JLAB’s First Week

Since we launched our retail tech innovation incubator – JLAB less than a week ago, its been a sensational week.  We have had a staggering 78 full submitted applications so far!  The closing date is 17th April so there is still plenty of time.

The media interest was more than we had expected – here’s one example http://www.express.co.uk/finance/city/462623/John-Lewis-set-to-invest-in-start-ups-in-search-of-high-tech-shopping-solutions

and there were a host of other stories in the nationals and  in the specialist online and retail media.

I am sure the visibility of John Lewis in the media with our results and the 15% bonus for all 91,000 Partners in John Lewis and Waitrose has helped JLAB get off the ground.  It was the week that John Lewis overtook Marks and Spencers, the Guardian reported:

A decade ago, sales at John Lewis Partnership were just £5bn, while M&S was in a different league with around £8bn. Those lines have now crossed. The most recent figures available show M&S’s UK business turning over £8.9bn last year, compared to the £9bn John Lewis and Waitrose achieved this year. M&S is not expected to eclipse John Lewis when it publishes more up-to-date figures in May.

I was wondering what our founder John Spedan Lewis would have thought of all of this.  In relation to last year’s results, I am sure he would have counselled caution modesty and concentration on what our customers want.

Spedan was himself a radical innovator in business, social, retail and zoological matters.  His greatest innovation is of course the John Lewis Partnership owned by all of us who work here.  But perhaps less well known are his restless desire to try the new – buying carpets direct in India, starting a university for Partners after the War, setting up a chocolate factory, sponsoring the British Chess Federation when it needed a home in Oxford Street, setting up maternity leave, worrying about affordable accommodation for Partners and cheering up gibbons from London Zoo on his estate on the River Test.

I also hope he would have liked JLAB, it feels like the sort of thing he would have liked.  Something that builds business, helps people develop their skills and capabilities and with a bit of luck and hard work, makes money.

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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