John Lewis is a chain of upmarket department stores operating throughout Great Britain. The chain is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, which was created alongside the first store in the mid-1800s. The first John Lewis store was opened in 1864 in Oxford Street, London. The chain’s slogan is “Never Knowingly Undersold” which has been in use since 1925.
There are 45 stores throughout England, Scotland and Wales, including eleven “At Home” stores, and a “flexible format” store in Exeter. The store in Birmingham is the largest operated by the Partnership outside London.
On 1 January 2008, the Oxford Street store was awarded a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen as: “suppliers of haberdashery and household goods”. John Lewis Reading is also the holder of a Royal Warrant from the Queen in 2007 as suppliers of household and fancy goods. Peter Jones, located in Sloane Square, Chelsea, is the holder of a Royal Warrant to both HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh as draper and furnisher.
The flagship store on Oxford Street began as a drapery shop, opened by John Lewis in 1864. In 1905 Lewis acquired a second store, Peter Jones in Sloane Square, London. His son, John Spedan Lewis, founded the John Lewis Partnership in 1920 after thinking up the idea during his days in charge of Peter Jones. John Spedan Lewis also thought up the idea of the Gazette, the partnership’s in-house magazine, first published in 1918.
In 1933 the partnership purchased its first store outside London, the long established Jessop & Son in Nottingham. Jessops only rebranded itself as John Lewis on 27 October 2002. In 1940 the partnership bought Selfridge Provincial Stores. This group of fifteen suburban and provincial department stores included: Knight & Lee, Southsea; Cole Brothers, Sheffield; George Henry Lee, Liverpool; Robert Sayle, Cambridge; and Trewins, Watford; all of which continue to trade today but which are now re-branded as John Lewis as well as Caley’s, Windsor, which has since closed.
In 1949, it was reported that London branches included Peter Jones, John Barnes, John Pound and Bon Marche. The “provincial branches” were Robert Sayle, of Peterborough and Cambridge, Tyrell and Green, of Southampton and Lance and Lance Ltd. of Weston-super-Mare. They also had “silk shops” at Hull, Edinburgh and Newcastle.
In 1953 the famous Reading Department Store Heelas became part of the John Lewis group and remained named as such under the Heelas name until 2001 when it adopted the John Lewis name. Also in 1953 the partnership bought Herbert Parkinson, a textile manufacturer, a business which still makes duvets, pillows and furnishings for John Lewis.
The first John Lewis store constructed as part of a shopping centre was Jessops in Nottingham which has been a feature of Victoria Centre since it opened in 1972. The announcement of an anchor tenant such as John Lewis contributes to the certainty of developers’ proposals, and so attracts other retailers to the area.
Before the relaxation of UK Sunday trading laws in 1994, John Lewis stores closed on Mondays to allow staff a full two-day “weekend”.
The John Lewis Partnership were the first department store group in the UK to adopt central buying, launching the ‘Jonell(e)’ name for own brand merchandise in 1937. That brand name has gradually been replaced with the ‘John Lewis’ name since 2001. Additional own brands include Collection by John Lewis as well as John Lewis & Co. and Collection Weekend by John Lewis. A selection of Waitrose own brand products, such as cleaning materials and party stationery, are also available from John Lewis.
Many stores acquired by the Partnership retained their original names for several years, including Tyrell and Green in Southampton until 2000, Bonds in Norwich until 2001, Trewins in Watford until 2001, Jessops in Nottingham (its first store outside London) until 2002, and Bainbridge’s in Newcastle until 2002. All have now been rebranded John Lewis, with the exception of Peter Jones in south west London and Knight & Lee in Southsea.
Investment has been made across the group over recent years. This has included the renovation of Peter Jones at a cost of £107 million, completed in 2004. The original Oxford Street shop is still the flagship and largest branch in the partnership. A complete refurbishment of the building was completed in late 2007 at a cost of £60 million. This introduced the new ‘Place To Eat’ restaurant and a brasserie and bistro in the store. A ‘John Lewis Food Hall from Waitrose’ opened in the shop’s basement on 3 October 2007. A second Food Hall opened at the John Lewis Bluewater store on 6 August 2009.
As of June 2014, the John Lewis Partnership operated 42 John Lewis stores throughout England, Wales and Scotland. The Oxford Street store, originally opened in 1864, is the largest operated by the Partnership. 31 of the stores are traditional department stores and 10 are ‘John Lewis at home’ stores.
John Lewis at home
In 2009, John Lewis announced a new format of “John Lewis at home” stores, the first of which opened in Poole in October 2009. The “at home” stores are located within pre-existing shopping regions, and focus on Electrical, Home and Technology products. The store in Poole opened on 22 October 2009 at the former Courts site at the Commerce Centre retail park in Branksome. Following the early success of the Poole “at home” store, five further “at homes” opened in 2010/11 in areas outside of the catchment of the traditional John Lewis stores, including Croydon, Tunbridge Wells, Tamworth, Chester and Swindon. Further stores in Newbury and Chichester, West Sussex, opened in Spring 2012, with Ipswich following in November 2012. On Thursday 17 June 2015, a new John Lewis at Home store opened in Horsham, West Sussex along with a branch of Waitrose that relocated from the town centre.
In the summer of 2014, John Lewis opened a small store airside in the newly rebuilt Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport.
In June 2004, John Lewis announced plans to open its first store in Northern Ireland at the Sprucefield Park development, the province’s largest out of town shopping centre, located outside Lisburn and 10 miles (16 km) from Belfast. The application was approved in June 2005 and the opening of the new store was scheduled for 2008. This decision was disputed, and was taken to the High Court, where it was reversed.
In 2008, a controversy over the declaration of expenses by UK members of parliament revealed that Parliamentary authorities were using information from John Lewis – the “John Lewis list” – as a guide to the maximum costs refundable to MPs when equipping London pieds à terre at public expense.
On 6 November 2008, it was announced that John Lewis would open their first department store outside the UK in Dublin, Ireland. Subject to planning permission, the shop will be built on O’Connell Street. The centre is being developed by Chartered Land and will be part of the largest retail centre in Ireland. As of January 2014 the €1.2 billion development is on hold and John Lewis are still seeking a location in Northern Ireland for a Flagship department store.
The Cardiff store opened in September 2009 as part of the Phase 2 development of St David’s Centre. The Cardiff branch is also the Partnership’s only department store in Wales. Stratford opened in 2011 together with a new Waitrose supermarket. The new shops will anchor the Westfield Stratford City development alongside the Olympic Park in east London.
In February 2011, it was announced that John Lewis was appointed as the Official Department Store provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As part of the deal, John Lewis stores became key retail outlets for official London 2012 merchandise.
Also in February 2011, John Lewis announced it is to open a 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) department store in Birmingham city centre in 2014. The completion date of 2014 was pushed back to Autumn 2015 due to complications regarding the construction of the centre, including issues relating to car parks and taxi ranks. With the Grand Central leasing director Keith Stone stating the date was pushed back to ensure a better customer experience. The store opened on 24 September 2015 and is the flagship store for the £100 million development and part of a the new Grand Central shopping centre built on the south side of a redeveloped Birmingham New Street railway station.
In November 2011, it was announced John Lewis has shelved plans for a new store in Preston, Lancashire as part of the Tithebarn Project which has now been drastically scaled down. The current economic climate was cited as a key factor in their decision.
It was announced that John Lewis would be the anchor tenant of a new development scheme in Leeds. The Eastgate Quarters scheme was approved in July 2011 and is to be a new shopping and dining quarter in the city centre. John Lewis have been looking for a site in Leeds for a while and are now happy they will be filling a major regional gap. Although the department store pulled out of its Preston plans, the company remains committed to Leeds.
John Lewis has now been announced as an anchor to the £1bn extension of Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush. The retailer is also looking at further location possibilities in Guildford. It is also thought that the retailer is finally in talks to open a store in central Manchester as part of the Ramada development.
John Lewis started a trial in 2013 product-labelling the lifetime electricity costs on the household goods.
The graphic identity, which has at its core the distinctive diagonal motif, was created in 1990 by John Lloyd and Jim Northover of the British design consultancy, Lloyd Northover. In 2000, it was given a minor refresh by London design consultancy Pentagram.
Since 2007 John Lewis has become known for producing memorable Christmas television adverts, which have gained heavy exposure on social media. Some of the more prominent campaigns featured The Bear and the Hare, Monty’s Christmas and Man on the Moon. The adverts, which typically rely on emotional content have become something of an annual tradition in the UK and the music used in the campaigns has reached high positions in the UK Singles Chart.
In July 2011, John Lewis announced that it would be opening 10 new stores under a new smaller format in city centre locations over the next five years. The new smaller format department stores will hold John Lewis’s core lines of Home, Electrical and Fashions, all tailored to the local area. However, the full line will still be available through online terminals within the store, as well as the “click and collect” service already available within other branches. With the first branch opening in Exeter on 12 October 2012, Andrea O’Donnell, commercial director, said the move would help John Lewis double its turnover from £3bn ($4.89bn) to £6bn over the next 10 years
John Lewis retain long-held plans to open a department store in Manchester city centre ever since the regeneration of the city centre following the 1996 Manchester bombing, but have not found a suitable site. They have countered the lack of city centre store by opening two large stores in Greater Manchester: Cheadle in 2000 and the Trafford Centre in 2005.
Former department stores
- John Barnes, Finchley Road, London – closed 1981, building now occupied by Waitrose
- Blinkhorn & Son, Gloucester – sold 1953 to Woolworths
- Blinkhorn & Son, Stroud – sold 1953 to Woolworths
- Bon Marché, Brixton, London – closed 1975
- Bon Marché, Tunbridge Wells – sold 1953
- Buckleys, Harrogate – sold 1953
- A H Bull, Reading – incorporated into Heelas & Co. Premises sold 1953 to Littlewoods chain stores
- Caleys, Windsor – closed 2006
- Daniel Neal, Portman Square, London – closed 1963
- Daniel Neal, Kensington, London – closed 1964
- Daniel Neal, Bournemouth – closed 1977
- Daniel Neal, Cheltenham – closed 1977
- Holdrons, Peckham, London – sold 1948
- Jones Brothers, Holloway Road, London – closed 1990, part of Jones Brothers site now occupied by Waitrose
- Lance & Lance, Weston-Super-Mare – closed 1956
- Pratts, Streatham, London – closed 1990
- Quin & Axten, Brixton, London – sold 1949
- Robert Sayle Peterborough (formerly Thomsons), Peterborough – closed 1956
- Vinalls, Eastbourne – sold 1953 to McCartney Stewart
The only remaining stores of the sixteen the John Lewis Partnership acquired from Selfridge Provincial Stores are thus those in Sheffield, Liverpool, Cambridge and Watford (all of which have been relocated to new buildings and rebranded as ‘John Lewis’ since acquisition).