The EPoS specialist, Emporio, has joined forces with an innovative start-up designed to help consumers shop in independent outlets.
NearSt launched just over six months ago with the mission to get consumers back into our high street shops by helping them to find and buy products from a real shop near to their location. NearSt rolled out with a focus on independent bookshops initially, but 2017 will see it expand into health and beauty, which is where Emporio has become involved.
It works whereby consumers search on the NearSt website or the app for items that they want to buy from their local independent store. The website will then tell you where the item is in stock based on your location. You can then reserve it at the store, or you can buy it via the website, and it will be delivered on the same day.
Emporio, the sister company to CLF Distribution, is working with NearSt to integrate all its existing EPoS customers operating within the London area, which is where NearSt is currently confined to. This means all these retailers will come up on the website or app when a user searches for a related health or beauty item.
Robin Holiday, Managing Director at CLF, told Health Food Business: “I think it is a really exciting opportunity for independent retailers and by us working with NearSt, we are helping that process. Emporio is not just an EPoS system for the store, it is a way of engaging with new opportunities, such as NearSt.
“This is an innovative tool in the toolbox to help drive customers into independent health food stores, and there is a real move at the moment to support independents – consumers like the shopping experience.”
Mart Postma, Head of Partnerships at NearSt, added: “We are an e-commerce platform helping people to find available products in local shops based on their location. Our reason is to bring people back to shops by making it easier and quicker to buy from the local community than online.
“We show exactly which store sells the product a user is looking for, the stock level and where they are. And the beauty of what we do is it’s all about convenience – we believe that is the future for retail.”
But what was the inspiration behind it in the first place? The company was founded by Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury back in 2015, with the launch taking place in 2016.
“Max was at home and a light bulb went and nothing came up when he looked on his phone of shops down the road. The first few DIY stores he went to didn’t have the bulb he needed and the fourth ended up being 50 metres the other way from where he had been,” Mart explained.
“He felt it should be easier to buy from a shop, and for a consumer to know what a shop sells and the stock levels.
NearSt built its technology and is able to add new stores to its database within minutes. Stock levels are updated immediately, so they reflect the accurate picture. After placing the order, the customer will be contacted usually within five minutes by the retailer to confirm availability.
“That’s the great thing about our relationship with CLF, that we can integrate easily with existing retailers,” Mart added. “ Our mission is to bring every shop onto the website – we believe a healthy high street in every town is independent retailers and chains and they need each other.”
Robin came across NearSt when he was searching for start-ups that could present new opportunities and potential suppliers, and he felt this was one that offered something innovative and beneficial to the trade. But why was it important to get involved in such a scheme?
“We want to keep our focus in terms of developments around new ways of driving consumers in store. By supporting this scheme, and driving more customers into independent health stores, this in turn helps the CLF business,” he said, adding: “It works for the retailers who have Emporio and it will always be the store getting the business, even if it is bought through the website, that sale still goes to the independent.”
After it launched last year, focusing on independent bookshops, NearSt has built a solid reputation, generally through word of mouth.
“People like what we do, it has inspired them, and we have been growing, thanks mainly to word of mouth. Through this, we are also working on building the NearSt brand so it becomes recognisable.
Robin added: “One independent bookshop sells two to three books a week thanks to NearSt and it doesn’t cost them anything. This then gives the retailer the opportunity to build the relationship with the customer and ultimately sell more product.”
And early 2017 will see the launch of the health and beauty category, along with other product areas.
“It is really easy for NearSt to integrate the Emporio EPoS system, meaning our Emporio customers within the M25 area will automatically be included in this. The integration is now all done, and it is due to launch in the New Year,” Robin reported.
The scheme has launched within the London/M25 area as a target patch, but it is hoped that this will expand further down the line into other cities in the future.