'The Innovation Hub' BCSC 2014

3 Oct 2014

Billed as one of the UK’s largest business to business networking events, the annual BCSC conference returned to London Olympia in September for the second year running. This year we were invited to create an Innovation Hub. 4000 vinyled letters, 2000 metres of wool, 110 sq metres of wood, a four tier amphitheatre, 25 lightbulbs, 15 disruptive speakers, 4 panel sessions and a pineapple plant, was all it took.

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The Innovation Hub was an opportunity to showcase original concepts and ideas within the commercial retail space. We hosted four speaker sessions over the two days looking at emerging trends in the property, retail, and entertainment industries.

Wednesday kicked off with a session on ‘Making Ideas Happen,’ four founders from some of London’s hottest start ups. Gabe Shohet from Black Sheep Coffee, Sinead Koehler from Crafty Fox Market, Jonny Simmin from Spoon Cereals and Tim Williams from YR Store, sat down to talk about their journey and share their experiences setting up shop. What was interesting was the importance they all placed on physical space, Gabe commented,

“opening a physical location is especially important to a young brand because it is a window to the outside world. It allows us to meet our customers face-to-face.”

Sinead Koehler, founder Crafty Fox Market echoed this,

“I would say that a physical space really helps young brands to define their target audience and also gain feedback on new products. There's nothing quite like meeting your customers in person and getting an instant reaction to your products.”

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The second session explored the theme, ‘Entertainment.’ As trends turn over faster, today’s consumers are always on the hunt for something new. Creating great entertainment is now key for brands wanting to stay ahead of the curve, bring in the crowds and engage their audiences. Our speakers included Dominic Cools-Lartigue founder of Street Feast, Adam Johnstone director at Reuben Feels, Julian Kosicki-Slawinski founder of Lost Lectures and Jon Lee the Creative Director of 20.20 Retail.

We gave our speakers the task of enlivening shopping centres for ‘miserable men’ (this instagram feed highlights the issue...)

Jon called for “man stations in retail... an epi-centre of news and culture, screens and entertainment, sky sports would do. Lets empower these men, stand up and celebrate shopping.”

Dominic went for personalisation;“maybe the store could have one or two people assigned to walking around the shopping centre with a portable monitor that was showing the football or action movies, they could give miserable men a massage, and perhaps give him some ‘Miserable Man’ discount vouchers for areas within the centre he might actually enjoy.”

Julian wanted to see more stores engage with them; “they should have a space that is interesting, entertaining and challenging and perhaps a little unexpected.”

Adam had quite a lot to say on a matter… you can read his thesis here.

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Thursday begun with a session on ‘disruptive’ landlords. We believe today’s landlords have the opportunity to have a bigger impact in our cities. They’re the ones who should be laying the foundations for great animation that transforms our 'everyday lives.’ This session looked at how landlords can better harness their power to change our urban fabric and activate new destinations. David Chambers, founder of Aberrant Architecture, Beverly Churchill, creative director at Capco and Roger Wade founder of Boxpark joined the panel to discuss this.

We asked them to look at emerging lifestyle trends and suggest how landlords and towns centres can build on these. David highlighted that “the increasing growth of flexible working and more flexible lifestyles generally, people are now increasingly using the city and its high streets as a place to play and as a workplace as well as a place just to shop.”

He argued town centres will need to become more than just places to buy stuff and should do more to support a more flexible civic life. Therefore the high street could support and offer a far wider spectrum of new uses, activities and services where people can come to together.

On the subject of how shopping centres can make sure they remain appealing to the next generation, Roger Wade rounded this up, stating “Retail is entertainment. Entertain the customer. Make sure the shop experience is better than online.”

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We finished off Thursday with a session on one of our core beliefs, “Retail Space is Media Space.” Today’s consumer, is on the hunt for experiences, stories and moments they can share. And our high streets are beginning to reflect this, as they become used in more experience focussed and multi-faceted ways. We invited our speakers from Fitch, Holition, Portland, and Eventbrite, to explore the dynamic ways spaces are being used and to highlight where speakers should be looking for inspiration. Read their suggestions here.

All in all, BCSC was an incredible experience, an action packed, debate-full, couple of days and we’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone who supported us and helped made it happen.

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