January 26, 2021

SME Business News

Small Business News UK

Cash injection for online platform that simplifies how retailers find challenger FMCG brands

Online product discovery platform, Product Guru, has secured funds of £330,000 to disrupt the traditional retail buying process by re-inventing how products end up on shelves.

The investment of £230,000 from Scotmid Coop and Techstart VC, with a further £100,000 funding from the Scottish Enterprise, follows a period of rapid growth for the retail tech company.

Despite the ongoing challenges faced during the pandemic, Product Guru has more than doubled its workforce and seen sign-ups increase by 310% in the first eight months of 2020, with product submissions on the platform growing by 1000% in the same period.

Product Guru helps FMCG, home, gift and travel suppliers of all sizes by opening up opportunities to connect with some of the UK’s most well-known retailers via an innovative online software platform. Since launching in 2018 a raft of high street retailers, including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and TK Maxx, have signed up to use its services.

Simon Coyle, CEO of Product Guru, said: “2020 sent shockwaves through the high street, and nothing will ever be the same. Having worked in retail for 20 years, this has made me even more ambitious with our plans for growth over the next 18 months.

“Our vision is to shake up how retail buying works. The system was broken even before COVID, with buyers missing opportunities to find the products their consumers wanted and suppliers desperately trying to find the right channel to reach buyers.

“More than ever, retail needs to adapt and find new ways of working. As activities move online and remote working becomes the norm, Product Guru is uniquely placed to continue revolutionising how products end up on shelves.

“This funding has come at a critical time as we look to build upon the success of our rapid growth. Continually developing our services to meet retailers’ needs will allow us to connect and match even more suppliers and buyers, helping us to build upon the disruptive changes we’ve made to the sector.”

Already, the team behind Product guru is seeing a shift in how retailers are sourcing products with the extraordinary success last month of virtual product pitching at The Pantry Live.  The 48-hour virtual event, powered by Product Guru, brought together retail specialists, entrepreneurs and suppliers from around the world.

Simon Coyle continues: “Virtual Product pitching at The Pantry Live was a clear sign of the changing times we live in.  To see a micro business selling direct from their own kitchen into the kitchen of a John Lewis buyer was extraordinary.  It felt like we were seeing product discovery as it should be. It personalised the process, with real relationships being formed”

With more and more small, specialist suppliers driving innovation in the sector, it is harder than ever for buyers to be able to consider all options. Following the success of this virtual event Product Guru will develop a fully integrated feature on its platform to host regular virtual buying sessions. The company is already in talks with buyers to schedule sessions across all categories and some retailers, including Selfridges, have confirmed interest in taking part.

According to one retailer: “Meeting with new brands through a hosted session was a great way to keep things ‘short and sweet’, while forming a good enough opinion as to whether they fit our brand. As a result of this event we have offered one of the brands a chance to stock in our SS21 range, we are also looking at a further two for AW21.”

Calum Forsyth, Investor at Techstart Ventures, said: “Small and challenger brands punch well above their weight in markets that have traditionally been led by large corporations. Through consistent reinvention, innovation and a focus on the customer, we have seen unprecedented levels of growth among these brands. In attempting to capture a portion of this, retailers face challenges in both product discovery and workflow management. Product Guru is a very elegant solution that sits at the heart of this marketplace challenge. We are delighted to be backing the team and joining them on this journey.”

The investment will also allow Product Guru to recruit two highly skilled senior developers to support the launch of the platform’s premium subscription service in 2021.  The new service will offer greater opportunities for suppliers to catch the attention of retail buyers.