Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Startups must do their research to get retailers' attention

John Lewis’s head of IT architecture Julian Burnett has highlighted the need for startups to research a retailer before approaching them to ensure their solution resonates with a topic or challenge the retailer is currently facing.

Speaking at today’s Retail Week Live conference in London, Burnett said: “My inbox is awash with irrelevant emails. For a startup to be noticed it has to fit with our business and technology architecture and know the issues we are trying to crack.”

“It’s as hard being a retailer looking for a startup as it is a startup looking for a retailer.”

Madeleine Melson, head of online engagement at House of Fraser, agreed, saying: “It’s about finding that diamond in the rough, but when you do you can both learn a lot from each other.”  

However, she also warned about using the word ‘startup’ when trying to gain investment from the business for a new idea. She said “It can be associated with risk so we are careful how we use it – I see them as companies, just younger in their life cycle.”

John Lewis, which currently invests £120m a year in technology, set up JLabs as a formalised way of sourcing new technology as the business recognised it would be significant in reaching its goals.

Burnett also described other initiatives to encourage innovation, including running a monthly ‘innovation kitchen’ and creating a space called Room Y, where John Lewis employees can discover and test new technologies, as well as suggest ideas.

The business also ran a competition called ‘Pitch’ whereby employees could put forward new ideas and be judged by a panel. The winner’s idea came from an employee of the Cambridge store.

In House of Fraser, ideas from employees are encouraged and a virtual pin-board is available for employees to pitch ideas. As Melson said of her own position: “It’s the innovative part of my role that keeps me in the business I’m in.”

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.