Back in January, Dx3 announced that it was launching its first-ever Retail Innovation Challenge, giving six startup finalists the chance to showcase their innovations in front of hundreds of people. One final winner will debut its product at an Oxford Properties-owned shopping centre, and pitch in front of the Retail Council of Canada.
“So much of the innovation we’re presented with in Canada comes out of companies like Google and Amazon. And that’s a shame.”
“The challenge retail companies have is that it’s a costly venture to get into retail, the space requirements are expensive, in many cases you have to sign long term leases. Trying to get triple-A real estate is difficult,” said retail futurist Doug Stephens, who was among the co-organizers of the challenge. “It’s a tremendous amount of pressure, and the consequence is that when we go into Canada’s largest retail centres, we’re not seeing the most creative and inventive concepts.”
Stephens adds that it’s important to showcase Canadian-made innovations in an industry that hasn’t changed much over the last hundreds of years. “So much of the innovation we’re presented with in Canada comes out of companies like Google and Amazon, and that’s a shame, because pound for pound I believe Canadians are a more innovative culture.”
The organizers have officially launched their list of six startup finalists. Check out the full list below, and find out why Dx3 thinks these are the Canadian startups to watch in the world of retail.
Toronto-based dubdub offers a suite of tools that allows users to shoot and share videos with royalty-free music and text available for use. For brands, the company offers dubcandy, which makes the content within a video shoppable with product tags.
“They’re taking a bunch of very simple tools, but putting them together in a way that makes for something incredible and unique, and relevant too,” said Stephens. “This is something that shopping centres could use; brands can power their store staff to use this to create on-site promotions.”
Gimme360 allows customers to understand the story behind a garment using VR. Consumers that buy garments with a Gimme360 scannable tag are taken to a VR experience that shows users where the garment was made, when it was made, and who made it.
“It’s using virtual reality not to create virtual experiences to shop for virtual products, but to actually make physical products come to life through virtual reality,” said Stephens.
StyleID allows you to search according to a style you see in the media, rather than by product or brand. If a consumer likes the clothes they see on a TV show like Orphan Black or Modern Family, StyleID can offer a list of retailers that carry similar clothes.
“It’s a cool and different take on how you might shop in a shopping centre. So rather than coming in and wanting to know where the Gap is, you can come in and say you like the clothing on The Mindy Project or Glee, and shop all the merchants in the mall by the style of television show. That’s an interesting way to shop,” said Stephens.
Tanya Heath Paris
When Canadian Tanya Heath moved to Paris, she opened a boutique that allowed customers to design their own shoes with the help of a designer. What’s notable about her boutique, though, is her patented removable heel, so wearers can wear flats by day and heels at night. Heath also has a boutique in Yorkville.
“The whole experience is customized and very personalized. That was one of the big buzzwords. We wanted retailers to address the trend of customization,” said Stephens.
“We believe that it could be a boutique retailer,” said Stephens. “The judges saw this and thought this could be a unique boutique concept at a place like Yorkdale. It’s certainly a Canadian product and something that’s a real innovation on the current options in the marketplace.”
Hamilton-based Angela DeMontigny is an Aboriginal designer who opened a high-end boutique featuring products from excusively from Aboriginal designers, including artwork, housewares, and apparel.
“Aboriginal art has been a category that has been misappropriated from Aboriginal culture, and what her brand is doing is making it authentic,” said Stephens.
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