A floral tribute and an homage to high tea mean a Peter Jones experience to mark the Chelsea Flower Show.

What do you do if you’re really well known for doing Christmas well? As a competent outfit, the rest of the year will tick over nicely but there will be a rush of anticipation as the Christmas season appears on the horizon once more.

To an extent, this is the dilemma facing John Lewis and one way round it is to think of events that may encourage repeat visits outside the golden quarter.

A prime example of this is the current ‘National Treasures’ promotion at the department store, which has been rolled out across all stores, in one form or another.

“Teaming up with Wedgwood creates something that will nod not just at the Chelsea Flower Show, but which will also act as a selling vehicle”

This is certainly good but account should also be taken of local trading variations, even within the same city.

In fairness, only London boasts more than a single John Lewis, having three currently and the fourth set to see the light of day in Westfield London at some point in 2018.

Meanwhile, attention should be drawn to what is happening in Peter Jones, the John Lewis store that sits on the corner of Sloane Square in Chelsea.

Chelsea Flower Show

The flower show, which started on May 23, is a major event on the Chelsea calendar. To mark the occasion, it is normal for retailers along the King’s Road to have an excess of floral visual merchandising in their windows.

“What has been done is certainly an experience, but it is also one that serves as a footfall go-get, or that’s the plan”

Peter Jones is no exception, but as John Lewis customer experience director, Peter Cross, says: “Over the summer we’re going to try a few different things.”

This means teaming up with Wedgwood to create something that will nod not just at the Chelsea Flower Show, but which will also act as a selling vehicle in its own right.

What has been done is certainly an experience, but it is also one that serves as a footfall go-get, or that’s the plan.

As part of this, since mid-May, there have been windows along the entire frontage with the theme of English gardens, while in-store since May 24 there has been a mock conservatory, set to remain in place for three weeks.

‘Wedgwood Conservatory’

Wedgwood Tea Conservatory afternoon tea 2

Peter Jones and Wedgwood – high tea

“I never like the word pop-up. This is a bit of fun, but it is also authentic,

Although it is a temporary structure, Cross is quick to dispel any assumptions: “I never like the word pop-up. This is a bit of fun, but it is also authentic. There’s something wonderful about celebrating these life moments.”

Cross says that the ‘Wedgwood Conservatory’ will be about marking a very traditional English summer, as much as paying homage to the local flower show.

The conservatory is located in the central atrium – a grand affair not muddled by the usual department store beauty paraphernalia as the category is not part of the Peter Jones offer.

“Customer knowledge is so high and everybody is so well-informed and on top of all of this, it’s John Lewis, so everything has to be good”

Peter Cross, John Lewis

A conservatory it may be, but as it is indoors it lacks glass, lending something more of the gazebo to the circular structure that hosts a tea bar and a civilised selection of tables and chairs, at which John Lewis anticipates serving up to 20,000 high teas.

It also uses filigree cast-iron work for the pillars that support the canopy, which is Wedgwood blue, naturally. It looks like a Victorian bandstand and as Wedgwood’s first stab at a tea experience, complete with a Wedgwood tea sommelier, it does make a clear point of difference for the store.

High customer expectations

Wedgwood mugs plates tea 3

Peter Jones and Wedgwood – tea packaging

The design theme of the chinaware and tea packaging is writ large and indeed eye-catching

This is about taking an event and using it as a springboard for a major promotion across a very large store.

“The level of expectation [from shoppers] is so high these days,” says Cross. “Customer knowledge is so high and everybody is so well-informed and on top of all of this, it’s John Lewis, so everything has to be good.”

As director of customer experience, Cross has his work cut out and there is unlikely to be any let-up in the pace.

“My role is about looking more holistically at the whole customer experience and this means looking at all points on the customer journey,” says Cross. “It’s the details that matter when it comes to inspiration and experience.”

Couple this with the ambition to bring Waitrose and John Lewis closer together and a lot of work lies ahead.

Experiential retailing is, perhaps, a form of escapism and the ability to enjoy a cuppa with ‘the definitive cucumber sandwich’ (high-tea prices start at £35.00) in the middle of a crowded part of central London shows what can be done with a little thought and the right partnership.

Peter Jones/Wedgwood, Sloane Square

Major feature The ‘conservatory’

Opened May 24, 2017

Ambience High-tea, English

Collaborations Wedgwood and Waitrose

Ambition A step and stem ahead of local retailers’ Chelsea Flower Show windows