John Lewis is piloting a new digital tool for its Any Shape, Any Fabric sofa service, using 3D printing and RFID tagging to help people choose their sofa.

The current Any Shape Any Fabric offer in John Lewis' York store

The current Any Shape, Any Fabric service, which is already available in stores, lets shoppers choose a picture of the shape of sofa they’d like from a range of cards, and then pick the fabric from a selection of swatches.

By contrast, the new service lets them choose a sofa shape from a range of 3D printed models, giving them a better idea of what the sofa looks like. They then place it on a ‘smart table’, which detects the RFID tag and shows the sofa on a computer screen in front of them. Once they pick their fabric swatch and place it next to the 3D printed sofa on the smart table, the screen will show them a mock-up of what their sofa will look like, with the image changing colour as they pick different fabrics.

John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis, explains how the service works:

John Lewis has developed an interactive tool that boosts its Any Shape Any Fabric sofa service using 3D printing and RFID tagging. Innovation manager John Vary takes us through it.

The service will be trialled at the retailer’s Oxford Street flagship store for six weeks from the end of October, and Vary says the aim is to learn about how shoppers interact with it. It will come out of the store over Christmas, and then go back in January.

Vary says the digital tool gives shoppers a better sense of what their sofa will look like, helping them to choose the sofa they want. “With a picture, you don’t get a sense of scale and size. Looking at a picture is not the same thing as being able to play with something, and this also takes away the complexity of navigating a computer screen.”

He adds the team will continue to look into how to develop the service. “We’re looking into how we can turn the sofa round on the screen,” he says. The eventual ambition is to roll the service out to every store that offers the Any Shape, Any Fabric service.