John Lewis is to open up its website for international orders to 25 European countries, enabling it to gather data on which cities could support physical department stores.

Andrea O’Donnell, commercial director at John Lewis, told the Financial Times that the “web-first” expansion strategy was “the most compelling”, adding that physical stores could follow in certain countries depending on levels of online success.

“To make a more significant investment, we need to be confident that the demand is worth it,” she said.

Orders from up to 25 European countries would be served via the existing John Lewis website from June.

Initially, continental consumers will not be able to purchase electrical products or larger items of furniture. Within the next 18 months, John Lewis will also consider launching foreign-language websites.