John Lewis has fired the starting gun on a dramatic overhaul of its store estate after its boss warned that the high street retailer must “adapt or die”.
The department store chain has poached Stephen Spencer, head of stores at athleisure retailer Lululemon to the newly-created role of director of store of the future. He will join at the end of July.
John Lewis has also hired Dunelm’s former digital boss Steve Masterton as director of online trade as it prepares to plough £50m into its online business over the next year.
Three quarters of John Lewis’s sales were made on its website last year, soaring from 40pc a year earlier as the pandemic fuelled a boom in online shopping.
John Lewis is expected to use the investment to create more virtual experiences on its website. This will include features that allow customers to virtually “try on” items, as well improvements to how items are listed on the website and its search function.
It is also planning to launch live chat tools so shoppers can easily communicate with customer assistants.
John Lewis’s chairman Dame Sharon White is attempting to manoeuvre a drastic turnaround of the struggling department store, and has shut around a third of its shops over the past year and cut thousands of head office jobs .
She told the Telegraph earlier this month that decisions on store closures had “basically taken us back to where we were in 2012”.
She said: “So we have fewer, but now your stores have got to be extraordinary and they have got to be destinations. So now we are really investing in our stores and we've got no proposals to close any more.
“Those retailers who adapt survive and those who don't will die."
John Lewis will focus on making its shops “destinations” by offering more experiences and services. The company is also planning to open more smaller, local shops as changing work habits are expected to mean fewer people travel into large city centres even after restrictions ease.
Mr Spencer said the plan at John Lewis was to create a “store of the future which reflects the way customers are shopping today”.
Lululemon’s stores, which offer free classes including yoga and meditation, have been credited with fuelling the company’s success and winning it celebrity customers including Meghan Markle and Jennifer Lopez.
It has 15 shops in the UK, and latest accounts on Companies House showed sales soared by almost a quarter during the year to the end of January 2020.
Its stores, which are located in key shopping destinations such as Westfield shopping centre in west London and Covent Garden, are known for doubling up as fitness studios. Lululemon has also trialled lending customers workout kit that they could hand back at the end of classes in an effort to lure new shoppers.
John Lewis said it has also appointed Rosie Hanley as head of brand and marketing from eBay. She will join the company in July.
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