John Lewis boss Andy Street is “quietly optimistic” about Christmas trading, but admits that if the warm weather continues for another month there will not be enough time to make up the sales shortfall.
In an upbeat address to a press dinner on Tuesday evening, Street predicted that November 28 – “Black Friday” – would beat all records for online shopping, while Monday December 22 would be the busiest Christmas shopping day in the stores after what he said would be a “great weekend” of December 20-21. He believes consumer confidence is “better than last year”.
Street and his senior team revealed that, so far this year, John Lewis is 9.2% up on sales, with the stores 3.5% ahead and online up by 25%. It will, he said, be “a click-and-collect Christmas”. “Our job is to make it easy for a customer to shop how they want,” he explained.
Mark Lewis, online director, added: “Convenience will be the battleground. Customers want their shopping to be wrapped around their lifestyle.” Revealing that more customers have online purchases delivered to a store than to their home or workplace, Lewis pointed out that the partnership offered 350 John Lewis and Waitrose pick-up points, plus more than 5,000 local convenience stores and petrol stations.
Lewis said that going forward John Lewis’s investment in IT systems would rise from 18% of the business’s spend to 32%: “This level of commitment allows us to build the omnichannel experience.” Part of the strategy involves a 675,000 sq ft distribution centre at Magna Park near Milton Keynes, which will be operational in 2016.
Retail director Andrew Murphy revealed that the ongoing refurbishment of the Oxford Street flagship would see a new home department created across 100,000 sq ft on the second and third floors.
Brand director Paula Nickolds told the journalists home sales were up 11% this year. She predicted that “cold weather/warm handle” gifts such as cashmere sweaters, alongside wearable technology, would be popular this Christmas, but the John Lewis team agreed the big driver of sales would be tablets, with Apple likely to be the frontrunner.
Looking further ahead, Street said that, in addition to the eight store openings already announced, he imagined John Lewis would want to reach a figure of about 50 stores across the UK. It currently operates 31.
• This year’s Christmas advertisement will be aired for the first time on November 6.