John Lewis - 150 Years of Upmarket Supremacy

By Furniture UK on August 29, 2016 in Profiles, Uncategorized

For the last 150 years and counting, John Lewis has been operating across Great Britain as one of the most recognisable department stores in the upmarket segment. The John Lewis Partnership owns the company and has maintained the same slogan since 1925. The Partnership owns 46 stores around Wales, Scotland and England, as well as York and Exeter's flexible formats and a dozen At Home kind of stores.

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Since 1864

In 1864, the first flagship John Lewis store opened along London's Oxford Street operating a drapery shop. A second store was acquired by the store founder, John Lewis, in London's Sloane Square known as Peter Jones. In 1920, John Lewis Partnership was founded by John Spedan Lewis, the store chain founder's son. Spedan came up with the idea after his days managing the Peter Jones store, including a Gazette that would be the in-house magazine of the partnership published in 1918 for the first time.

The first store for the Partnership outside the English capital came in 1933 through the establishment of the Nottingham's Jessop & Son, which actually rebranded as John Lewis almost 80 years later in 2002. By 1940, the Selfridge Provincial Stores became a part of the partnership, which included 15 provincial and suburban department stores namely Watford's Trewins, Cambridge's Robert Sayle, Liverpool's George Henry Lee, Sheffield's Cole Brothers and Southsea's Knights & Lee.  All stores are still trading over 85 years later and have rebranded as the iconic John Lewis except for Knight & Lee that still maintains its title. Windsor's Caley's was apart of the partnership before closing shop around 2006.

In 1949, the London branches of John Lewis included Bon Marche, John Pound, John Barnes and Peter Jones while provincial branches of the partnership comprised Cambridge and Peterborough's Robert Sayle, Southampton's Tyrell and Green and Weston-super-Mare's Lance and Lance Limited. In Newcastle, Edinburgh and Hull the store chain operated silk shops.

Heelas, a department store in Reading was adopted by the Lewis group in 1953 and changed its name in 2001 to John Lewis. Within the same year, Herbert Parkinson was bought by the Lewis partnership in 1953, a textile manufacturer back then and remains today a top Lewis maker of furnishings, pillows and duvets.

Prior to the 1994 relaxation of trading laws on Sundays in the UK, the partnership used to close all branches across in Mondays to give employees a much needed weekend of two days.

Over the years the group has seen significant investments. One was Peter Jones renovation by 2004 for £107 million. Lewis has not lost its beginnings around Oxford Street and the original shop location is still a significant part of the partnership where the largest and flagship branch of the group is located. The building was completely refurbished by 2007 for £60 million introducing a new restaurant, bistro and brassiere within the Lewis store.

Lewis branches

The Lewis group had 42 operating department stores by June 2014 across the UK. Of all the stores in the partnership, the Oxford Street Store of 1864 remains its largest. While 31 of these are generally traditional types of department stores, At Home Lewis stores are about 10.

At Home Lewis store format was announced by the group in 2009 with the first one opening by October of the same year in Poole. Essentially, At Home Lewis stores are domiciled in current shopping regions and mostly focus on Technology, Home and Electrical items. The Poole store opened on October 22nd 2009 at Branksome's retail park at the Commerce Centre.

As a result of the At Home Lewis store success in Poole, the group opened other At Homes in different regions outside the traditional Lewis traditional stores. At Homes can be found in Swindon, Chester, Tamworth, Tunbridge Wells and Croydon. In the spring of 2012, other stores were opened in West Sussex, Chichester and Newbury and by November another opened in Ipswich.

Sales performance

The Lewis Partnership reported year sales by 30th January 2016 stood at £11 billion, which represented a 0.7 percent increase on the previous financial year’s. John Lewis retailer’s sales stood at £4.56 billion, representing an increase of 2.8 percent on the previous year's results. Waitrose Sales on the other hand stood at £6.5 billion, a dip of 0.7 percent. Lewis Group enjoyed £305.5 million pre-tax profits. Operating profits at Waitrose dipped by two percent for £232.6 million while John Lewis retailer saw a 0.1 percent increase to £250.2 million.

At the same time, the retailer indicated that 33 percent of its entire merchandise sales happened on the web and 67 percent in its stores. 53 percent online orders were largely click and collect, which had grown by 11 percent. Orders collected from Waitrose stores grew by 19 percent. Mobile devices sales shot up by 34 percent, with Smartphones making up a huge chunk of this, growing by 86 percent. The scheme, myJohn Lewis, also saw a growth of 32 percent in terms of membership to 1.8 million.

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