John Lewis is a chain of department stores in the UK which, alongside grocery stablemate Waitrose, forms the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership.
John Lewis was formed in 1846 when its eponymous founder opened a drapery shop on Oxford Street. In 1906, Lewis bought a controlling stake in the famous Sloane Square store, Peter Jones, which it still operates today.
By 1914, Lewis appointed his son, John Spedan Lewis, as chair of Peter Jones and the foundations for the John Lewis business we know today were laid. Spedan Lewis created the “never knowingly undersold” pledge, and made early moves to establish the partnership model, paying staff based on turnover and launching a fortnightly newspaper to keep workers informed about the retailer’s performance.
In the 1930s, John Lewis expanded, buying businesses including Jessop & Son and Tyrrell & Green, but did not rebrand them all to John Lewis until the early 2000s as it sought to establish a nationally recognised brand.
But the business has been challenged since the turn of the millennium, with profits falling and its much vaunted partnership bonus - paid to all staff - being scrapped in 2020 for the first time since 1953.