16 February 2018 Courier Weekly

Driverless cars and the future of the petrol station.

PLUS: Building a board – Kids’ clothes – London Fashion Week – Brewery pubs

The future of the forecourt.

As we approach a world where cars are either driverless, electric or both, what will happen to petrol stations?

Reebok recently released some very early-stage ideas for turning US petrol stations into renewable-energy-producing gyms. It could be more than a PR gimmick: the sportswear brand has said it’s exploring how to pilot the idea.

Petrol stations tend to occupy large chunks of land in high-traffic areas, making them appealing spots for retailers. We previously looked at how two filling stations – Gloucester Services off the M5 and Parkfoot Spar in Kent – have introduced Whole Foods-like grocery offerings to become sought out destinations in their own right, rather than simply offering convenience.

Others predict Amazon may start snapping up these chunks of land, installing more of its collection ‘lockers’.

However, these efforts at differentiation could become pointless when autonomous vehicles become widely available. A car’s computer is unlikely to factor in posh sausage roll offerings when deciding where to refuel.

How to build a board.

This blog post from Nesta, published this week, contains a useful guide for how and why startups should build a board of directors.

Pippa Begg, CEO of Board Intelligence, a tech firm which provides corporate governance software, recommends turning to personal professional networks over advertising for positions. ‘The individuals you have on the board and those relationships are really important,’ she adds.

Board members who have a deep understanding of the sector a business is operating in, or can bring specific operational expertise (HR or fundraising, for example), are likely to be valuable assets. Serial investor Giles Brook is one of London’s most in-demand board directors. He’s involved with a number of growing FMCG brands, including Pip and Nut, Vita Coco and Dalston Cola.

Entrepreneur Fleur Emery recently said he is ‘the hottest ticket in town’ when it comes to building a food-business board, while Theadora Alexander, founder of Young Foodies and ex-Propercorn employee, described him as having the ‘Midas touch’ for identifying the next big grocery brands.

Kidswear ranges keep growing.

Apparel brands are increasingly launching sophisticated ranges for the under-12s.

River Island is the latest to expand its offering. This month, it opened a 3,000 sq ft store in Glasgow exclusively to sell childrenswear. Meanwhile, streetwear and luxury brands have also been bringing out kids’ ranges.

The segment is one of a few outliers in an otherwise sluggish apparel industry – something we explored in the latest issue of Courier. While the UK clothing industry is currently growing roughly in line with inflation, Selfridges reportedly saw kidswear sales jump 20% from 2016 to 2017.

The department store’s childrenswear buyer, Clare Sprigings, recently told Drapers that it is looking for premium and sustainable kidswear labels to add to its range.

There are now over 4,000 brands in the UK selling kidswear in a market worth £5.8bn. Data from retail analytics firm Edited (above) also shows the average number of kidswear products for sale (across a sample of UK brands) is going up, too.

The rising demand for quality kidswear is – of course – linked to parents. 2011 was a record year for UK childbirths. One brand trying to appeal to parents as much as kids is Tobias and the Bear, which makes adult versions of its children’s clothing designs.

London Fashion Week kicks off today​.

And while we’re not in the business of providing opinions on this year’s designs, it’s heartening to see London’s fashion tech scene is rumbling along quite nicely.

The capital remains a powerhouse for these types of firms. Bigger players include e-commerce platforms Farfetch and Lyst, designer platform Not Just A Label, analytics firm Edited, styling engine Thread, ‘virtual fitting room’ startup Metail, clothing rental service Girl Meets Dress, and ‘customisable design’ brand Unmade.

Here are four new London-based fashion companies the Courier team is watching:

  • Wear the Walk. Emerging designer fashion rental service with monthly subscription model, founded in March 2017 by Zoe Partridge.
  • Stylindex. Assists fashion brands with finding talent, from creative directors and stylists to set designers and nail artists. Backed by Techstars.
  • Intelistyle. App that suggests outfit ideas based on clothing in photos you snap, what’s in your wardrobe and choices from online retailers. Launched in December 2017.
  • Kniterate. A ‘digital knitting machine’ allowing users to quickly turn digitally designed clothing into garments. Kickstarter-backed in 2017.

Breweries keen to pull their own pints. 

While the UK has more craft breweries than ever – now numbering over 2,000 – pubs have not seen such a healthy rise in numbers.

It’s leading breweries to open their own tap rooms. Last week, east London’s Five Points Brewing announced it has acquired a local pub. The Pembury Tavern in Hackney – located pretty much opposite the brewery – has been around since the 1800s.

Meanwhile, Brewdog says it’ll be opening its first brew pub in Tower Bridge in April. Bermondsey’s ‘Beer Mile’ has continued to attract a steady flow of breweries too, with Moor Beer acquiring a tap room at the end of 2017. In Hackney Wick, Crate Brewery, Howling Hops and Truman’s have all opened venues in recent years, offering punters beer straight from (or in close proximity to) the tanks.