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Retail Innovation Centre and Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market Look to the Future

Date Published: July 19, 2017


What will retail look like in 25 years?

By this fall, a new partnership aims to have a retail space in the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market offer a glimpse into that innovative future.

This morning, representatives of the Market and Saint Mary’s University signed an MoU establishing the Seaport Market’s retail space called The Shelf as the first outpost of the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services’ Retail Imagination Lab.

Overlooking the harbour from the Galley on the second floor of the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, Executive Director Julie Chaisson pointed out that this event was steeped in history: Canada’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market partnering with one of the country’s oldest universities, along with a research centre and business school named for one of Canada’s outstanding historic retail families, the Sobeys. “But this is not about the past—today, we look to the future.”

Retail innovations range widely, from data-informed store layouts, to video shelf talkers and robot sales associates, to virtual reality online and interactive digital environments. Which technology innovation should a retailer invest in? And how can the ROI be measured?

These are the kind of questions that fires the imagination of researchers and retail analysts alike, and the Retail Imagination Lab will provide a setting to carry out pilot projects in a controlled space, with researchers there to observe, record and analyse results.

The David Sobey Centre will provide the experiments and innovation, and the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market will provide space, data access and other support through The Shelf. Students from Saint Mary’s University’s Sobey School of Business have been hired to establish the first set of innovations later this summer.


Students working summer jobs at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market join Dean Patricia Bradshaw, Saint Mary's VP Academic and Research, Malcolm Butler, Dr. Ramesh Venkat of the David Sobey Centre, Julie Chaisson, Executive Director, Seaport Market, Tony Birch, coordinator of David Sobey Centre and Port VP Krista Dempsey.



“The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is pleased to be part of a project that will not only help our vendors improve performance but may provide innovation insights that will impact the entire retail sector. We established The Shelf to support our local producers and artisans. This partnership will allow us to extend our support into new areas of innovation and technology that may not otherwise have been possible.” -  Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market Executive Director Julie Chaisson.

“Saint Mary’s University is committed to lifelong learning, supporting innovation and engaging with community, and this project, I am pleased to say, reflects all these commitments.” – Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice President Academic and Research, Saint Mary’s University.

“The innovations may be aimed at consumers or employees or may focus on improving operational efficiencies. The Retail Imagination Lab will bring together technology companies, retailers and researchers to find solutions to problems as well as uncover new opportunities through innovation.” – Dr. Ramesh Venkat, Director, David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services.

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