Tech startup Localz win John Lewis JLAB incubator award

John Lewis today announced Localz, a startup business specialising in micro-location technology, as the winner of JLAB, the retailer’s first ever technology business incubator. After 12 weeks of shaping and honing its solution within JLAB, Localz impressed the judging panel and takes home £100,000 in investment as well as the chance to trial its solution with John Lewis.

Innovation is at the heart of John Lewis and JLAB, our first tech incubator, has given us a new way to explore the technologies that will change how we all shop in the future. It’s been a hugely rewarding and educational experience, drawing on a diverse group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and we have a very worthy winner who we’re looking forward to working with in the months ahead. I do very much believe that this is what our Founder Spedan Lewis would be doing if he was around today.

The initial entry period for JLAB saw hundreds of startups apply to take part, pitching their ideas for innovations that could shape the future of the retail experience. In May, Localz was picked as a finalist alongside four other impressive startup businesses: Musaic, SpaceDesigned, Tap2Connect and Viewsy. Over a 12-week period, the five finalists developed their ideas with the assistance of mentors from John Lewis as well as high-profile entrepreneurial figures including Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com and Buddi, and Bindi Karia, Vice President Entrepreneur banking at Silicon Valley Bank. The final pitch day on 23rd September 2014 saw Localz emerge as the overall winner.

Localz’s technology gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of some enhanced services using their smartphone based on their precise location. It’s all about choice, designed to make shopping easier for those who wish to use it.

For example, it could automatically offer to trigger a customer’s Click & Collect order to be picked as they enter the shop to speed up the collection or help customers to navigate their way around one of our shops based on their online wish list.

Stuart Marks, partner in JLAB, said: “The quality of entries was exceptionally high and picking a winner proved to be a very difficult process. I am sure all the companies will go on to become very successful but there has to be a winner and in this case we felt that Localz has the potential to become a long term partner to John Lewis and to provide continuous innovation for their customers. We were fortunate to have an exceptional mentoring team who allowed all the companies to achieve their true potential during the time they were at JLAB.”

Tim Andrew, Commercial Director and Co-Founder of Localz, said: “JLAB has been an amazing experience for Localz from start to finish. The fact that my father was a Partner with John Lewis for over 30 years gave me a very personal reason to want to be a part of it, in order to try and help the company that supported me and my family when I was growing up.  The support and guidance that John Lewis provided throughout the incubation period helped us refine our offering for the European market. They also gave us access to successful entrepreneurs and mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries which allowed us to accelerate our development.”

Localz’s plans for the £100k investment focus on its new UK operations. The company will be further developing its technology in conjunction with John Lewis to support the new generation of mobile and micro-location experiences, and preparing to launch live trials in store. To support these goals, Localz is also looking to hire new talent to work in its London-based team.

JLAB was part of John Lewis’s 150 year celebrations. For more information, visit www.jlab.co.uk.

 

The full list of external JLAB mentors is as follows:

  • Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners
  • Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com
  • Graham Clempson, European Managing Partner at MidOcean Partners
  • Stephanie Hussels, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Full-Time MBA Director Designate at Cranfield University
  • George Berkowski, Chairman of MIT Enterprise Forum UK
  • Bindi Karia, Vice President, Origination and Entrepreneur Commercial Banking at Silicon Valley Bank

John Lewis One Fifty for All!

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I have just come back from the John Lewis celebration for Partners of our 150th birthday at the LG Arena at the NEC in Birmingham.

It was entertaining, we were lucky to have 3 great stars performing their songs from our ads – Fyfe Dangerfield, Gaz Coombes and Paloma Faith – on the day she went to No 1, all hosted by Davina McCall.

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However the real stars were the Partners from the branches across the country, HQ and representing every part of John Lewis who paraded into the arena.  There must have been 7,000 at least in the Arena, and more on live links to Wembley and Edinburgh, with thousands more in branch parties around the country and streaming at home.  The singing and dancing was great, and the atmosphere was fantastic as you would hope for a 150th birthday party, but it was more than that.

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It was emotional, two retired Partners received a standing ovation and five Partners reflected on what working in the Partnership meant to them.

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It was inspiring, Andy Street’s speech at the end talked about what so many Partners feel: which is that our aim is to hand over the Partnership to the next generation in better shape than we inherited it.

Everyone left on a fantastic high – it was a fun, emotional, inspiring and unique  – like the Partnership.  So here’s to the next 150 years…

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Latest News on JLAB

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As you can see, I was recently privileged to meet Mr and Mrs John Spedan Lewis at the Party on the new Roof Garden at our Oxford Street emporium, to mark the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis drapers.

Yesterday we were delighted to announce out of the hundreds of entries, the 30 successful JLAB applicants that will be joining us in Canary Wharf to Pitch their ideas.

Each applicant is going to have 5 minutes to impress the panel followed by a Q&A session in the afternoon.

The 30 applicants range from Fashion ideas dreamt up at home to ibeacon enabled storefronts and IoT enabled projection mapping, and much else besides.  We are very pleased with the range of ideas and development of the pitching companies.

The Pitch Day 1 is the 20th May.  This will be a face to face session with some of our most important and inspiring mentors.  It will immerse the applicants in to the JLAB environment for the first time.

The next time we see an applicant after this day will be on the 9th June, which is the start of the 15 week accelerator phase.

Last Friday was the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis in Oxford Street.

About 100 years ago John Spedan Lewis had the first ideas about industrial democracy that he evolved into the unique John Lewis Partnership

50 years ago (or 51 to be exact) John Lewis purchased its first IBM computer.  This was a very bold and expensive step for a retailer in the early 60s!

Here we are in 2014, looking at our first Technology Incubator.  I feel very confident that this is exactly the sort of initiative that Spedan Lewis would approve of.  One that will hopefully help turn 5 start ups into viable and commercial companies; one that will transform the winning company; and last but certainly no means least, one that will improve service to our customers and grow revenues and profit for the John Lewis Partnership.

I should have asked him what he thought when I had the chance…

JLAB – Latest News

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JLAB – the John Lewis Tech Incubator – closed for entries at midnight on the Thursday before Easter and we have just had a chance to look at what’s come in.

We are very excited about the amazing amount of interest in JLAB.  The number of fully completed applications was 163, with no fewer than 84 being completed in the final two days.  I feel this shows how much care, effort and research the applicants have put in, to ensure that their applications resonate with the JLAB selectors.
We are rather humbled by such interest and attention to detail.

I am pleased to say that the applications range widely, from retail theatre to health monitoring applications. They include social interaction applications and even virtual fashion assistants.

The next stage for JLAB involves reviewing each application in preparation for the first ‘Pitch Day’ which is going to take place on the 20th May.

30 successful applicants will spend the day pitching their ideas to the distinguished JLAB Panel which will include our recently announced mentors.  From there, five successful applicants will be selected to take part in the 15-week accelerator phase.

Finally, the winner of the prize will be announced in September, with the prospect of their idea being rolled out across John Lewis.

 

John Lewis is 150 Years Old!

The John Lewis company is 150 years old this year.

Born in 1836, John Lewis grew up in Shepton Mallet and was apprenticed to a linen draper in Wells at the age of 14. He came to London and became a salesman for Peter Robinson, a well-known Oxford Street draper.

In 1864 John Lewis turned down the offer of becoming a partner in Robinsons and instead opened his own new shop at 132 Oxford Street, selling silk, wool and haberdashery.  On the first day he took 16s 4d!

By all accounts, he was an austere Victorian business who expected a lot from himself and his employees. But while most drapers of the time worked to a 33% profit on sale price, Lewis chose to make a profit of just 25% on his selling prices and insisted that his customers benefit from the good purchase price negotiated by his buyers.

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Lewis’s son, John Spedan Lewis, was born in 1885 and joined the family firm on his 21st birthday in 1906.  He received from his father a quarter of the John Lewis business, valued at £50,000 – a tidy sum in the Edwardian era.   Spedan Lewis became a director of Peter Jones Limited which had been acquired.  Along with his father and brother, Spedan enjoyed an income of £26,000 a year – again, a huge amount in those days.  He became increasingly uncomfortable that this income was considerably more than the entire wage bill for the company’s workforce of over 300 people, which was only £16,000.

After a riding accident in 1909, Spedan had to convalesce for two years and during that time thought deeply about business and society.  In January 1914 John Lewis senior handed over managerial control of Peter Jones to Spedan, who shortened the working day by an hour and started to pool commission for staff.  He also introduced frank two-way communication with his workforce, with staff committees with elected representatives.

Over the next four decades he developed his unique form of industrial democracy that was and is the John Lewis Partnership – the largest example of employee-owned business in the UK. The Partnership now has a turnover of £10bn and some 91,000 Partners across John Lewis (with 41 shops, since York opened last week) and Waitrose (with 300 branches).

Spedan summed up his philosophy as:

“The Partnership’s supreme purpose is to secure the fairest possible sharing by all its members of the advantages of ownership – gain, knowledge and power; that is to say their happiness in the broadest sense of that word, so far as happiness depends upon gainful occupation.”

I always say that if you want a stretching business goal, that is one – and one we strive to live up to in the Partnership, with our democratic Partner Voice and our restless innovation like JLAB.

“What would Spedan do?” is a good challenge about any initiative.

I think Spedan’s values are as valid and challenging today as they were in 1914 or 1954.  What we are constantly working to do is to make them relevant to a modern world being revolutionised by technology.  The way we all shop has changed dramatically in the last decade and will, I believe, change even more dramatically in the next.

But the values of the Partnership endure and are what customers value in the Partnership. They are as relevant in 2014 as they were when Spedan formulated them after his accident, which is why I love this ad from 2012:

What’s Important Doesn’t Change

Never Knowingly Undersold since 1925

In Store | Online | Mobile

 

John Lewis Launches ‘JLAB’

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As part of our 150 year celebrations, John Lewis has launched its first ever technology incubator ‘JLAB’, in a partnership with technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks.

The purpose of JLAB is to identify and develop technology innovations that will provide John Lewis with future strategic advantage with customers’ needs at the core of each idea.

The incubation period runs from June to September – JL and Stuart will work together to select five start-up companies who will be based within JLAB during that time.  When they are at JLAB, businesses will rapidly develop their products and solutions, supported by a team of John Lewis leaders and external mentors.

Three main areas will form the framework for innovation:

  • Helping customers shop: in-store innovation, customer experience across all channels (e.g. self service product info and 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, provided they want it.

The John Lewis 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 JL.  It’s a fundamental part of the Partnership’s DNA.

If anyone wants to be part of JLAB, you can apply on http://www.jlab.co.uk.  The closing date for submitting ideas is 17th April 2014.

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Success Online – It’s all about shops actually!

Here is another article from the Sunday Telegraph today, by Graham Ruddick:

‘Success online? It’s all about shops actually’.  John Lewis may have just cleared £lbn, but Mark Lewis, its new online director, only wants to talk about the retailer’s department stores.

“Hugely important, hugely, hugely important,” he says of the stores. “It would be a real mistake to view them as separate businesses. That’s not how we view them internally.” The reason for Lewis’s praise for the John Lewis stores – of which there are 39 in the UK – is the rise of 2.6pc in like-for-like sales at John Lewis department stores multichannel retailing, or “omnichannel” as John Lewis calls it.

“Multichannel” is probably the hottest topic in the retail industry. It is about offering customers a service across different retail formats shops, the internet, and mobile apps. The retailers driving a multichannel strategy believe that the winners in the industry over the next decade will be the companies that can offer customers the most convenient and seamless shopping experiences. To sceptics, multichannel is just a buzz word dreamt up by companies trying to justify their costly presence on the high street. But for John Lewis it is the core of their strategy, and it is working well. Lewis says that two-thirds of all John Lewis sales involve a customer interacting with its stores and website. In addition, one third of all online orders are now collected in John Lewis or Waitrose stores after a doubling in the retailer’s click-and-collect service in the past year. Store managers are not just accountable for sales in their stores, but also internet sales in their catchment area.

“Customers don’t view us as a store or a website,” Lewis explains. “They view us as John Lewis. “If you think about the world we are in now, it is more about customers choosing how they want to shop than retailers telling customers where their stores are. It is a different dynamic, it is being led by the customer. Our job is to follow that and stay ahead of it.” The rise of the internet has inevitably cannibalised some store sales, with the Peter Jones department store in west London understood to have been hit. But in the year to January 26, John Lewis not only recorded a 41pc rise in online sales, but also a 2.6pc increase in like-for-like sales in stores.

These statistics have helped John Lewis become the benchmark for multichannel retailing. “Omnichannel means we are there for the customers for how they want to shop, when they want to shop, in a way that suits them,” Lewis says. “That goes across the whole shopping experience, whether they are researching items, buying items, getting items delivered or collecting them. “This is fundamentally changing how retail has to run. If you look at the evolution, clearly stores have been around for an awful long time, then there were some pure-play online retailers, and then store retailers developed their own websites.

“Now we are at the stage where the website is not a stand-alone thing with a different set of customers. Actually, it is part of the integrated business and we as a business want to fully integrate that and present a very seamless, single presentation to the customer.” Lewis joined John Lewis on March 4 after being lured from his role as chief executive of Collect Plus, which operates a network of lockers in corner shops across the UK for customers to collect online orders. Before that, he was the UK managing director of eBay.

Lewis’s background at Collect Plus hints at the continuing importance that John Lewis places on having a physical presence across the UK and he is adamant that stores will maintain a pivotal role for the retailer. For John Lewis, its stores are a unique weapon in the battle against online-only retailers such as Asos and Amazon, which are now competitors alongside traditional rivals such as Marks & Spencer. For example, when a new John Lewis department store opens, not only does it generate its own in-store sales, it also boosts online sales in the surrounding area. Online sales increased by 30 pe in the Chester area when John Lewis opened a department store there in September 2011. “We have stores that people want to go to,”

Lewis says. “I think it is inevitable that stores will look very different in the future and we are committed to innovate on that. But I wouldn’t want you to go away underestimating how important the partner experience is for shoppers. “The fact customers know they can come to John Lewis and speak to a partner who owns the business, has most likely been with the business for a fair amount of time, who understands our products intimately, and can advise them on their purchases that is still a fundamental part of what makes John Lewis.” Although Lewis is only weeks into his new job, he is already working on further developments to John Lewis’s online operations.

With the multichannel model in place, this is also likely to drive changes within stores, too. Lewis believes that mobile technology and personalisation will become increasingly important, so the revamped John Lewis website has a new “wish list” function for customers. “If we took a little time machine into the 30pc rise in online sales in the Chester area after a store opened future and then look back, I think we would walk through the store today and see customers shopping in very different ways,” he explains. “They are already walking into the store with very sophisticated technology in the form of their smartphones. Increasingly they are using that technology as part of how they shop – be it to scan items, to get extra information about the items, to find reviews, or to pay for items. All those elements are coming our way very, very quickly.”

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