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John Lewis shoppers will soon use virtual reality to visualise its products in their homes; John Lewis Partnership names Sharon White as new chairman

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John Lewis is bringing virtual reality into its stores, using the technology to enable shoppers to see how furniture might look like in their homes. 

The department store retailer, listed Elite in IRUK Top500 research, is to trial a Visualise Your Space solution in three of its stores later this month. 

Customers will use the technology by putting the dimensions, doors, windows, wall and floor colours of the room they want to visualise via an app into an iPad. They can then see how John Lewis products would look in their home either through augmented reality, as a 3D room set on the iPad, or through a virtual reality headset. Afterwards customers are emailed a copy of the room they created with shoppable links.

“Designing a new look for a room can be a lot of fun and a chance to express our personalities,” said Caitlin Price, John Lewis & Partners head of buying for furniture and flooring. “However, customers tell us that uncertainty about what new products will look like in their home can make the decision making hard, and in many cases people revert to the safer tones of grey or beige furnishings.

“This technology will enable customers to be braver in their choices, and test technology that architects and interior designers have been using to visualise their designs.”

The solution is from US design and 3D visualisation company Marxent, which already works with retailers including department store Macy’s in its home market. Its chief executive and co-founder Beck Besecker said: “John Lewis understands how important inspiration is to modern furniture shoppers and has an impressive history of innovation. We’re proud to be partnering with them to test this technology in the UK.”

The trial starts at John Lewis in Kingston on June 26, in Cambridge on June 28 and in Horsham on July 2.

Our view: While a number of furniture retailers have already added augmented reality into their mobile apps, this is an early use of virtual reality in this category. Previously Thomas Cook had used it to enable  holiday shoppers to see around the hotel rooms, helicopter flights and other travel experiences that they were considering. This gives John Lewis another way to bring shoppers into its stores, not only to see an item for themselves but to visualise how it would look in place. 

Meanwhile, the John Lewis Partnership today named Sharon White as its sixth chairman. White, currently chief executive of media watchdog Ofcom, will take up the role when current incumbent Sir Charlie Mayfield steps down early next year. Her previous experience includes the UK Treasury and the World Bank. 

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Sharon White has had a stellar career in a number of senior strategic and executive roles and during a thorough, wide-ranging and extremely competitive search she stood out, both for me and for the Nominations Committee, as an exceptional candidate. I believe she has the vision, leadership, drive and flair to steer the Partnership through its next phase.  

“I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice. But these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company. Sharon is an inspirational leader with the personal and professional skills to ensure the Partnership continues to innovate and change while at the same time retaining and strengthening our distinctive character and democratic vitality.”  

White, chairman designate, said: “It is a great honour to be asked to succeed Charlie as the sixth Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

“I am a passionate believer in the Partnership: Partners working together for each other’s wellbeing with the confidence to invest for the long-term and a focus on delivering for our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment. John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners are not merely British retail icons, but also a model of a better way to do business.”


Image courtesy of John Lewis

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