John Lewis Partnership’s innovation programme JLAB invites tomorrow’s retail entrepreneurs to shape the future of shopping in new challenge

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Today, the John Lewis Partnership’s unique retail tech innovation programme – JLAB  has launched a challenge to find leading start-ups and established businesses who are creating retail experiences which could shape how we shop in the future.

Successful entrants will have the opportunity to develop their ideas with John Lewis & Partners who are a leading retailer of inspirational and personalised in-store shopping experiences. The retailer is investing in service and services, and has boosted its sales with the introduction of Experience Desks which offer customers concierge style shopping; and by rethinking and expanding its personal styling service. John Lewis & Partners has also experimented with a wide range of events and experiences in its shops which have sold out, from gin masterclasses to cinema screenings, and the opportunity to stay overnight in pop-up luxury apartments in shops.

Peter Cross, partner and pirector of customer experience at John Lewis & Partners, said: “As customer expectations of the shopping experience grow at the fastest pace in living memory, John Lewis & Partners is actively looking to engage with the brightest and most entrepreneurial minds in the nation, whether that be a new technology solution to make shopping more convenient, or an idea that will fundamentally transform how the nation shops.”

The John Lewis Partnership exists today because of the extraordinary vision and ideals of its founder, John Spedan Lewis, who believed in experimentation and openly encouraged it. JLAB is a modern day version of this vision and provides access to expert advice from across the Partnership, customer panels, a chance to launch trials and pilots, office space and possible financial investment. It is one of the largest innovation programmes in the UK and for the first time in 2018 it was expanded to run all year-round and opened up to established businesses and start-ups.

This new experiential retail theme follows two other JLAB challenges that launched earlier this year – health and wellbeing and reducing the impact of plastic waste. After receiving over 200 entries across both challenges, three health and wellbeing business were selected following the pitch day, to develop customer facing, digital propositions which could provide Waitrose & Partners customers with advice and inspiration that would make it easier to lead healthy lifestyles and eat more healthily.

Research projects with Kafoodle and OME Health are now underway and Best in Bag have developed a prototype. Further discussions will now be explored to see if the prototype can potentially work for the Partnership in 2019.

Four businesses who can help reduce plastic waste by reusing and reducing food, liquid and postal packaging were selected at last month’s pitch day. One of the businesses – CupClub- will start a trial in the next few months within the Partnership’s head office in London and options are now being investigated with the three other businesses, with further discussions on how they can potentially work with the Partnership in the future.

Entries for the experiential retail challenge are to made via jlab.co.uk and applications will close at midnight on 25 November. The pitch day takes place in February, with businesses presenting to a panel of seven judges, made up of senior leaders from across the John Lewis Partnership.