John Lewis, a high street favourite

About a year ago I wrote a blog for <a href="http://www.velvetpr singulair for”>Velvet reviewing my local high street in Crawley – the outlook was bleak. 12 months later and not much has changed, although the town centre does now sport a Wilkinson which has been dramatically overhauled, making it into the news pages of Retail Week. On a recent visit the store was offering free face painting and ice cream, the time before that shoppers were being treated to a free mini manicure. I’ve not taken up the offer of any of these little extras but it’s encouraging to see the store trying to ‘do more’ to engage with customers and keep them in the store for longer.

John Lewis Liverpool

John Lewis fascia

But what the folk of Crawley (myself included) would really welcome is a John Lewis. The dream, according to the Crawley Observer, has been for John Lewis to act as an anchor store, with other smaller retailers following in its footsteps. While many people moan and groan about Crawley, it actually has a decent selection of shops and restaurants, drawing in shoppers from other local areas including Horsham, Horley and Redhill. So if John Lewis was to open a store it wouldn’t have to worry about a lack of footfall.

There are many reasons why John Lewis would be a welcome addition to Crawley’s shopping offering – firstly because it represents higher-end retailing, and would therefore draw in a broader demographic of shoppers from other local areas. Secondly, it would provide more jobs and thirdly, in my opinion, John Lewis is one of the most forward-thinking retailers on the high street.

Just this morning the retailer announced that it is preparing to launch a restaurant brand as it seeks to improve on the non-branded restaurants and cafeterias it already has in its stores (City AM,

12 August 2013).

I’ve eaten in a few of John Lewis’ cafeterias before and surprisingly, have found them to be disappointing. Not only has there been a lack of serving staff, but a distinct lack of food and cutlery. The one exception was the restaurant in its Kingston upon Thames store which overlooks the river and had a good selection of meal options.

The retailer has made significant investment in many areas of the business, particularly in multichannel and ecommerce, but until now, its in-store cafe offering has been pretty woeful. Commenting on its plans to change this, John Lewis chief executive Andy Street said: “The world is changing very fast. Given that the world is moving online, all non-food retailers are having to work out what the new ways of satisfying customers are.”

Offering somewhere where shoppers can have a bit of downtime between store visits is essential – it’s also a way to keep people in store for longer. It’s positive to see John Lewis extending its investment into all areas of the customer experience. Here’s hoping it finds its way to Crawley sometime soon!