TfL unveils shortlist for retail competition

A mineral water company, a 3D-printing café and a digital wallpaper firm are among the ten shortlisted start-ups for Transport for London’s first retail innovation competition.

The UK’s first 3D-printing café, MakersCAFE; European mineral water start-up Nayad and Cambridge-based digital wallpaper firm Sook, are among those to have made the cut, following 29 entries.

The other shortlisted firms include Dublin founded startup Popertee,  a platform that connects brands with vacant spaces for short-term retail and marketing campaigns; Shoreditch-based capsule hotel Pop & Rest; Marks & Spencer-backed Texel, a specialist clothes-fitting technology firm; London children’s clothing business Petit Pli; Hong Kong-based marketplace PopSquare, which uses AI technology to collect customer responses to products on sale; London based Vastari, which connects key players in the art world; and Lisbon-based AI start-up Sensei.

The winner will get access to retail space on TfL’s estate for a year – valued at up to £100,000 in rental costs. The winner will be able to use this space to pilot and test out their innovative concept. 

After 12 months, if the business would like to continue developing and growing their concept, it would become a normal tenant.

TfL is one of London’s largest landowners, with more than 2,000 commercial units across its estate, including around 800 commercial railway arches and meanwhile spaces or temporary stores. TfL launched the competition – Connected Retail – in May, to challenge retailers to come up with concepts that use technology to reimagine physical spaces.

The transport operator is seeking to revive retail to take advantage of its network’s enviable annual footfall of 1.3bn.

Although retail on the UK’s high streets is in a downward spiral, with around 18.2m sq ft becoming vacant in 2018 alone, retail across the country’s transport hubs is faring better.

The shortlisted companies have now been invited to present their concepts in front of a judging panel before the winner is chosen in September. The panel will be a mix of retail managers at TfL and the innovation team. There will be no external judges.

Candice Lemaitre, commercial innovation lead at TfL, said: “It’s fantastic to see the range of innovative and creative entries that we’ve received as part of this competition with the concepts truly pushing the boundaries of the retail industry. Many of the ideas are new or still in the early stages.”

Rikesh Shah, head of commercial innovation at TfL, added: “As with many industries, the advances made in technology are encouraging the retail sector to keep on their toes and constantly adapt to deliver innovative techniques and products to enhance customer experiences on our network.”

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