NearSt founders L-R: Nick Brackenbury and Max Kreijn.
Jane Imrie

Google-backed retail tech startup secures £2m investment to revive UK high streets

A Google-backed retail technology business aiming to encourage shoppers to return to the high street has closed a multi-million pound seed funding round.

NearSt has secured £2m seed investment in a funding round led by an international property company in a bid to revitalise physical retail in the UK.

Founded in 2015 by Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury, NearSt aims to make products on physical store shelves visible to shoppers searching online nearby. Businesses like Google use the technology to show real-time local product availability directly in search results.

The retail tech startup has seen a three-fold increase in local product search demand throughout 2020, and will use the cash injection to accelerate uptake by retailers in the UK with a wave of new hires, and launch the startup’s offering internationally.

NearSt co-founder Nick Brackenbury commented: “NearSt’s funding comes at a time of seismic shifts in how we shop and what it means to be a retailer.

“We all know that the pandemic has driven shopping behaviours online; what’s often overlooked are the millions of people now going online to search for things locally on the high street.”

“We’ve witnessed extraordinary growth in ‘local-availability’ searches throughout 2020. In the first lockdown customers searching for products nearby surged 620 per cent compared to February levels, before levelling off at a 270 per cent increase between July and September.”

He continued: “While this most recent lockdown has driven another 500 per cent surge, what’s clear is that shoppers are getting used to going online to find things in the local businesses they prefer to buy from.”

“Online shopping is often positioned as the death knell for the high street - we think it’s far from this, and will rather be the foundation of a vibrant and healthy future for brick-and-mortar shops.”

Ian Mair, managing director of digital innovation at Grosvenor Group, added “Digital technologies and the changing customer expectations will radically change the property industry over the next decade.

“We have already seen the benefits of NearSt on Grosvenor’s London Estate and as part of our wider innovation agenda across the Grosvenor Group, we will look to roll this out to other retailers in the locations that we operate.”

“Google already sees the impact live in-store inventory data can have. This is a multi-billion dollar market that technology has barely touched, and NearSt has the potential to truly transform how we all interact with physical retail.”

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