Winner of TfL’s Retail Innovation competition offers businesses retail space by the hour

  • Sook announced as the winner of TfL’s retail innovation competition
  • The company offers brands the chance to have a physical retail presence as and when they need it
  • By using digital interior displays for branding, multiple businesses can use the single space throughout the course of the day
  • TfL will provide free retail space to Sook for one year in London, their first store in the capital

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that Sook is the winner of its first retail innovation competition, which it launched in May to encourage new and innovative methods of using retail space across its estate. Sook uses technology to offer adaptive retail space. It enables businesses and individuals to have a physical space as and when they need it – with time slots for as short as one hour. It also enables them to tailor the space by encouraging them to create their own digital interior to display their branding.

TfL launched the competition because, as the needs of customers change, the retail industry is adapting and rethinking what it can offer in order for their brands to stay attractive and relevant. Physical retail locations are often becoming destinations in themselves. At the heart of these changes are technology and innovation, which is why TfL’s competition encouraged businesses to consider how they can utilise technology and create a novel concept to meet the needs of TfL’s customers and push the boundaries of retail.

As the winner of the competition, Sook embodies this ethos and will now have the opportunity to launch its concept in London. For the first time, TfL is providing the company with free retail space on its estate as part of the prize for twelve months. While the exact location is still being finalised, through this competition, Sook will be expanding to London for the first time.

The space will provide something for all types of businesses from established brands to small and independent businesses. By offering flexible time slots – in terms of both length and timing – businesses can choose to occupy the space in the most effective way for their organisation. For example, businesses can book recurring short slots if they don’t require a permanent space, such as for evening yoga classes or fundraising events. They can also choose to book the space as a one-off to launch a product, test out a location before setting up a permanent store or host an exhibition. It is not just businesses which can book the space. Individuals can book it too, whether somebody is looking for a meeting space or an area to host an event.

By choosing Sook as the winner, TfL is enabling its estate to be used in an innovative way to help support even more young and small businesses to thrive and grow in London. TfL’s retail estate has a variety of spaces – with a range of sizes, locations and types – that offer young businesses a fantastic platform to test out their concepts and develop, as shown with 86 per cent of TfL’s current tenants being small and medium-sized businesses. Sook enables TfL’s customers and those living, travelling and working in London the opportunity to experience a wide variety of different experiences and businesses.

John Hoyle, Founder of Sook, said: ‘We are delighted to have won TfL’s first ever retail innovation competition. Sook represents the future of retail and we thank TfL for believing in our concept, which embraces a different way of using physical spaces in our urban centres. We are really looking forward to working with them and using our vibrant and inclusive approach as one of the newest additions to TfL’s estate to bring more opportunities to brands and customers alike.”

Candice Lemaitre, who coordinated the retail innovation competition as the Commercial Development – Innovation Lead at TfL, said: “Congratulations to Sook for winning our first ever retail innovation competition. Amongst a fantastic shortlist, Sook’s concept shone through and we’re thrilled to be supporting them as they launch their first store in the capital. Our estate offers businesses of all sizes the opportunity to thrive and we are glad to see that Sook’s concept will support other organisations to do this also.”

Rikesh Shah, Head of Commercial Innovation at TfL and one of the competition’s judges, said: “Sook’s offering of a creative and flexible use of TfL’s retail space, bringing in more businesses to provide an improved offering for our customers throughout the whole day, was what made them stand out and win. Technological advancements are encouraging the retail sector to keep on its toes and constantly adapt to deliver innovative techniques and products to enhance customer experiences on our network. The shortlisted companies show that there are a range of exciting opportunities just waiting to be taken forward and we’re pleased to be at the forefront of change, building on our history of working with innovative companies.”

Sook was chosen as the winner following stiff competition from the other shortlisted organisations. The volume and quality of the concepts presented as part of the competition was of an extremely high calibre, having initially received 29 entries from a range of exciting and innovative companies. TfL is now seeking to work with many of the shortlisted companies, so that they can realise the potential that the TfL retail estate can offer them and their business as they look to grow.

Following the competition’s launch in May, the entries were evaluated against a range of criteria, including innovation and approach, deliverability, team management, financial resources and the scalability of their concept. It challenged businesses, including start-up brands, to come up with an innovative and technological concept that will reimagine the use of physical space in retail and deliver a unique experience for customers who travel using the transport network every day.

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