John Lewis operations director Sean Allam said the department store group’s plans to open its first airport store will help it transform into a successful international brand.
John Lewis revealed today that it will become the first department store chain to open an airport shop when it launches in the revamped Heathrow Terminal 2 next June.
Allam said: “John Lewis is seen as a successful domestic retail brand, it’s not seen as a successful international retail brand. We’re starting to show that over the medium to long term our intention is to be just that.”
Allam said John Lewis wanted to tap into an international customer base by opening the £1m 3,600 sq ft shop at the terminal, which he said is predominantly used by non-UK travellers.
“The fundamental driver for this is to gain some exposure for the John Lewis brand beyond the UK,” he said.
“It will support our online international business and long term we know we want to grow beyond the UK.”
John Lewis delivers online orders to 33 countries. It also has a wholesale agreement to sell product through Shinsegae department stores in South Korea. “We’re looking at more of those [opportunities in other countries] as we speak,” said Allam. “For the moment the strategy is to look where we can wholesale and support online.”
He said there are “no plans as of yet” for standalone overseas John Lewis stores but did not rule it out in the long term.
Allam said John Lewis’ Heathrow offer would have to be “heavily edited” to fit in the 3,600 sq ft space. The store will focus on fashion, accessories and gifts. There will also be a small home offering, he said.
Allam could not say at this point how many SKUs would be on offer but did say that the product mix will be about 70% own brand, with the remainder made up of branded products. He said John Lewis could not sell beauty or electricals in the shop as other retailers already have exclusive deals to sell the big name brands in those categories at Terminal 2.
Challenges will include understanding how airport customers shop and also ensuring standards of service are high, according to Allam. “We have to make sure we understand the customer base, it will be different,” he said. “And we have to think carefully about what the John Lewis service proposition will be like in this environment. We’ll staff it well. We’ll make sure the customers get the service they expect from John Lewis.”