Since the demise of Marshall and Snelgrove where titled ladies did their shopping, then Schofields, famous for a cradle to grave shopping experience, Mathias Robinson’s and Lewis’s, department store, choice has been limited in Leeds’s for lovers of quality retail therapy who like the experience of shopping in a department store. So when the opportunity arose I couldn’t wait to see what this John Lewis store would be all about!
Putting on a high viz jacket, safety boots, hat and gloves I was one of the privileged few to take a sneak preview at the construction site that is fasting turning into an exciting new retail concept.
Work on this £37 million investment began in March 2014 and by the time it opens in October it will have taken 165,000 man hours to complete.
As we made our way round the five floors, walking over 48,000 tiles that have been laid, we could see the shop was beginning to take shape in an exciting way.
“We don’t just take a square box and make it into a shop. Our job is to make it a retail experience”, said Gavin Smith, Senior Manager of Implementation.
For before John Lewis opens its doors there will be a military style operation, taking 21 days, to get it ready for its customers with partners, experts in their own fields, coming from all over the country.
Over the magic 21 days 600,000 lines of stock worth £14 million will be delivered in 2000 cages and 28,000 totes via 250 direct deliveries.
And it doesn’t end there. From folding towels the John Lewis Way to testing the escalators, sampling café food and customer role play the whole operation is fined tuned down to the last coat hanger and price ticket.
“Every hour of every day is scheduled to make sure everything is perfect both front and back of house” adds Gavin.
The store is going to be spacious and with great views from its windows over where retail therapy began in Kirkgate Market. The atrium is the piece de resistance of the store – which makes it light and gives a feeling of space.
Head of Branch, James Prince, said: “The way people shop is changing, and customers want shops to offer them more than just products. John Lewis Leeds will be our most service and experience led shop to date, as we continue to offer more that can’t be done online. The &Beauty concept in particular is very exciting, with John Lewis Leeds being one of the first shops to have this.”
The &Beauty spa concept will offer over 120 treatments from express appointments offering manicures, blow dries, lash and brow services to more indulgent offers like facials, massage and hair colour. In addition to &Beauty, the premium beauty hall on the ground floor will offer a whole host of brands.
Fashion lovers will be tempted with brand new luxury womenswear label, Modern Rarity, offering 90 items from its AW16 collection of soft earthy tones designed for layering and creating beautiful silhouettes. Loved&Found, a fresh new shopping approach for John Lewis, will feature a range of designers from across the UK and create the feel of a boutique shop within the department store. There will also be a Personal Styling Team offering three different levels of personal styling.
John Lewis is noted for its home wear and the Smart Home department will have all the connected technology to simplify life and is the first retailer in the UK to sell the Samsung family hub refrigerator, and Resmed S+, the world’s first non-contact sleep sensor.
The Home Design Studio experts will also be on hand to help families redesign their home, whether it’s a complete revamp or a seasonal update for one room.
John Lewis Leeds will be the second John Lewis to host a dedicated community space on the shop floor, which charities and community groups can hire for hosting events and workshops.
The new store will have lots of places to relax in including a Place to Eat Cafe and Benugo Cafe:Bar. And when it comes to holidays look no further as there’s a Kuoni travel concession and Bureau de Change.
I for one can’t wait for those doors to open but hopefully I won’t be wearing my builders jacket, safety boots and hard hat on that memorable day!