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Marks & Spencer launches charging banks as part of startup partnership

Retailer Marks & Spencer has announced it will be adding battery charging banks to its stores as part of startup partnership

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced it will be launching smartphone charging banks across eight of its London locations, as part of its joint venture with a startup accelerator programme.

ChargedUp was selected as the first startup to benefit from the retail-focused accelerator programme partnership between M&S and Founders Factory, dubbed Founders Factory Retail.

The startup’s rental charging banks, available in London Marks & Spencer stores, will be added to the brand’s network of 250 rental stations across London, which allow users to rent a portable charging bank in one location and return it in another once their device has power.

The Founders Factory Retail accelerator will spend six months working with the startup, which has been dubbed the “Boris Bike” of mobile phone charging.

“We think ChargedUp is a great start-up business,” said Daniel Himsworth, Founders Factory lead at Marks & Spencer. “Mobile phones are an essential part of today’s shopping experience and we all know how frustrating a low battery is. The ChargedUp team has a very smart idea to solve the problem and keep shoppers fully charged. We look forward to working with them.”

The joint venture between Founders Factory and M&S was launched in 2018, to give startups the opportunity to access experts from both the technology and retail industry in a bid to learn and scale.

The partnership also provides ChargedUp with the chance to work with people with digital knowledge, such as designers, computer engineers, artificial intelligence specialists and data scientists.

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Marks & Spencer also benefits from the joint venture, through allowing the retailer to work with new technologies and business models, as well as a more agile way of working.

Since retailers – especially longstanding British brands – have monolithic legacy systems, it can often be difficult to adopt or try new technologies in an agile or experimental way.

To tackle this, many retailers have taken alternative routes into technology adoption, including training internal staff in new tech skills to fill industry talent gaps, and working with startups who are more agile in nature.

Marks & Spencer has been focused on shifting towards being more digital, admitting at the tail end of 2018 that its online remit was not up-to-scratch with its competitors.

As part of its Technology Transformation programme, the retailer announced it would be accelerating the closure of many physical stores in a bid to “modernise” the business.

As well as introducing photo search capabilities for online shopping, the retailer also partnered with Decoded to create a programme to teach its employees data skills.

Digital transformation

Earlier in 2019, the luxury supermarket and department store chain announced the addition of a head of food online, Samantha Hornsby, previously of Tesco, further cementing its digital transformation and push into the online space.

ChargedUp units will be installed in M&S stores in Pantheon, White City, Bankside, Victoria Cardinal Place, Fenchurch Street, Finsbury Pavement, M&S Merchant Square Café and Waterside Simply Food, near the retailer’s on-the-go counters.

ChargedUp’s founder and CEO Hugo Tilmouth said: “We are delighted to have been selected for the M&S and Founders Factory Retail programme.

“As a startup, working with a brand like M&S not only gives us access to the best market insights, but we are incredibly happy that our ChargedUp battery stations will be in several stores next month – which is potentially game-changing for us ahead of our nationwide roll-out. We can’t wait to see M&S customers using our batteries.”

As a quarter of all UK shopping is now happening on mobile devices, and as physical stores are increasingly becoming places for experiences as opposed to purchases, people are increasingly using their devices in physical stores to compare products and prices, and ultimately make purchases.

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