The new-look department store has replaced selling space with ‘experience playgrounds’.
As reported by the Guardian, John Lewis has unveiled a new store in Southampton which aims to reflect the retailer’s vision of the future. If successful, the revamped shop – which opens on Tuesday – could provide a prototype for other John Lewis stores. It is the employee-owned retailer’s latest attempt to reinvent the department store amid a sea change in shopping habits that has forced major rivals Debenhams and House of Fraser into rescue deals.
Peter Cross, John Lewis’s customer experience director, said: “Our new concept shop is an example of how we’re reinventing the department store to make us stand out from the competition. Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to expertise and impartial advice in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.”
John Lewis has moved into the ‘shoppertainment’ business – selling experiences as well as products – as it fights for a slice of discretionary consumer spending that increasingly competes with mini-breaks and nights out. John Lewis suggests a Southampton itinerary that starts with a visit to the upmarket rooftop farm shop, followed by a “15-minute fashion fix and learn[ing] to bake bread in the cookery school”.
The department store chain’s parent group, the John Lewis Partnership, said last month it was merging its management team with Waitrose in a bid to cut costs and boost sales by getting both brands to collaborate more. This year’s festive TV commercial, which features an excitable baby dragon called Edgar, is its first joint ad with Waitrose.
John Lewis has been steadily introducing more services and experiences since Paula Nickolds took over as managing director in 2016 – a role that will disappear next year when she becomes the group’s brand director under the new structure. Her approach has talked about stores becoming “more than a route to selling things” if they are to stay relevant, with staff at the Oxford branch store given acting lessons to improve service levels ahead of its 2017 opening.
The overhaul of the 29,000 sq metre (310,000 sq ft) John Lewis in Southampton cost £3m.