Department Stores are Exhausting – Is Found Boutique by John Lewis an Answer?

6 August 2015

Department stores have long been feeling like big warehouses with just too much choice and a completely tiring and unpleasant shopping experience.

Plenty of similar brands under one roof with little or none concessions’ personalisation to differentiate one brand from another; cold and very bright lights making you feel completely exposed (see the recent article on how bright lights make you self-conscious); staff who doesn’t know where you can find a particular piece (how can they know with thousands of products and hundreds of brands)…

I could go on forever but we all know that department stores, even the best ones, became just too cognitively overwhelming to shop in. Some have tried to create concessions which feel more like separate stores, others decided to streamline their offering and yet others to create a sub-departments.

A recent attempt in making shopping in department stores less mentally and emotionally exhausting is Found Boutique by John Lewis. It is a curated selection of womenswear, accessories, homeware and electronics.

Paula Nickolds, brand and buying director, mentioned in numerous interviews that the decision to create this concept followed an extensive consumer research in which they found that people want all areas of their life to express their personal style.

Any psychologist would be able to tell them that in 5 min! The trouble was that until recently there were no ‘lifestyle shops’ – shops which contain all products, from clothing to homeware to electronics, which people use to express their personality. We had big shops which had all the departments but didn’t merchandise headphones next to a handbag and a necklace.

We know from various scientific studies that we take all aspects of a person’s attire and surroundings into account when forming a first impression about them. So why retail industry didn’t make it easier for us by curating our personality expressions earlier?!

Not sure but certainly John Lewis’ move to introduce a ‘curated holistic lifestyle’ boutique-in-store is an attempt to help customers in expressing their personality in all aspects of their lives.

It also shows customers that John Lewis understands them and their busy lives and is trying to make them a little less stressful. Adding Joe and The Juice cafe further accentuates that point.

Obviously, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. Introduction of this new boutique-in-store concept will surely secure them more customers who are too busy to shop in full size John Lewis’ stores. It will also result in higher brand advocacy, stronger consumer-brand relationship and first and foremost increased dwell time and sales. The brand loyalty and customer return rate is also likely to rise.

I also suspect that such concept will attract the younger, more creative and trendy shopper who might have not normally thought of going to John Lewis. I wouldn’t be surprised if John Lewis has a pop up shop in Shoreditch or around in their plans. I would have…

The first Found Boutique at John Lewis will open at the end of September in the new Birmingham store at Grand Central station. Others are planned to follow.

John Lewis Birmingham


Image Source: John Lewis