The Great British Technology Innovation for Retail Event

As John Lewis IT Director, I am getting very excited by an initiative that we have just launched: John Lewis’s “The Great British Technology Innovation for Retail Event”!

Innovation and John Lewis

Most people in the UK know John Lewis for our customer service and for the breadth of what you can buy.  We are increasingly known for innovation in our
shops, our formats and products – and, most importantly, we are known for our unique – at this scale – Partnership Model, which is the foundation of our business and our service.

What is perhaps less well recognised is the John Lewis heritage of technology-enabled innovation.  In the 1960s we were one of the first retailers in Britain to introduce computing into the heart of our business.  John Lewis was an early adopter of electronic point of sale (ePOS) in the 1970s, and we have been a leader in the “bricks and clicks” world with our development of our award-winning jl.com channel, which is now a quarter of our business revenues and growing fast.

We are now looking at how we can introduce new technology even more effectively into our shops.  One recent example has been the “StyleMe” Virtual Fashion Mirror in Oxford Street, which I blogged about here.  In our new store in Exeter, opening this October, we will display our full Store Assortment in about half the space we normally require, using technology.

We want to build on our heritage of British innovation in technology to
build commercial success in the new emerging omni-channel world of retail. We are aiming to build up an “eco-system” of John Lewis technology partners in retail innovation.

So we have invited some of the most innovative and exciting British technology companies and universities to work with us to solve key business challenges through innovation.

We have asked them to identify where they think technology can help meet our business challenges.  The best ideas will be short-listed and the companies asked to showcase their ideas and concepts at an Innovation Day on 5 November 2012, hosted at our Founder John Spedan Lewis’s former home at Odney, on the Thames in Berkshire.

A panel of experts, including John Lewis Business Directors and myself, will then work with the companies to test these ideas and an overall winner will be selected.

The winning idea will be prototyped with John Lewis and, if successful, then rolled out across our business.

This is exciting for us and, I hope, for the innovators – and who knows what will come out of this.  If anyone out there would in principle like to participate, let me know before 31 August.  We are already quite full!

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

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