In Friday’s weekly trading report, it was fascinating to see that fashion had led the way in providing John Lewis with a substantial increase against last year. Yet perhaps it’s not that surprising. The retailer has been working on raising its fashion game for years now.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that a visit to a John Lewis store was about things for the home.
This was the place you went to get Hungarian goose feather-filled pillows, a cappuccino machine or maybe a leather sofa. There was also the fabric department - the place where generations of children waited impatiently as their parents decided on which pattern would be best for the sitting room and might match the carpets and the three-piece.
What you didn’t tend to visit this bastion of the middle classes for was to pick up fab gear. True, fashion was there, but it was always something of an also-ran and there was more than a hint of the blue rinse about the whole enterprise. And this really wasn’t long ago.
Now all has changed and reading the report on the week’s trading last Friday, it was fascinating to see that fashion had led the way in providing John Lewis with a substantial increase against last year. Yet perhaps it’s not that surprising.
The retailer has been working on raising its fashion game for years now and anybody who’s been down to Cardiff in the last few months is unlikely to have missed the thing of beauty that is the John Lewis store. And although there are many praiseworthy things about that emporium, it is the fashion floor that seems to have garnered more than its fair share of plaudits.
Some things might appear set in stone and the primacy of homewares over fashion at John Lewis always looked like one of them. In purely financial terms this is probably still the case, but judged by increases against the previous year, fashion looks to be in the driving seat.
And if you ask why, it has to be, in large part, to do with the shackles being taken off. Branded merchandise has been given its own in-store voice in the form of shop-fits and point of purchase, clarity of presentation has been increased and there is now almost a deal of glamour, yes glamour, about fashion in a number of John Lewis stores.
Not all of them, of course - as a recent visit to the Newcastle branch made very clear. But things have certainly changed and continue to do so. It seems improbable that fashion will ever finally overtake homewares as the mainstay of the John Lewis proposition, but given recent history, never say never.