John Lewis, The New UK High St Darling, Tells How It Is Done
posted by Stuart Cumming ~ 10/03/14
Category: Retail
Tags: Retail
For the first time, John Lewis and its stable-mate Waitrose have overtaken Marks & Spencer as the darling of the UK's High Street.

In Zoe Wood's article for The Guardian, she reports that John Lewis' turnover of 9bn pounds, up from 5bn a decade ago, shaded those of Marks & Spencer at 8.9bn (last year). 

Advocates of John Lewis point to its more rapid embrace of technology as the reason for its stronger sales growth and increased market share. There is certainly a lesson for us in the way John Lewis and Waitrose have adopted a multi-channel approach to their marketing.

Their recently published pdf ebook titled How we Shop, Live and Look describes the 19 day journey a shopper might take from "getting inspiration from their catalogue" through to final purchase.

Once considered as somewhat like the civil service, it has thrown off that mantle by investing in its website and logistics to offer the click-and-collect service which has proven to be particularly popular and now almost taken for granted. Meanwhile, M&S is playing catch up.

Further indication of John Lewis' commitment to innovation is their establishment of a technology incubator, a-la-Silicon Valley Roundabout-style, which it hopes will lead the new wave of retail technology development.

As separately reported in The Guardian, starting in June, 5 start-ups have been offered space and advice from tech entrepreneurs. The winner will receive 50,000 pounds to roll the technology out to the 40 stores.

"What I'm looking for from the successful JLab applicant is deliverable but stretching innovation which offers real benefits for our customers in both our bricks and clicks businesses," said John Lewis Retail Director, Andrew Murphy.

One of the cornerstones of the John Lewis business identified by Wood is that it is run as a "partnership" with its 91,000 employees. Established in 1928, a profit-sharing trust links the company's performance to a salary-based bonus with all "partners" receiving the same percentage of their pay, from the Chairman down.

This formula of rewarding staff, combined with discounts and perks such as subsidised holidays and theatre outings, whilst unfashionable these days, proved extremely popular during the recession.

(This article was updated on 12 July, 2014)

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