Without the responsibilities of a structured buying and selling system, entrepreneurs generally have the freedom to be innovative.
Supermarkets on the other hand, generally lack the time and mindset to spend too much time looking creatively at the future.
This becomes problematic in today’s environment as there’s a fierce need for stores to differentiate themselves. So the question is; “How can retailers innovate – and integrate worthwhile finds – without impeding their ability to compete today?”
One answer is to learn from Walgreen’s Well Ventures model. According to Crain’s Chicago Business with more than $150 million available to invest, this venture and growth capital investment arm of the drug chain “aims to be the preeminent strategic investor and partner for companies with disruptive technologies, products and services that align with Walgreens’ mission to ‘help people get, stay, and live well.’”
To Walgreens, this is an opportunity to drive innovation and become “the entrepreneurial community’s healthcare and retail partner of choice.” Their bigger picture is to bring these ideas into its stores to help differentiate themselves from others.
Some of the companies Well Ventures has funded so far include: SoCore, which completed one of the largest solar energy rollouts in the U.S. for the chain; Propeller Health, a pioneer in digital therapies to manage respiratory health; MC10, which makes electronics that stretch, bend and twist with our bodies; Aviary, a photo editor for Web and mobile with more than 70 million users globally; and ApniCure devices to treat sleep apnea.
Supermarkets could learn from this model. Tailoring with food and beverage related trends, and linking up with innovative entrepreneurs and smaller companies could offer stores the chance to invest in the future and differentiate themselves without losing time or focus on the day to day competition.