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John Lewis nails experiential retail with its new mega store

Middle England’s beloved retailer elevates its game…

The most recent addition to Westfield London is a 600million pound extension that’s crafted with gleaming terrazzo floors and a spectacular glass roof, it feels particularly bright and lofty. Mango, West Elm, Stravadius and a host of other brands have relocated to the new wing, but the main attraction has to be the enormous John Lewis. Not only is it big in size it’s also big on experience.

Discovering the offer

As John Lewis’s most ambitious concept to date, the nucleus of this store is the ground floor Experience Desk where customers can explore and book a range of services, classes and ‘Experience’ packages. On the third floor a Discovery Room hosts several ‘how-to’ classes a day, so if you want to learn how to make the most out of your garden or how to make your house a smart home, John Lewis is the place to be. Besides the Discovery Room, there’s also a spa, a nail and brow bar, and a rug customisation studio – oh and the luxury travel agent Kuoni has taken up residence on the third floor.

On-point store design

The experiences on offer are great, but what makes this store such a joy to walk around is the fresh design, easy to navigate spaces and the curated mix of product. The departments are clearly defined yet connected seamlessly thanks to the interior architecture, mid-century furniture and playful VM props that punctuate each space, such as the miniature Le Creuset mobile that hangs above the crockery tables and telephone boxes that sit it the Tech department. Overall, you don’t feel like you are in a house of brands, you feel like you are in a John Lewis – many department stores could learn a thing or two here.

Hang-out culture is key

The store is specifically designed with space to spend time in casually hanging out. For instance, in the Womenswear department there’s a wellness-inspired shop-in-shop called Loved & Found – featuring more premium fashion, activewear, and beauty brands – that’s completed with a long table for trying out products or flicking through a magazine while charging your mobile phone. In-store experiences don’t have to mean a big commitment on the part of the customer or brand, they can be as simple as providing a thoughtfully designed space for customers to relax and play, with no pressure to buy. Similarly upstairs, and perhaps taking inspiration from industry disrupter Casper, the mattress department features a Sleep Room where customers can try before they buy in situ.

The sleep room

Fashion-forward service

On the first floor, the Style Studio is a chic round pod that opens with sliding doors onto a plush interior – not dissimilar to the on-trend 1960s-inspired Browns East changing rooms – and hosts personal style advise sessions. All the stylists have been trained by ex-Vogue Fashion Editor Lucinda Chambers, an impressive way to elevate the store’s caché in posh West London.

Celebrating the Partner model

More is made of John Lewis’s age-old Partnership business model than usual with a large sign at the entrance reading, “Everyone who works for John Lewis is a Partner, and shares the same standards of quality, value and service that have set us apart from 1864.” This is a really important and commendable aspect of the brand, furthermore, it chimes with Millennials’ love of transparency and fair work-place ethics.

Omnichannel thinking

Tying everything together is a new app that gives customers access to the existing My John Lewis loyalty scheme, as well as the choice to book experiences and it also allows them to stay in touch with any personal stylist that may have helped them in store.

Customer Director, Craig Inglis, said, “The store reflects our customers’ behaviours – they want that exclusive product, they want curation, they want that much more one-to-one relationship.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, that is exactly the service that all Department Stores need to be aiming for. Stay tuned for more of our thoughts on department stores over the coming weeks.

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