John Lewis is opening an IT hub in conjunction with its Birmingham flagship which will allow staff to test store technology in real time.

The department store retailer’s IT director Paul Coby told Retail Week the new tech hub, due to open in September, will focus on “breaking down the barriers between our retail channels and serving our customers more effectively.”

The Birmingham-based operation, which will be John Lewis’ first IT hub outside of London, will initially consist of four engineering roles and will create and test new technology in the retailer’s flagship Grand Central store.

“The idea is that we’ll have engineers based nearby so we can test things in the store and, if they are successful, roll them out across our other shops,” said Coby.

“We will use our existing technology to create apps that we can then test in a real store with real staff and get real-time feedback on what works and what doesn’t.”

The engineers at the retailer’s Birmingham tech hub will use its existing Google and Salesforce platforms to create and implement the new technology for John Lewis partners to trial in store.

The tech hub will also work with local universities to create internships and test new technologies.

“We’re at a moment when technology is changing very quickly – I know there is a wealth of good ideas out there and we’re looking for how they can be applied to work in the retail space,” said Coby.