Innovation is essential to the success of the global retail industry. Smaller retailers often do not have the resources or capabilities to develop innovations. Our innovation projects are intended to address this gap. The David Sobey Retailing Centre funds, develops, and tests new technologies, processes, and methodologies critical to the future of the retail industry.


Our innovation projects are based on the identification of significant challenges in the retail sector. For instance, the need for a high-engagement virtual training solution for retail companies led to the development of a virtual reality (VR) store, which can be used for training as well as A/B testing.

Industry Partnerships

Innovation projects typically have an industry partner or active engagement of either retail or other companies (e.g., tech companies or consulting companies). Through active industry partnerships, our innovation projects focus on retail industry-relevant challenges.

Student Engagement

Innovation projects attempt to solve real-life problems in retail though unique and affordable solutions. At the same time, they engage students. In addition to participating in major innovation projects, students also get to participate in innovation competitions. There are usually two types of innovation competitions the centre offers: (a) hackathon competition, which involves development of a unique solution utilizing data provided by a retail partner company. (b) New product or retail concept competition, which involves development of a product suitable for retail or development of a novel retail concept. Through innovation projects, the centre provides opportunities for training students in cutting-edge technologies and methodologies.

Major Innovation Projects at the David Sobey Retailing Centre

Major projects often span two or more years. The following are some completed or ongoing innovation projects:

  • Development of a Retail Robot- first in Atlantic Canada. The robot can check inventory level on the shelf as well as price and planogram compliance and send real-time alerts/reports. The project is led by Dr. Adel Merabet in SMU Engineering.
  • Development of VR retail store. Developed by the centre with a private sector partner company called Nanuk Technologies. The VR store allows for easy employee training and conducting A/B tests. Participants use a VR headset to get a very realistic experience. Project concept was developed by Dr. Ramesh Venkat.
  • David Sobey Retailing Centre's Frictionless Store-Lab. This is the first frictionless store in a Canadian university that is being developed entirely in-house. The store will feature computer vision technology, smart shelves, sensors, smart shelf labels, and a digital mirror for customized fashion shopping. The store will also be a “living lab”, allowing for testing of new products and technologies. Project is led by Dr. Jason Rhinelander.