John Lewis has always traded on its superior levels of service. But as retailers come under increased pressure to cut costs and maximise productivity, it needs to ensure it dedicates sufficient resources to that defining characteristic.
The department store chain reported a crash in pre-tax profits in is first half, hit by the costs of a redundancy round and the associated restructuring.
But keeping its famous standards of service in mind, the retailer has gone left-field, making more of that proposition than ever before as a point of difference against the rest of the market.
Its new Oxford store is the prime example of this: 20% of its square footage is given over to services such as a beauty bar, its first ever menswear personal styling service and a tech training room, where expert partners train customers and other partners alike on the new tech they are buying and selling.
Bringing it all together is a concierge desk.
“People have talked about concierge-ing and personal shopping in the past,” says Cross. “But we have certainly not put together all of our experiences into one place and this dedicated specialist team can literally plan your entire day for you.
“And you can book a partner. That, we believe, is something customers will want so they know that when they get here they can come straight to the experience desk and their day is planned.”