Department store group John Lewis has launched a virtual personal shopping service using Zoom.

The service, which enables customers to be shown around departments on video by an in-store adviser, will initially be available at John Lewis’s Southampton store and London’s Peter Jones.

The initiative is designed to win back trade and utilise stores as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on retailers as city centre footfall remains subdued.

It is an attempt by John Lewis to make the most of the specialist advice and standards of service that it is well known for, deploying the video-calling technology that has become ubiquitous during the pandemic.

Customers can book a free 30-minute appointment, supplying details about what they are looking for.

On the call they will then be shown products selected by a personal shopping adviser, and have an opportunity to ask questions and see other products.

Items can be sent to customers’ homes or click and collect arranged.

John Lewis head of customer experience Steven Hand said: “What our partners offer in our shops is impartial expertise and advice, and this pilot means we can offer that again to customers all over the UK who cannot get to our shops. The lockdown has changed customer habits but customer service remains as important as ever.”

Before the pandemic John Lewis had increasingly been focusing on providing high quality in-store experiences, Since the outbreak the retailer has sought to replicate that with virtual services including home interiors and personal styling advice, and virtual classes such as wine tasting and skincare.

Other retailers, such as Dixons Carphone, have also used video technology to enable staff in stores to advise and sell to customers.