Ahead of the opening of its new £33m Westfield White City store on Tuesday March 20, 154-year-old high street giant John Lewis is still proving an innovator in the retail industry.
The department store chain has enlisted the National Theatre to train all 500 partners at its new London shop, which will provide over 20 bespoke services for customers across four trading floors covering 230,000 sq ft.
Repeating an initiative used at the company’s Oxford branch, which opened last year, store manager Ruth Scharvona is confident it will benefit her team in west London.
Ruth said: “We’ve invested heavily in their behaviours and service training.
“We’ve been working with the National Theatre and acting skills to see how partners can be as confident as possible when they’re interacting with customers.
“When we looked to see in London who could best partner us, National Theatre absolutely fitted that bill.
“We have a strong reputation for service and we just want to keep on investing in that.”
It is those experiences and services that Ruth believes will make this John Lewis store unique.
Customers will also be able to book a holiday, visit the in-store opticians and have their home interior redesigned all in one visit, while the personal stylists will sort out wardrobe nightmares.
Ruth said: “They’ll be able to help customers from finding the perfect pair of jeans to, ‘oh my goodness, I’ve got a formal dinner tonight, what am I going to wear?’ to a full seasonal wardrobe range.
“If I have a couple of hours free with a friend I may want an hour of personal styling but I may want my nails and brows done with a glass of Prosecco at the end.
“That’s the sort of thing the experience team can curate and that is a very new innovation John Lewis is experimenting with.
“Every part of London has its own vibe, its own community and I’m looking forward to seeing what west London customers think of the assortment we have pulled together for them.”
Ruth emphasised the importance of customer feedback, both at Westfield White City and at other John Lewis stores, in ensuring the new shop is more than just a department store.
“The shop needs to be everything customers already expect from John Lewis. But equally customers want to be entertained, they want an experience,” explained Ruth.
“John Lewis has its own type of service and we’re constantly talking and listening to our customers to see how we can get better and better.
“Our customers are telling us they also want to learn with us. So our third floor will be our discovery room where we’ll be putting on classes.
“It could be knitting, calligraphy, wine tasting courses. We’re really experimenting in White City and we’re very proud to be the first London shop to do some of that stuff.”
Final preparations are almost complete for what promises to be a grand unveiling on Tuesday as part of Westfield’s £600m expansion.
Westfield’s expansion opens at 9:30am before John Lewis welcomes shoppers in at 10:00am.
Ruth said: “It’s a beautiful-looking shop, we’ve got some great brands, over 1000, for customers to peruse, including some of our great own brands.
“I hope customers feel they can spend pretty much all day with us because there will be something happening in every area of the shop.
“There will be more than the ability just to buy, there will be lots on the day to experience.”