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Trouva expands to Berlin

Independent retail platform Trouva has launched into Berlin, the first step in its global expansion plans following a $10m (£7.5m) cash injection.

The business has signed up 20 independent Berlin-based shops, which it says will enable UK customers to shop from the best local independents the city has to offer.

The online retailer says its technology, including in-store inventory management software, a real-time logistics platform and artificial intelligence machine learning, aim to transform business for Berlin shops.

Berlin-based boutiques Trouva has signed up include The Amazing Crocodile Design Store and sustainable fashion accessories boutique Moeon.

The news follows Trouva’s fundraising round in November, which brough in $10m (£7.5m) of investment from BGF Ventures, Index Ventures and Octopus.

Trouva says the expansion is the first step in becoming “the global destination for the best of independent retail” and the company is looking to expand into other German cities.

“It’s an incredible time for growth for Trouva,” Trouva CEO Mandeep Singh told Drapers. “Berlin is the start of our global expansion across Europe. But, it’s not just about the capital. We’re looking at other towns and cities across Germany. We only want to work with the best boutiques, and we visit every shop. We’re looking for quality, rather than quantity.”

Further down the line, Singh plans to launch around the world: “Our dream is to become a global community for the very best independents, whether that’s selling from Berlin, Brighton or Edinburgh to the US and China. Thinking further afield, Tokyo, Stockholm and New York would be great markets.”

Singh said the business has had to adapt some of its technology to work in the European market. This includes its inventory system, which enables shops to handle multiple currencies, including euros. It also includes dealing with logistics couriers, working in real-time to get the best deals, and regulations such as GDPR to ensure they work for different legal environments.

“Trouva gives independents the technology and means to sell online, bringing scale and cost savings, helping them find more customers and fight back against the likes of Amazon,” Singh said. “At the same time, through click and collect, we’re also driving our boutique-loving customers into the shops themselves. We take a commission on sales – we only charge when there is an order.”

Sonja Lotz, owner of Moeon boutique in Berlin, who has recently signed up to Trouva said: “We’ve had an incredible response since joining a few weeks ago, with over one hundred products being shipped to new customers. In the first week alone, we had orders from seven different countries including the US, Australia, Spain and UK.”

Trouva opened a new office in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this year, which Singh describes as a “tech and product centre” for development.

The business currently has between 45 to 50 employees and works with 450 boutiques across the UK and Berlin. It was recognised in Tech5’s annual list of the five fastest-growing technology companies in the UK, as well as its list of the fastest 20 in Europe. Trouva has achieved revenue growth of 3,332% over the past two years since launch.

Singh adds: “The best independents are absolutely that – they have to think one step ahead of the big chains. They don’t have some of the advantages that the chains have, in terms of economies of scale. But how they’re winning is they’re better at picking product, using technology and offering a more compelling offline retail experience.

“If you don’t have money for a warehouse, you have to fulfil the orders from store, but this is a great way to for bricks and mortar to serve the online customer. That’s how independents can beat the chains, by being smarter. The future is about merging the two. Bricks-and-mortar stores will survive as long as they can serve online.”

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