John Lewis and Waitrose launch experiential concept store in Southampton

John Lewis

John Lewis and Waitrose are launching a customer experience-focused concept store at the partnership’s store in Southampton tomorrow, 19 November, with a “retail dream team of experts” across all departments.

They include personal fashion stylists, make-up artists, interior designers, chefs and wine connoisseurs, gardeners and gadget specialists.

If successful, the new “experience playgrounds” will take centre stage and could be rolled out to its stores across the UK, as the John Lewis Partnership explores the future role of the shop in its customers’ lives, while also bringing the John Lewis and Waitrose business closer together as is the future plan.

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis & Partners, says: “Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to expertise and impartial advice in as many areas of their lives as we possibly can – in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

“We know that shopping for a new gadget or beauty product can be a daunting experience, with so much choice on offer. We want to help navigate customers through that. Our new concept shop is an example of how we’re reinventing the department store of the future to make us stand out from the competition.”

Customers could start their day at the rooftop farm shop, pause for a 15-minute “fashion fix” in the store’s style studio, and learn to bake bread in the first ever Waitrose & Partners Cookery School to open in a John Lewis & Partners shop.

They can even compile a mood-board for a home refurbishment in “The World of Design”, attend a workshop on gardening and experiment with make-up or gadgets in special “stay and play” areas.

At the heart of the shop will be a team of impartial expert Partners on-hand to help shoppers make the right choice for them. Specialists can radically overhaul customers’ wardrobes or beauty regimes, show them how to cook an impressive dinner party meal or take the perfect selfie with their new smartphone and even visit them at home to help redesign their living space or garden.

There will be many opportunities to learn a new skill, with pop-up workshops ranging from barista and photography courses to wreath-making and modern calligraphy.

Customers will be invited to book time with Partners via the Southampton Experience Desk – the store’s expert concierge. Gift experience packages will also be available to purchase.

The John Lewis Partnership is shedding a third of its senior managers in a merger of its food and department store chains designed to save £100 million of costs.

The employee-owned group is creating one management board to run John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets from February 2020, ending a split between the brands that has been in place for decades. It will result in the loss of 75 of 224 senior head-office jobs.

The changes are part of its Future Partnership strategy to future proof the business against online rivals, rising costs and fragile consumer confidence.