John Lewis battles to win back customers: But will gimmicks such as £10k private shopping for high rollers REALLY work?
Christmas planning: John Lewis managing director Paula Nickolds
John Lewis is launching a private out-of-hours shopping service for wealthy customers as it seeks to revive its fortunes.
Shoppers will be able to book out an entire store for themselves for two hours after it closes – but only if they can guarantee they will spend at least £10,000.
It is one of three personal shopping services being launched by John Lewis as managing director Paula Nickolds prepares for a crucial Christmas at the department store.
Latest figures show sales fell 2.3 per cent last week in a sign that it continues to struggle following a dismal first half of the year.
The group, which also owns supermarket Waitrose, has been trying to lure back customers after half-year profits were all but wiped out, plunging by 99 per cent to just £1.4million.
The results were dragged down by the department store, which posted a £33.5million loss.
The private shopping service will be available to book in its store in Cheltenham, which opens tomorrow, with plans to roll it out if successful.
Other services being trialled by John Lewis include ‘Get My Gifts’ for Christmas shoppers and ‘The Shopping List’, where customers can get an assistant to gather all the items they want to buy while they kick back with a glass of fizz.
Both services are free with no minimum spend but need to be booked.
John Lewis said that despite the £10,000 price tag on its private shopping service, it wanted to ‘dispel the myth’ that personal shopping was ‘the reserve of exclusive boutiques for the famous few’.
Peter Cross, director of customer experience, said: ‘The role of shops has changed. If you’re going to get off the sofa and go into town to a shop you want more than transacting.
‘Ultimately that comes down to the level of service and the level of experience you get so it’s a really natural shift for us to bring personal shopping to everyone.’
Cross admitted that the more expensive private shopping ‘was not for everyone’ but said it was likely to be popular with large groups and for homeowners carrying out refurbishments.
He added: ‘On the surface it sounds like a lot of money, but if you are refurbishing your home, once you add up what it takes to do that, such as buying sofas, carpets, wallpaper and a new television, it can quite quickly get to that amount of money.’
Under the steer of Nickolds, 45, John Lewis has undergone the biggest transformation in its 154-year-history.
Last month it launched a multi-million pound overhaul which included a slick television advert and rebrand to include the words ‘& Partners’ on its Waitrose and John Lewis logos.
Nickolds is also using 15 of John Lewis’s 51 shops as pilot stores to test out ideas such as personal styling, roof-top bars and pop-up cinemas.
And it has recently launched a trial with five Booths stores across northern England to install next day click-and-collect services in its shops.
It will mean that shoppers at Booths – nicknamed the Waitrose of the north – will be able to pick up and return John Lewis orders in areas where it does not have as many shops.
John Lewis’s latest initiatives are partly in response to the crisis gripping the High Street, which has seen traditional shops struggle to compete with online businesses such as Amazon.
It is also trying to appease loyal customers who have complained that the standard of its prided customer service has slipped.
According to The Times, more than two thirds of 5,300 John Lewis customer reviews on website Trust Pilot rated the department store as one out of five.
A spokesman for John Lewis said it apologised ‘unreservedly to any customer who did not receive the high level of service they rightly expect’.
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