UK’s first identity store
Timpson has expanded its services beyond shoe repairs, key cutting, dry cleaning and photos, with the opening of its first identity store, ArkHive. Will Lankston, Head of Retail at ArkHive, explains that when the business heard about the digitisation of identity they decided to seize the opportunity rather than see the threat of disruption.
The concept originated a couple of years ago because the Timpson Group are now one of the biggest providers of ID photos in the UK.
Digitisation of identity
A couple of years ago we were having conversations in both the private and public sector, not just about ID photos but about how applications might change.
From that, we learned there might be changes made to driving licenses or passports that could have an impact on our ID services. There is also the digitisation of services within the UK government with a lot of government organisations wanting to take their service offering online. This got us thinking about how we might work in collaboration with the public sector to help facilitate the transition from paper to digital.
As a result, we joined the Open Identity Exchange (OIX) and as an executive member we got involved in meetings with experts heavily involved in identity. Through that we met a lot of interesting businesses, so in June of this year, we held a board meeting to discuss what else we could do with identity.
Although the trend is to move things online, we believe there will always be value in a face to face transaction. We think our strength is having lots of shops filled with fantastic people. So we started thinking about how we could add value to specific services or transactions by having a physical interaction in a shop. This is why we have created our first purpose built identity shop- ArkHive. Here, we can trial services such as pre-employment screening, DBS checks, landlord/tenant checks and more.
Focusing on SMEs
After talking to SMEs it became obvious that identity checks can be an onerous process. Not only do SMEs have a small headcount and low overheads; they often don’t have a HR team or the legal expertise to conduct these screenings.
ArkHive wants to offer SMEs a dedicated place where our experts can handle the whole process for them. With the world as it is today, it’s becoming more and more important to know who you are working and dealing with. There aren’t many document and identity experts available for SMEs so this is the gap we want to fill.
Inside the ArkHive store we offer free Wi-Fi, hot desks and coffee (accompanied by cake on Fridays and Saturdays). We want to be more than a shop; we want it to be a networking space, a community hub and a professional place for people to meet.
We just opened our doors a week ago as part of the soft opening in Henley. The plans are to split our service offering into two, services for business and services for individuals. We really want to explore what we can do for individuals. We think it can be difficult to prove your identity online and it can be risky to share personal information on the internet. This is something we are really focused on improving. We want to make it easier for individuals to prove their identity and much safer for them to share information online.
Many of our services will not go live until the New Year but we have purposely made our price point SME friendly. Also, as we trial the store we will be offering a lot of these checks for free in return for customer feedback. The Henley store is our test bed and if it is successful, we will consider rolling these identity shops out further across the UK or we may try to implement some of these services into our core estate of branches.