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What John Lewis thinks men want

Drapers takes a tour of the rejuvenated menswear floor at John Lewis’s Oxford Street flagship and talks to customer experience director Peter Cross about what men want.

Hidden behind a false bookcase, bottles of gin and whiskey glint in the light of a secret speakeasy. There are all the hallmarks of a well-heeled member’s club – deep navy walls, lush velvet seating and elegant champagne flutes. This isn’t, however, London’s latest nightspot. Instead, this hidden gem is part of an extensive revamp of the menswear floor at John Lewis’s Oxford Street flagship.

You might not expect to find a secret bar just off a department store’s bustling shop floor, but John Lewis is putting services and experiences at the front and centre of its bid to get men’s attention. Described by the retailer as “the world’s smallest gentleman’s club”, the space will play host to two-hour VIP styling sessions. Bookable online or in store, customer can sip drinks and eat nibbles in the speakeasy as they receive one-to-one advice from specially trained style advisers. The VIP experience costs £75, £50 of which is redeemable against purchases.

If you present something to a male shopper with enough conviction and expertise, in an environment where he feels comfortable, he will listen

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis

John Lewis unveiled its new and improved menswear floor last week (18 November). The 20,000 sq ft space has undergone an extensive redesign. Sleek black fittings and pops of colour – flashes of gold, navy and vibrant orange – create a modern, masculine space. Neatly parcelled up into different brands, it is both easy to shop and shows off several new additions to John Lewis’s third-party label mix, including Albam Utility and It’s All Good Folk. Different sections for each brand are clear. 

Independent spirit

The department store overhauled its menswear product offer in September to include more independent labels, as well as modernising own brands Kin and John Lewis & Partners. Sales of the John Lewis & Partners menswear collection are up 10% year-on-year since the relaunch.

“The thing that has really given us a laser focus is concentrating on how men shop and the recognition that – although this is a generalisation –they haven’t got a lot of confidence when it comes to buying fashion,” Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis, tells Drapers.

“Possibly they are afraid of it, they might avoid it entirely. Often, they are creatures of habit. That recognition of how men shop has given us the impetus to create a new space that was built with men in mind. The exciting thing is that, if you present something to a male shopper with enough conviction and expertise, in an environment where he feels comfortable, he will listen.”

We took a step back and really thought about what was going to tick men’s boxes

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis

Cross argues that now is a good time for the department store to be focusing on its menswear shopper.

“There’s an opportunity in the menswear market,” he adds. “Men’s fashion goes through peaks and troughs of either being scary or samey. At the moment, the market has some really phenomenal independent brands. Men are also experimenting with cosmetics and skincare – they’re expressing themselves and that’s exciting.”

As well as the VIP styling experience, there are other styling options on offer designed to “demystify menswear shopping”. Appointments can be made for “mission-based” styling appointments, such as a black-tie event or workwear wardrobe update. For the time-pressed shopper, John Lewis offers a “walk and talk” service, which does not need to be pre-booked.

“We took a step back and really thought about what was going to tick men’s boxes,” Cross explains. “The Walk and Talk service, for example, is very easy and non-threatening. You don’t have to book, and a member of staff will simply walk around the shop floor with you, ask about your style, and pick you out some items. It’s good old-fashioned service with someone who really knows their stuff.”

Learning zone

Alongside the service proposition, John Lewis has also introduced The Pitch: a 1,000 sq ft event space which will hold workshops on subjects such as learning latte art or picking a fragrance.

Special attention has been paid to the fitting rooms, where deep blue carpets and curtains in shades of pink and red create a premium atmosphere. The focus here is on getting customers what they need – quickly – and staff have been trained to make product and trend suggestions.

Well designed and welcoming, John Lewis has been clever to put good service at the heart of its new menswear floor. The revitalised offer should appeal to menswear shoppers, but the retailer will also need to ensure its suite of new styling options are properly communicated to ensure maximum take-up.

 

 

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