John Lewis, Debenhams and H&M on their stores at Westfield London
IRUK Top500 retailers are focusing on Westfield London this week. The shopping centre's new £600m extension opens today at its White City centre, reportedly making it Europe's largest mall.
New openings in the mall include John Lewis, Adidas, H&M, West Elm, Currys PC World, Boots, Space NK, Mango and The White Company.
In its fiftieth store, the anchor store to the extension, John Lewis is focusing on learning alongside experiences and shopping.
Debenhams, meanwhile, is giving space in its own Westfield store to online retailer Swoon Editions. These announcements chime with recent commentary from retail property developer and operator Hammerson
that retailers are now competing for sites in locations that enjoy high shoppers footfall as a result of combining leisure and retail. At the same time, consumers are opting to buy online or across channels, making them less likely to visit a shop. Today there has to be good reason for customers to visit a shop - and these department stores are among many retailers competing to provide those reasons. Both department stores are Leading retailers in IRUK Top500 research
John Lewis: redefining the store
In recent years John Lewis has set out to redefine what the store is for at a time when shoppers are opting to make more of their retail purchases online. Its latest iteration will be seen tomorrow when it opens its anchor store at the Westfield London White City extension.
John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds says that today's department stores are evolving fast. "Retail is changing but today's department store is as relevant as it has ever been in responding to the needs of our customers. This shop demonstrates our latest thinking on how the department store can be a place where eyouc an shop, do and learn in a way that you haven't been able to before. We're bringing to West London a new level of personalised, curated shopping which until now has been the preserve of boutique shops."
The new John Lewis store features the retailer's first Style Studio, where customers can choose to be advised, either one-to-one or in a group consultation, by one of five personal assistants. The retailer is also launching a new app-based service to enable shoppers to keep in touch with their own personal stylist.
The store also has a Discovery Room where shoppers can learn new skills from expert staff on subjects from how to light a room or hang a picture, to how to make a house a smart home. It promises to feature the first fully immersive Apple Smart Home experience in a retail setting, f featuring the Apple Home app and using Siri as a home assistant to control devices from lighting to thermostats.
Staff have been trained at the National Theatre to engage with customers and provide outstanding customer service, while stylists have been trained at the London College of Style and by former Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers.
Debenhams: showcasing online brands in-store
Meanwhile, Debenhams is using its Westfield White City store to show off furniture from online retailer Swoon Editions, founded in 2012, which it will also sell online.
Sergio Bucher, chief executive at Debenhams , said: “As part of our Debenhams Redesigned Strategy, we are looking to work with strategic partners that can deliver new and complementary product offers for our customers.
"We are delighted that Swoon Editions has chosen to work with us to open up their current offering to the high street. We believe that its skilfully crafted furniture, made-to-order upholstery, distinctive lighting and tableware will bring new and differentiated ranges to our customers, reinforcing Debenhams’ position as a major player in the UK homeware and furniture market.”
Nicki Lynch, chief customer officer at Swoon Editions said: "Our home-obsessed customers are increasingly requesting that they want to see our furniture in real life. In an online-only world it is harder to bring people into your brand in the same way you can with a physical store.
"A partnership with Debenhams in their Westfield White City store
will complement our own temporary showroom that pop-up regularly across the UK, and gives us a permanent space for customers to be able to experience our furniture. We’re excited about the opportunity to introduce Swoon to a new audience of existing Debenhams customers."
H&M: the importance of experience
H&M's also focuses on the importance of the experience to shoppers in its new Westfield London store. It's opened its first nail bar, run in conjunction with Go Gorgeous London and an in-house DJ.
"The White City relaunch is an exciting opportunity for us to be able to bring our customers an updated shopping experience, at Westfield and we are delighted to be able to introduce our first ever nail bar in the UK, which we hope our customers will love," said Carlos Duarte, H&M's country manager for the UK and Ireland.