Innovation and the future of the retail sector were the focus of an event at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.
“Encouraging innovation is fundamental to the change our province needs,” said Labi Kousoulis, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. “It is important for our entrepreneurs to have the supports in place to help take their ideas to the next level, and that we celebrate these successes.”
The event, held during National Retail Week, celebrates some of the early results of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Saint Mary’s University and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. The agreement established a retail space at the market called The Shelf, representing the first outpost of the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services’ Retail Imagination Lab.
“We established The Shelf to support our local producers and artisans,” said Julie Chaisson, executive director of the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. “This partnership will allow us to extend our support into new areas of innovation and technology that may not otherwise have been possible.”
Retail innovations range widely, from data-informed store layouts to video shelf talkers and robot sales associates, to virtual reality online and interactive digital environments. The Shelf will provide a setting to carry out pilot projects in a controlled space, with researchers there to observe, record and analyze the results.
“Studying consumer behavior in a real retail setting is a daunting task, but our professors and students embrace this challenge,” said Saint Mary’s University president Robert Summerby-Murray. “Through our partnership with the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, we combine exceptional researchers with experts on local businesses in the retail sector to create an environment where innovation can take shape.”
BluShll, a student-led business from Saint Mary’s that helps shoppers quickly and easily learn more about the products they buy, recently tested their product at The Shelf. BluShll helps to satisfy the desire of the socially-conscious consumer for more information about where products are sourced and to learn more about the company that sells them.
“The Shelf was an amazing venue for us to test our product and hear directly from consumers,” said Ryan Jackson, co-founder of BluShll. “We received some great feedback from people visiting the market that will be instrumental in taking our product to the next level as we prepare to develop it to enter the market.”