John Lewis trials “experience playgrounds” with newly designed concept store

If the trials are successful, the hubs – which offer everything from wine-tasting to make-up—will be rolled out country-wide.

John Lewis has redesigned its Southampton store to offer a more “customer-centric” experience.

On each of the shop’s four floors, there will be a total of seven “experience playgrounds” where visitors can attend workshops to learn a new skill or try out products on offers. Some sessions are free, while others are paid-for.

All the hubs at the concept store were designed in-house. John Lewis says that if these trials are successful, they could be rolled out across the country.

The Women’s Studio

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis, says: “Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to impartial expertise in as many areas of their lives as we possibly can.

“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.”

Selfie classes to wreath-making

The Men’s Style Studio

The activities on offer reflect the department store’s wide range of products. At ‘The Style Studio’, visitors can book free style-advice appointments and look through clothes picked out especially for them. At the gadget-focused hub ‘The Download’, shoppers can test out new technology or attend talks on subjects like how to take the best selfie.

In ‘The World of Design’, visitors can pick up tips on gardening and create a magnetic mood board of carpet, wallpaper and fabric samples for home improvements. There will also be “room sets” where customers can see the latest ranges of furniture, and how they can be styled at home.

Pop-up workshops will also be on offer, with opportunities to learn skills including calligraphy, photography and wreath-making. Over the Christmas season, there will be holiday-themed workshops such as cookery classes for gingerbread, advice on Christmas tree styling and planning a party outfit.

The Download

The Waitrose Cookery School

The Southampton store will bring together services from Waitrose and John Lewis together under one roof for the first time.

In October, John Lewis merged management with its sister chain, Waitrose, in a streamlining move that cut one in three senior management jobs and will save the company £100m.

Courses at the Waitrose Cookery School include bread and pasta making as well as classes on pan-Asian cooking. There will be drinks specialists at in-store events, who can also host tastings at customers’ home. A farm shop and café has also been built on the store’s roof, in partnership with the John Lewis-owned Leckford Estate.

“Customers are looking for experiences”

A spokesperson for John Lewis says: “Our customers are increasingly looking for inspiration, experiences and delight in how they shop. They are looking for experiences over just purchase of product.”

A focus on “experiences” is part of a wider attempt to appeal to customers amid ongoing woe for the British high street. This year, John Lewis announced its first ever half-year loss of £25.9 million (pre-tax) in the first six months of the year.

Debenhams, which rebranded last year, also announced plans to close 50 stores over the next three years. House of Fraser — bought out of administration in August — is closing four of its stores in the New Year.

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