John Lewis is taking a lead on design with Porral move

Lynda Relph-Knight

The news that John Lewis Partnership has appointed Paul Porral as head of creative services is a welcome signt hat some clients value design as an effective foil to the credit crunch.

Voted the UK’s favourite retailer in a Verdict Research poll in January, JLP has long been exemplary in its design management policy, since the 1980 sunder the legendary Douglas Cooper and more recently with former Pentagram partner John McConnell as external advisor.

The revamp of its Peter Jones departmentstore in London’s Sloane Square by architect John McAslan & Partners, with signage by Pentagram and the in-house team, was, for example, met with great acclaim when the store reopened four years ago, while its Waitrose supermarket chain has won many a creative award for its packaging. By bringing in Porral,with his experience in branding and brand expression, into its department stores, it is reinforcing its belief in design and will hopefully inspire other high street brands to follow suit.

Certainly, high street banks such as Lloyds TSB– with design group Allen International –and Barclays appear to be going ahead with their branch refurbishments regardless of the economic squeeze affecting their sector. Customers still count, it seems, and better design serves them more effectively.

For many clients though, big changes aren’t feasible, especially in retail. Margins are simply too tight. But that is where astute consultancies can help clients maximise their sales, while bolstering their own financial health.

Take Dalziel & Pow, the highest-ranking retail design specialist in Design Week’s 2008 Top 100. A couple of years ago the London consultancy broadened its interiors offer to take on retail branding and it hasn’t looked back since.

Design groups need to be nimble to cope with changing client needs, especially when commercial pressures are acute. It helps hugely though, when a client like JLP flags up design as key to its business.

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