Will Topshop discover the next big wearable device?
Over the past few years it has become commonplace to see Fitbits and other health trackers on the arms of even the least tech-savvy consumers. The quick rise of these products to ubiquity demonstrates that consumers have no problem accepting a wearable device into their wardrobe if it fills the right need. Now, with its startup accelerator, British apparel retailer Topshop hopes to find, co-develop and sell the piece of smart clothing that becomes the next big thing.
Topshop’s initiative, called Top Pitch, is soliciting startups developing products that advance technology in the fashion industry, according to Business Insider. Top Pitch will offer the creators of the most promising wearable device the opportunity for an equity share and may sell the product in Topshop stores.
Topshop is not the first retailer to look for a high-tech hit by soliciting pitches from startups.
British department store John Lewis is for the third year running a startup incubator in search of new high-tech products. Last year the retailer funded four of its five finalist startups, according to V3. The CEO of last year’s big winner, a peephole monitor for smart-home front doors, called Peeple, told V3 that the partnership had helped turn the startup “into a global company.” The Peeple website shows the product as being the winner of the 2016 SXSW Innovation Award for Privacy and Security (however, the site still lists the product as available for preorder).
Big name U.S. retailers have likewise been putting together startup incubators as part of the search for the next retail tech hit.
Walmart is hosting an event called the Technology Innovation Open Call in October, according to Fortune. The winning pieces of technology will be guided down the path to full production and appear on Walmart’s shelves.
Target, which has already shown an avowed interest in in-home tech with its Target Open House one-off concept and in wearable health trackers with its connected health section, has also started a tech incubator. Retail Dive reported in March that the company already had 500 applications to participate in the program, which only has 10 openings.
- Topshop has launched a startup accelerator focused on wearables – Business Insider
- John Lewis opens applications for 2016 JLAB tech startup scheme – V3
- Peeple Homepage – Peeple
- Walmart Steps Up Search for Retail Tech from Startups – Fortune
- Target sells ‘connected health’ – RetailWire
- Target tech incubator flooded with hundreds of applicants – RetailDive
Is it likely that the next big wearable device will come through an apparel retailer like Topshop’s startup incubator? Do you see tech product incubators as worthwhile investments for retailers?