Department store chain to open beauty spas and hairdressers in bid to differentiate itself

Department store chain John Lewis is to introduce services such as beauty spas and hairdressers to its larger stores from next year as it seeks to create more theatre for its customers.

John Lewis will take out some stockroom space in larger shops to make way for new customer experiences. Services introduced are also likely to include manicures, make-up lessons and more theatrical cafes and food areas.

One of the first stores expected to be revamped next year is in Cheadle, the well-heeled Cheshire town.

The drive to enhance customer experience is seen by industry observers as a way that retailers can differentiate their bricks-and-mortar operations from their online offers.

Retail Expertise managing director Michael Poynor said: “Improving in-store experience is essential for a department store. It has got to be a good experience, otherwise you’re just going to sit at home on your laptop.”

Verdict analyst Maureen Hinton said: “Retailers are increasingly looking to add value to the store experience - not only to create difference from online, it helps drive footfall and keeps customers in the stores for longer.”

John Lewis is able to convert some space in its larger stores following supply chain improvements in the last few years that have reduced the amount of stockroom space required.

Department stores including Selfridges and Harvey Nichols already offer some customer experiences such as spas and hairdressing, and John Lewis has restaurants in some stores. Internationally, US retailer Nordstrom - one of the most highly regarded department store groups in the world - runs spas in 14 shops.

One observer warned, however, that creating customer experiences should be treated with caution. He pointed to Wellbeing, the experience division launched by Boots at the start of the decade and subsequently abandoned.

John Lewis confirmed its ‘experience’ strategy but would not provide any further details.

The retailer has bucked the downturn and has been trading strongly all year in stores and online. In the week to last Saturday, total sales surged 12% to £88m. The retailer also said online sales would break the £500m barrier this year.