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New startup bringing more shoppers into independents


A fast-growth ecommerce company called NearSt has just opened its platform to independent retailers across London. The website and app, which shows shoppers what’s in stock in stores nearby to order for collection or 1-hour delivery, was previously only available for bookshops. After a successful trial phase earlier this year, the company has announced it’s now looking for retailers to join their service in a broader product range in London.

The team at NearSt say they want to make buying from local stores faster and more convenient than ordering online for today’s busy on-demand shopper.

Just in time for the busy Christmas period, the venture capital backed business has started to accept London-based shops selling Health & Beauty, Pharmacy, Consumer Electronics, Stationery, DIY and Sports products.

The Shoreditch-based business say they are different to other tech companies, as they don’t require retailers to add any new hardware or software to their shops in order to use the service. Instead, they work with the existing legacy inventory systems already in place, which enables them to keep costs low and the system simple. There are no monthly membership fees to use the service and only a small admin fee is charged on sales completed through the site.

The launch comes at a time when commerce is going increasingly mobile. According to recent research released by Google, customers are searching for products in local shops more than ever before. Last year saw a 146% growth in local searches, such as “where can I find…”, “where can I buy…”, and “where can I get…” from customers looking to buy products in nearby businesses.

The search giant has also started placing greater importance on local results with their latest algorithm update. The team at NearSt sees this as an incredible opportunity for high street retailers to capture a slice of the £4.0 billion local shopping pie.

Nick Brackenbury, one of the founders, says: “With the busiest shopping period of the year coming up it’s important for local shops to capture mobile shoppers. More than ever people are searching for items they want while out and about on their smartphones, and we believe that local retailers are perfectly poised to capture this new generation of shopper.”

Brackenbury and his co-founder Max Kreijn started the business by cycling over 250 miles around London visiting local shops. They learnt first-hand about the challenges local retailers faced from the increasing number of shoppers choosing to use ‘on-demand’ online services.

“We saw how much value customers placed on the expertise and advice they received in-store. But often they never made it to the shop, as the retailer had no easy means of putting their stock online. It was then we realized that iPad-based systems weren’t the answer for retailers, and instead we should work with the old POS systems retailers already use”, Brackenbury said.

NearSt’s technology uses basic barcode and price information from the store to build rich product listings using information from across the web. These then appear on www.near.st as well as directly in Google search for shoppers to browse and buy.

The company has big plans for the future, and hope to launch in a dozen retail categories by early 2017. “Our vision is to get everyone back into their local shops, by making it faster and easier to buy from them than ordering online. We really believe our high streets have a strong future in how we all shop, and we’re excited to be a part of it,” concludes Brackenbury.

To join NearSt or find out more information visit www.near.st/shopkeeper or send an email to hello@near.st. Retailers who join before Christmas and mention ‘bira’ will have setup completed for free (normal price: £100).

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