John Lewis is set to become the first UK retailer to sell Oculus Rift headsets and will enhance its in-store experience with live demos. 

The department store retailer plans to launch the virtual-reality headsets in 13 of its stores and online on September 20, as it continues to grow its range of virtual reality products.

“In-store experiences are now key as [John Lewis has] seen customer demand for physical experiences before committing to purchase increase”

From the start of the month John Lewis will host in-store demonstrations at its flagship Oxford Street store, during which shoppers can try out Lucky’s Tale – the game included with a purchase of the headset.

The move follows John Lewis’s installation of a 1,000 sq ft dedicated smart home department at the flagship store, and mirrors the retailer’s desire to enhance the in-store experience and “demystify the latest smartest technology” for its customers.

John Lewis buying director for electricals and home technology Johnathan Marsh said: “In-store experiences are now key as we’ve seen customer demand for physical experiences before committing to purchase increase.”

The retailer has dubbed the headset – owned by Facebook and priced at £549 – as the next generation in virtual reality. It said it combines “state-of-the-art displays and optics with 360 degree sound” to create an immersive experience for its users.

John Lewis head of buying for electricals Will Jones said: “We’ve seen interest in virtual reality rise dramatically in the last few months, with sales of the Samsung Gear VR headset, powered by Oculus, up 310% in the last six weeks alone.

“The Oculus Rift device is a significant progression in virtual reality technology, set to reinvent how we work and play, and we are proud to offer our customers the chance to experience it first.”