John Lewis is mulling a move to introduce co-working or serviced office areas into its larger stores as it seeks better use of excess space.

The department store business could partner with an existing operator or launch its own brand under the plans, which remain at an early stage.

John Lewis is initially running the rule over its older, larger locations – including its store at Newcastle’s Intu Eldon Square shopping centre – as potential adoptees of new office space, Property Week reported.

A source close to the retailer told the publication that bringing in flexible office space was among a number of potential initiatives the business was exploring as it bids to make better use of space.

However, John Lewis plans to carry out a cost assessment on the proposal in the coming months, before making a decision on whether or not to press ahead with the plan early next year.

A John Lewis spokeswoman said: “We are constantly evolving our store space to ensure we make the best use of it and this includes reviewing unused space, but have no firm plans to make changes at this stage.”

Department store chains are grappling with the issue of surplus space following a rapid change in consumer habits towards more convenience-driven and online shopping.

John Lewis’ online business accounts for around 40% of its total sales, but many of its department store rivals are trailing that figure by some distance.

Experiential drive

Competitors including Debenhams and House of Fraser are also attempting to make the shopping experience more experiential in order to drive footfall to stores and increase dwell time.

House of Fraser underlined its commitment to that drive in May, when it poached Goodwood Group boss Alex Williamson to become its new chief executive.

The retailer’s executive chairman Frank Slevin said at the time of his appointment: “Alex is uniquely placed to execute our vision, and to contribute his extensive expertise of delivering compelling and engaging experiences for the customer.”

While John Lewis is also enhancing its experiential credentials, installing spas and signing partnerships with foodservice operators Benugo and Comptoir Libanais, it could also look to tap into the boom in demand for co-working space.

According to Knight Frank, there is now nine million sq ft of flexible office space in central London alone.