Earlier this week, the Future Retail Lab accelerator participated in the Swedish Retail Foundation's autumn meeting held in Stockholm. The purpose was to report on the results and development of the business development programme and the 44 companies that have been developed since the start of the programme. The Foundation has co-financed the initiative, which is aimed at companies in the retail sector and companies in the hospitality industry with a retail component. Under the motto "the future of commerce is sustainable", companies have been offered business development for increased business value, development of new business models and collaboration. The results reported were considered very good and most companies are today standing strong despite a changing era lined with digitalisation, globalisation, changing consumer behaviour and - in addition - the currently challenging pandemic.
The pandemic has affected all participating companies and many have had to quickly adapt and change their business models. Programme manager Annakarin Nyberg and business developer Anna Wikholm Kjellberg describe this as an exploratory business development process where idea generation, development, verification and launch take place in parallel. According to Nyberg and Kjellberg, other important changes that have been worked on in the business development programme concern communication in physical and digital environments. For example, a strong digital presence has proven to be more important than before and digital hosting, as in the physical environments, has played a very important role during the pandemic. The work on these transition processes has required a high level of effort from companies, as acknowledged by Hans Löwlund, former chairman of the Swedish Retail Federation Foundation and Chief Financial Officer at the Swedish Retail Federation and now senior advisor to the Foundation:
- The Future Retail Lab has done an excellent job of capturing the needs of retailers for new business models to adapt their retail operations to a fast-growing digital market where customers' buying behaviour is increasingly driven by online behaviour. It's about developing the encounter with customers where the physical store is able to engage with customers when they have the time and opportunity to plan their purchases. That 24/7 is available for inspiration and experiences via social media and with that create a temporal and cross-border meeting, says Hans Löwlund.
Löwlund is supported by Håkan Gustafsson, current chairman of the Foundation and representative for northern Sweden, who also takes the opportunity to highlight other important aspects of the programme:
- The Future Retail Lab has opened up a curiosity for new ways of doing business. I can clearly see how businesses have been involved in a journey that has strengthened them both personally and corporately in the move towards a sustainable retail future.
The accelerator programme was first implemented in 2019 and is now in its third and final round at the eXpression business incubator in Umeå. In total, 44 companies from the Umeå region, Örnsköldsvik, Skellefteå and Piteå have been part of the development journey. In addition, Future Retail Lab has regularly held public and digital events, such as panel discussions with stakeholders in the industry and workshops aimed at all the municipalities' companies in the target group. In this way, the accelerator programme has reached out beyond the companies that have had the opportunity to participate in the programme itself. In 2021, the Future Retail Lab has also served as a test platform for a knowledge dissemination project funded by Tillväxtverket during and after the pandemic. Under this project, a digital learning platform for companies and business developers has been launched.
- We are delighted to have helped make possible this development programme, the basis of which has been developed through collaboration between researchers, industry experts and business developers. The time is now ripe for a broader national launch and to offer owner-managed retail companies the opportunity to challenge themselves and, in doing so, develop their business model and receive help with strategic choices," says Hans Löwlund, senior advisor at the Swedish Retail Federation.
The external funding has been important for the implementation of the three-year industry initiative, which in turn has strengthened many companies in Umeå and nearby municipalities.
- Without external funding, we would not have been able to pursue business development and work strategically with the companies. The Swedish Retail Federation, the Umeå Municipality and eXpression Umeå have made this important investment possible for skills development and to make a difference in the places where we have worked, says Annakarin Nyberg, program manager business developer eXpression Future Retail Lab.
eXpression Future Retail Lab is an initiative together with the Swedish Retail Foundation, the Association of Merchants, Umeå municipality and is partly financed by EU structural funds.
For more information:
Tel: 070-667 94 43
Links: eXpression Future Retail Lab