What Is John Lewis?
John Lewis is a chain of retail stores with their headquarters in London. It was founded in the 19th century by (of course) a man named John Lewis.
From its beginnings in 1864 as a single store on Oxford Street (where the company still maintains a massive retail store) the company grew to include thirty-two stores in England, Scotland, and Wales. Since 1925, the company’s slogan has been “Never Knowingly Undersold,” reflecting their position as a discount retailer, similar to Target stores in America.
John Lewis is famous for being a provider of goods to the Queen (as part of a Royal Warrant) as well as their fair business practices, such as the fact that all full-time employees share ownership of the company. John Lewis was the only large retail store that closed its doors on Mondays back when the UK had laws against operating on Sundays — they did this to give their employees a full two-day weekend. This policy has changed, as the laws on conducting business on Sundays have relaxed, but this once long-standing tradition reflects the company’s continuing “employee-friendly” persona.
The History of John Lewis
The first John Lewis retail store on Oxford Street began life as a simple drapery shop — drapery referring to textiles and cloths of all types. It took forty years for John Lewis to acquire another shop, but by the time his son took control of the company in the early 20th century, John Lewis was expanding far beyond its original product line.
The 20th century saw John Lewis expanding time and again, opening its first shops outside London, and diversifying their investments and their product line. Following a trend seen in American big box retail stores, John Lewis shops now include bistros, banking, and other options, making a John Lewis store something of a one-stop shop for people in the UK.
These days, the presence of a John Lewis shop is a sign of economic prosperity. Often, a John Lewis store is the anchor in a new big retail center or shopping mall. UK developers see a John Lewis store as a commercial magnet, and in a time when much of the world is in financial disarray, John Lewis continues to expand, having opened three new stores already in 2010.
What Does John Lewis Sell?
Billing themselves as “Britain’s favorite retailer,” John Lewis stores sell a huge array of products, comparable to the product line you’d find at large American retailers like Wal-Mart or Target. Just like the big retailers in America, John Lewis forms partnerships with well-known brands (like Penguin Clothing or Greenapple Electronics) and they sell their own line of products, known simply as John Lewis.
What big box retailers did in America — condense several shopping experiences into one — John Lewis is doing in the UK. Rather than shopping at an electronics store, having lunch at a cafe, and buying a new outfit for work at a clothes shop, you can do all three in a John Lewis store. A quick glance at a John Lewis retail store reveals products sold in various categories, such as:
- Home and Garden
- Men’s and Women’s Clothes
- Baby and Child
- Sport and Leisure
Each category is further divided so it’s easy to find products at a John Lewis store or on their website. There are John Lewis branded products in every category, though John Lewis sells hundreds of different brands and tends to depend less on its own product sales than big retailers in America. Put simply, John Lewis is not quite Wal-Mart and not quite a mall department store.
John Lewis Insurance
Continuing their expansion into the world of insurance, John Lewis offers insurance products in too many varieties to mention. The traditional insurance options are here — home insurance, car insurance, etc. Americans may expect an insurance expansion to include health insurance, but remember that the UK’s health system works differently than our own, and health insurance is not a concern.
John Lewis is famous for offering a few really cool niche insurance options. Wedding insurance from John Lewis, for instance, costs as little as $60 or $70 and can protect you from damage to your wedding items (such as dresses, cakes, etc.) as well as cancellation due to illness or other catastrophe. This coverage is available for up to tens of thousands of dollars.
John Lewis’ other insurance products — pet insurance, travel insurance, etc. — are perfect for the UK market. Travel and backpacker’s insurance is huge in the UK — proximity to amazing foreign destinations means people simply travel more, and these kind of insurance products protect both the people vacationing and their investment.
The Future of John Lewis
With the company’s continuing expansion into the UK and their continued growth in terms of number of retail stores, it is not too far-fetched to imagine John Lewis stores opening in America. But as John Lewis has not officially announced plans to break into the American market, we can only concentrate on changes they’re making now.
John Lewis is constantly altering their point of sale system in an attempt to move customers through the checkout process faster. This new point of sale system carries another huge benefit for the company — like Wal-Mart first perfected in America, the new system will allow John Brooks to monitor sales in real time from a centralized location. If nothing else, this plan further cements the notion that John Lewis is doing extremely well in a tough economic environment.