John Lewis is the second department store this week – after Debenhams – to unveil a new brand identity as it sets out what makes it different in a highly competitive market where business is moving online fast. The latest ONS retail sales figures show online sales at department stores growing at more than 30% a year, while an ever greater share of their sales take place online. Retailers are fighting to keep their stores relevant by giving shoppers a reason to come into their stores, and at John Lewis that reason is customer service.
The retailer and sister supermarket Waitrose are adding ’& Partners’ to their business names as they look to highlight the role of their staff in offering customer service. So far, the John Lewis store on Oxford Street and at White City, Westfield have the new name, first announced in June, while Waitrose branches in London’s Edgware Road and Clerkenwell also have it. The new names will be phased in at all of the 50 John Lewis and 348 Waitrose facades, as well as 3,500 lorries and vans, over the next few years in line with refurbishment work.
The move is part of a strategy, also announced in June, of investing between £400m and £500m a year to differentiate the business through products, customer service and services. Today John Lewis also launched its own brand womenswear collection, under the John Lewis & Partners name, that has been created entirely in-house, alongside a new own-brand gifting collection. Waitrose is launching an own-brand Christmas range this year, and a new ’free from’ range.
The retailers are also focusing on their partners, with the creation of customer service ambassador roles, training staff to offer concierge-style services and personal stylists to give daily fashion talks. Technology investment is also aimed at improving customer service.
"Our Partnership business and the inherent strength of our partners really sets us apart, says Paula Nickolds, managing director of John Lewis & Partners. "That’s why the change to our visual identify this week puts partners back at the heart of everything we do. This move not only reflects the business we have become but more importantly the business we want to be."
Waitrose & Partners managing director Rob Collins said: "This moment is far more significant than simply adding words and changing the design. It symbolises something bigger, expressing what’s different about our business and signalling our intent to make that difference count for even more: committed, knowledgeable Partners who care about the business they own, sharing their love of food and offering great customer service."
Commenting on the move, Suzy Ross, senior retail strategist at Accenture said:
“This rebrand represents part of a strategic move by the Partnership that could safeguard it from the retail death spiral that is ripping through the UK high street. With consumer expectations sky high and brand loyalty plummeting, consumers are crying out for retailers to change from the sellers of ‘stuff’ to the givers of great experiences. And only some are listening.
"It is encouraging to see the partnership pledging a highly personalised, experiential retail service which could achieve the differentiation needed for survival. For retailers like John Lewis to really thrive and deliver experiences that will keep customers coming back, they must embrace new technologies to rapidly respond to changes in consumer behaviour and harness data, insight and artificial intelligence to anticipate and personalise individual customer interactions.”
John Lewis is a Leading retailer in IRUK Top500 research, while Waitrose is in the Top50.