King of the clicks


JohnLewisUK department store, John Lewis, celebrates 150 years in business this year, but if you think that’s an impressive number for a retailer in 2014, the UK department store also hit another milestone, exceeding more than £1 billion in online sales.

John Lewis’ latest result is a figure most retailers can only dream of. For the first time the chain surpassed £1 billion in online sales, 12 months ahead of schedule.

Year on year online sales grew 41 per cent, and made up 25 per cent of total sales.

Chris Hall, ops manager, commercial support, John Lewis, told the Westfield World Retail Study Tour in London the department store has seen the biggest growth in its click and collect service over the past 12 months, and has recorded exponential growth in customers shopping on mobile devices.

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“Customers who shop both instore and online are worth four times as much to us than just a customer that comes into the store or just buys online,” Hall told the tour.

The upmarket chain is now eyeing another major e-commerce sales target, £2.4 billion by 2020.

“Probably two years ago we would have had a different figure, but it just keeps on rocketing, however, as much is growing, the stores need to be growing as well.”

Its sales result is an impressive feat for a retailer that only 12 months ago underwent a drastic “year of change”, overhauling its entire organisation including its management structure, IT, logistics, and HR.

“Our infrastructure was about 25 to 30 years old. You name it, we have changed the lot. We’ve only had 12 months for the change and there’s been some heartache, some soul searching, but we know now that as a business we are fit for the future and for the next 150 years.”

Clicks fueling bricks

In mid-2014, John Lewis completed the rollout of instore staff tablets across its entire network for  section and land managers.

The move is part of an ongoing strategy to use technology to help aid relationships with customers instore. Waitrose is also in the process of rolling out a similar system across its supermarkets.

“Our managers were having to spend more time in the back office, so we set an ambitious target that every manager would have a tablet,” Hall said.

“It doesn’t mean that we want our managers on the floor just reading off a tablet, but hopefully it takes a bit of the time away.

“Are we there yet? Absolutely not. It’s only been rolled out over the last couple of months, but the aim is to keep our managers where the majority of our selling staff are.”

In 2009, John Lewis introduced a smaller store concept to its network – a dedicated home offering, John Lewis at Home.

Over the past five years the retailer has boosted the Home store count to nine.

“In terms of the cities in the UK we’ve run out of places we can go in to at our regular size. We have now been able to go into smaller towns and cities in the UK. Cities we couldn’t get into before because of the large format.

“It allows us to go to those catchment areas we knew from our dot com trade that were very rich in John Lewis customers.

“What we’ve seen not only an increase in stores, but the dotcom trade [in those trade areas] has risen. Where we build a store, our online catchment sales go up as well. John has allowed us to see where we’re fertile around the country.”

For more exclusive coverage from the Westfield World Retail Study Tour, pick up a copy of Inside Retail Magazine’s August/September edition, out now. 


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