Retail giant John Lewis have launched a pioneering new scheme to train over 500 partners in theatrical skills at the company’s newly-opened branch at White City, Westfield.
Actors from the National Theatre are being used to train staff in an attempt to improve customer service.
The initiative forms part of the retailer’s plans to respond to growing customer expectation for its shops to be inspiring places where customers go for style advice, exciting events and beauty treatments, as well as to buy products.
Peter Cross, Customer Experience Director for John Lewis said: “Retailers have talked about ‘retail theatre’ but as shopping habits change this has never been more important.
“We’re investing in this training with one of the world’s leading theatre companies because actors are outstanding communicators and that’s an important element in offering outstanding personal service.”
Every partner recruited to work at the new shop from those who work in the stockroom to the head of branch is undergoing the training, which is run by Theatreworks, the National Theatre’s training service.
John Lewis has turned to theatrical training because actors are outstanding communicators, and skilled at being on show and using their voices for long periods of time as people in retail do. The training covers voice and body language skills used by actors to communicate authentically with confidence.
The training sessions are led by experienced actors including Sarah Thom, who has played the character of Joan in the long-running comedy, ‘Clare in the Community’ and has often appeared on TV and on stage. Her TV credits include ‘Taboo’, Home Fires’, ‘Not Going Out’, ‘Doctors’ and ‘Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle’.
Sheila Chawla from the National Theatre who manages the training, said: “Our training sessions focus on the idea that communication is made up of not just what you say but how you say it. So body language, voice and expression are all as important as our words.
“We all find it more engaging when someone brings some of their personality to a conversation, meeting or presentation – and our training is all about giving you the confidence and the tools to do that.
“It’s all about being yourself just with a bit more skill. We’re excited to be working with John Lewis on this project and to be able to share skills from the theatre that can help John Lewis Partners engage with customers in a fresh and authentic way.”
John Lewis’s White City, Westfield shop is the anchor shop of the new £600m extension at Westfield London, which has built a reputation as a world-leading shopping experience and entertainment destination.
Over four floors, the shop will include features not offered in other John Lewis London shops, including Loved& Found – a stand-alone boutique for new and contemporary brands – and &Beauty, John Lewis’s spa concept.
The fashion floor will also showcase a new look including a dedicated personal styling studio, which is just one of the 23 services customers will be able to book via the new Experience Desk, offering a a ‘concierge style’ service to help them make the most of the shop and its services.