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Brief Published: 23 Mar 2018

Shop, Do, Learn: The New Department Store Formula

John Lewis

“Shop, do and learn” under one roof: that’s the formula for the modern department store, according to Paula Nickolds, managing director of British retailer John Lewis.

She was speaking at the opening of a new 230,000 sq ft unit in Westfield London, now Europe’s largest shopping centre. Innovations in the store – the company’s 50th location – include a Discovery Room where customers can learn how to light a room, create a smart home or hang a picture.

Also new is the Style Studio, a 700 sq ft space for both male and female customers to meet personal stylists. A new app enables customers to keep in touch with stylists, alerted by text or email about products or collections. Stylists were trained by former Vogue UK fashion director Lucinda Chambers.

Some of the innovations were trialled last year in John Lewis’s Oxford store.

“The shop demonstrates our latest thinking on how department stores can be a place in which you can shop, do and learn in a way you haven’t been able to before,” explained Nickolds. “We are bringing… a new level of personalised, curated shopping which until now has been the preserve of boutique shops.”

All 500 staff (called “partners” at John Lewis) were trained in theatrical skills by National Theatre actors. Peter Cross, customer experience director, said: “Actors are outstanding communicators and that’s an important element in offering personal service.”

Sheila Chawla from the National Theatre explained: “Communication is made up of not just what you say but how you say it. Body language, voice and expression are all as important as our words.”

See also Next-Level Dept. Store Strategies.