Retail tech entrepreneur mulls High Street bailout

One of the UK’s most successful retail tech entrepreneurs is considering whether to buy up a struggling High Street retailer after selling his second business to a Silicon Valley giant.

Announcing the sale of his retail marketing technology platform Elevaate to Quotient, a US digital analytics firm, Scott Weavers-Wright told Retail Systems that he is now considering whether to make an omnichannel leap for his next venture.

The serial entrepreneur, who sold ecommerce platform Kiddicare to Morrisons for £70 million in 2011, said he was mulling whether to use his digital and e-commerce expertise to prove that struggling High Street retailers can adapt and survive adding that he has been in discussions with a number of retailers.

“I may acquire a retailer who’s struggling on the High Street,” he said. “What we have to decide is whether it [will work]. At the moment they are not doing a good job, they’re all shop keepers, they’ve thought of online as a bit of bother, they haven’t really grasped it. My background is very digital, so that’s on my mind.”

He said it was “embarrassing” to watch traditional retailers' failure to upgrade customer experience in the face of the challenge from online giants such as Amazon and ASOS, particularly when it comes to stock provision networks and ordering.

“British retailers have not made themselves sexy at all”, he said. “They’re going bust, stores should be a wonderful experience… but customers hear ‘we haven’t got it in stock’.”

“I think the challenge for British retailers is their willingness to change,” he explained. “Look at any board, how many British retailers have a tech person on the board?”.

He added that many retailers are only just waking up to the need for an omnichannel strategy spanning in-store and e-commerce platforms, stating: “It shouldn’t be channels these days. It’s just business. They bury their heads in the sand when it comes to online.”

In addition to a possible investment in a struggling retailer, Weavers-Wright said he would use his venture capital funds Haatch Ventures and Haatch Angels to support retail and technology startups with a growth fund of £40-£50 million in the coming years, with a potential to expand his investment into FinTech and other technology sectors.

He said he was keen to help other e-commerce and digital retail startups replicate the success of Elevaate, which he founded in Stamford, Lincolnshire in 2014.

The firm developed a digital CMS and bidding platform that marketised online search search result pages, enabling brands to optimise positioning of their products on e-commerce marketplaces.

“I discovered supplier contribution formed a critical part of the trading arrangement between suppliers and the retailer at a global scale.

“I took the plunge, and this is now one of the biggest technology acquisitions in the UK this year. Having had such great success here, I fully intend to continue investing in digital businesses in Stamford.”

Following the acquisition by Quotient- the US firm’s first in the UK, Elevaate’s staff will remain based in Stamford, where its team will continue to run the US business from their head office and will travel to the states regularly.

Quotient will use Elevaate’s in-market e-commerce platform to help its retailer partners, including Albertsons group of grocers with a $65 billion turnover, to boost e-commerce media and sales at a time when shoppers are initiating an increasing number of trips directly on retailer websites.

In August this year, Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley saved struggling department store chain House of Fraser from collapsing into administration when he bought it for £90 million.

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