John Lewis & Waitrose create experimental concept shop

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners will launch a customer-centric concept shop at its Southampton location opening tomorrow (Tuesday November 19), where a combination of services and experiences led by staff will take centre stage on every floor.

If these ‘experience playgrounds’ are successful, they could be rolled out across the country.

The retailers, which are owned and operated by John Lewis Partnership (JLP), have pulled together a team of in-store experts including interior designers, chefs and wine connoisseurs, gardeners, gadget specialists, personal stylists and make-up artists.

They said: ’Customers could start their day at our brand new Farm Shop and Roof Garden from JLP’s Leckford Estate, pause for a 15-minute fashion fix in our Style Studio, and learn to bake bread in the first ever Waitrose & Partners Cookery School to open in a John Lewis & Partners shop. They could compile a moodboard for a home refurbishment in The World of Design, attend a workshop on gardening, and experiment with make-up or gadgets in one of our ‘stay and play’ areas.

‘There will be opportunities to learn a new skill, with pop-up workshops ranging from barista and photography courses to wreath-making and modern calligraphy. Over the Christmas period, customers can learn to make festive treats such as gingerbread and yule logs at the Cookery School, as well as receive advice on how to style a Christmas tree or find the perfect party outfit.’

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis & Partners, commented: “Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to expertise and impartial advice in as many areas of their lives as we possibly can – in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

“We know that shopping for a new gadget or beauty product can be a daunting experience, with so much choice on offer. We want to help navigate customers through that. Our new concept shop is an example of how we’re reinventing the department store of the future to make us stand out from the competition.”

The range of free and paid-for events includes:

INTERIOR DESIGNERS AT THE WORLD OF DESIGN

Stylists in this brand new design hub will offer free 15 minute drop-in appointments to help customers design an instant home makeover. There will be inspiring room sets so customers can visualise how our latest furniture can be styled with lamps, rugs and bookshelves to create a new room. Customers can also create a bespoke magnetic moodboard with samples of carpets, wallpaper and fabric, to make it easier to remodel their home. The stylists can also visit customers at home to help them completely remodel their kitchen or living spaces.

THE WAITROSE COOKERY SCHOOL

Waitrose & Partners Cookery School chefs will encourage customers to get creative with courses ranging from pan-Asian cooking to learning classic techniques, including pasta and bread making. Drinks specialists will also be on hand to provide expertise at in-store events or help to host wine, gin or whisky tastings from the comfort of customers’ homes.

THE FARM SHOP AND ROOF GARDEN

A rooftop garden has been filled with planted apple trees, providing a taste of rural living in the heart of the city. It will sit alongside the Leckford farm shop and café, and a curated assortment of lifestyle products and fresh produce. From Thursday December 5, customers can sample a rooftop menu inspired by the flavours of the countryside. The Leckford Estate in Hampshire, just 25 miles from the Southampton shop, is the only farm owned by a UK food retailer and has a professional in-house horticultural team as part of its specialist plant nursery. Talks will also be held in-store on subjects including how to create a terrarium to wreath-making.

THE DOWNLOAD

Staff will aim to help demystify technology for customers in a new gadget hub called The Download. Shoppers can ask how to set up their new devices, and get the best use out of them. They can also bring their purchases back into the shop for technical help. Customers will be encouraged to ‘play’ with the latest phones, music equipment and tablets. The staff will also hold regular tech talks on subjects such as how to take the best selfie or family snapshot using a smartphone.

THE STYLE STUDIO

Personal stylists will find outfits for a party, a holiday or everyday workwear – or a complete wardrobe overhaul. Walk-in wardrobes will replace conventional fitting rooms and men’s and women’s style studios will offer customers a place to book free style appointments, peruse rails of clothes picked out just for them, read the latest fashion magazines or sit on sofas and listen to music while they enjoy a glass of wine or a beer. In addition, men who don’t want a formal styling session can do a free ‘walk and talk’ style session on the shop floor.

THE BEAUTY SOCIETY

Staff will help with personal consultations and make-up talks at The Beauty Society in the revamped shop. They will work at new demonstration tables where customers are encouraged to ‘stay and play’ with cosmetics across all brands. The experts will be impartial and can recommend the right look for customers using a range of different cosmetic brands stocked in the shop.

Customers are invited to book time with staff via the Southampton Experience Desk. Gift experience packages are also available to purchase. Customers can also view and book the full programme of payable events at experiences.johnlewis.com. More information can also be found at johnlewis.com.

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