then has built up and sold several tech based companies specialising in Big Data. These have ranged from managing customer loyalty programmes, such as the Reward Card, the predecessor of Nectar for Sainsbury's to building complex web interfaces at Module Communications, one of the UK's leading digital media agencies which was sold to Grey Advertising. In 1999, Stuart founded LSE listed ITIS Holdings which was a very early adopter of crowd sourced GPS data to provide real time traffic information across Europe. Having sold ITIS to Seattle based INRIX in 2011, Stuart established his own fund which invests in and mentors many start up and growth stage companies in the UK.
The John Lewis Partnership - The John Lewis Partnership operates 40 John Lewis shops across the UK (30 department stores and ten John Lewis at home), johnlewis.com, 302 Waitrose shops, waitrose.com and business to business contracts in the UK and abroad. The business has annual gross sales of over £9.5bn. It is the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership where all 85,500 staff are Partners in the business.
John Lewis - John Lewis, 'Retailer of the Year 2013'¹ , 'The Nation's Best Retailer'² and 'Best Retailer 2013'³, typically stocks more than 350,000 separate lines in its department stores. The website stocks over 250,000 products focused on the best of fashion, beauty, home and giftware and electrical items including online exclusives. johnlewis.com is consistently ranked one of the top online shopping destinations in the UK. (www.johnlewis.com). John Lewis Insurance offers a range of comprehensive insurance products - home, car, wedding and event, travel and pet insurance and life cover - delivering the usual values of expertise, trust and customer service expected from the John Lewis brand.
¹ Oracle Retail Week Awards 2013
² Verdict Consumer Satisfaction Awards 2013
³ Which? Awards 2013
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