I agree with Mary Portas on John Lewis

I’ve found myself agreeing with Mary Portas before, or rather, the other way around.

Since I moved from Amsterdam to England, I was very disappointed by two things:

  • That just about everyone here was lying all the time and saw nothing wrong with it
  • That many products I bought here were of horribly bad quality

John Lewis is a marked exception. I bought something there in 2005 that has weathered exceptionally well and is still going strong, and I had asked the advice of employees there but they refused to make me any promises whatsoever. They weren’t even willing to lie a little bit.

I think the British have seen so many valuable things collapse in the past decade or so that it is important for them to leave them something that they can still count on, and it sounds like leaving the structure of John Lewis has to be part of that.

I am not familiar with the company’s struggles but energy and real estate are bound to be a major factor. Its problems are likely similar to Debenhams which I have so hated to see go. What else is left?

We don’t need more Primarks.

John Lewis will likely need to make compromises, yes, but those have to be compromises that do not undermine what the company stands for.

John Lewis might learn a few things from TK Maxx, which does not seek prime real estate unlike John Lewis. John Lewis probably needs to relocate (some of) its stores and requires a good real estate scout who understands the company and its customers.

But I’m just guessing. I haven’t looked into the matter. It’s just that I would hate to see John Lewis succumb too.

For Dutch folks: in terms of shopping experience, Debenhams was and John Lewis is a bit like the Dutch De Bijenkorf stores (and also a little like Dutch V&D, which collapsed in 2015), but John Lewis is fully owned by its staff.

https://www.kennethsmit.com/en/kennisbank/wat-kunnen-we-leren-van-vend/ (in English)

“The moment you antagonise your employees or sales people, your company is doomed to collapse. So, no matter how difficult it may be, always make sure that your employees remain protected and motivated.”

De Bijenkorf, too, used to look after its staff well and was a trendsetter in that area when I temped at its holding offices (while wrapping up my Master’s). I presume that they’ve managed to retain those company values over the years, but it’s currently owned by the Selfridges Group.



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