University retail industry collaborations celebrated at symposium
The Retail Innovation Symposium was hosted by The Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett on Thursday 7 May. Following Mark Simpson’s keynote were case study presentations from organisations, illustrating the benefits of their successful collaborations with The Retail Institute.
The symposium aimed to highlight research in the area of future consumer retailing and how that research benefits from close collaboration between industry and the University. The event attracted leading academics and industry experts who had the opportunity to find out about novel collaborative research and to network with academics and industry professionals.
Speaking at the event, Professor Cathy Barnes, Director of The Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett, said: “The Retail Innovation Symposium brought together academics and business to explore the benefits of working together to advance knowledge and create business value. We are delighted to be launching this initiative and we plan to run it as an annual event to showcase the great innovations that happen when universities and retailers work together.”
Mark Simpson is responsible for the development and execution of ASDA's overall company strategy. He leads teams that drive innovation and efficiency in ASDA stores with the aim of increasing the satisfaction of the company's 18 million customers. Speaking at the symposium, he said: “There is a unique insight available from academics and it would be an asset to have them on board on a dedicated project. For example, we have a wealth of data and could gain some interesting analytical insights through a university, helping us to draw better conclusions and understand correlations. Similarly we would be interested in exploring how to use social media to predict sales patterns and build this into our supply chain; and how the consumers of the future will want to engage with retail stores. There are lots of opportunities to work with academics on both sales revenue generation projects and cost saving ones.”
Following Mark’s keynote and an introduction to The Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett by its directors, Professor Cathy Barnes and Professor Raj Nath, case studies were presented, illustrating current and recent collaborative projects with the Institute.
Sue Burgess, Head of Markets Service at Leeds City Council, said: “We bid last year to Innovate UK for funding to improve the prospects of Kirkgate Market in Leeds in giving it more of a level playing field: it is currently at the mercy of passing customers and largely invisible online but is in same competitive marketplace as the supermarkets. We worked with the Retail Institute on a feasibility study to develop a market ‘click and collect’ service shopping from a unique 3D app, to recreate the market shopping experience online and give it the same seamless shopping experience as supermarkets but coming from market traders.
“I have been very impressed with the Institute’s approach and with Professor Cathy Barnes’s very practical hands-on approach. They absolutely understood what we were trying to do and we worked very collaboratively together, forming a project board to brainstorm how to do it. It is unusual for a market and for a council to work with a university like this and it is great to have that exploratory environment, allowing us to think outside the box.”
Chris Aworth, CEO of APS, added: “We have developed a dispensing system as an alternative to the aerosol can and needed a strong body of evidence to persuade our customers, who are consumer packaged goods brand owners, to adopt the new system. We commissioned three studies from the Retail Institute to give answers to the questions that we anticipated customers of our new system would ask, so that we had answers ready, from a credible authoritative independent source that the industry couldn’t ignore.
“The Retail Institute carried out a cost study, market study and consumer research for us. The goal was to make our proposition impossible to ignore and we are now being taken very seriously and hope it will be on the shelves soon.”
The Retail Institute is the UK’s only academic research centre that leads the consumer experiences of the future in retail, food and packaging. Based at Leeds Beckett University, the Institute combines academic research and commercial knowledge to provide unique insights not readily available for businesses. These findings range from in-depth research reports to interactive workshops or creative presentations.