John Lewis Chain Of Up Market Department Stores Commerce Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

John Lewis is a chain of up market department stores operating throughout Great Britain and is popular amongst the middle class for its high quality goods. The chain is owned by the John Lewis Partnership. All permanent employees are partners in the business. There are currently 29 stores throughout England, Scotland & Wales and a further 8 stores are confirmed to open in the next 5 years. The brand is known for its slogan "Never Knowingly Undersold" which has been in use for 76 years. In 2007 John Lewis was voted Britain's Favourite Department Store. John Lewis opened its first store in Wales on 24th September 2009 in Cardiff. It is connected to the recently expanded St. David's Centre, one of the largest shopping centres in the United Kingdom. On 1 January 2008, John Lewis Oxford Street was awarded a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen as suppliers of haberdashery and household goods. The John Lewis shop in Reading, Berkshire also has a Royal Warrant from the Queen as suppliers of household and fancy goods, received on 1 January 2007.


The flagship store on Oxford Street began as a drapery shop, opened by John Lewis in 1864. In 1905 Lewis acquired a second store, Peter Jones in Sloane Square, London. His son, John Spedan Lewis, founded the John Lewis Partnership in 1920 after thinking up the idea during his days in charge of Peter Jones. John Spedan Lewis also thought up the idea of the Gazette, the partnership's in-house magazine, first published in 1918.

In 1933 the partnership purchased its first store outside London ~ the long established Jessops in Nottingham. Jessops only rebranded itself as John Lewis in 2002. In 1940 the partnership bought Selfridge Provincial Stores.In 1953 the partnership bought Herbert Parkinson, a textile manufacturer, a business which still makes all the duvets, pillows and furnishings for John Lewis.


John Lewis opens a small drapers shop in Oxford Street.


Birth of John Spedan Lewis, son of John Lewis, and founder of the John Lewis Partnership.


John Lewis buys control of Peter Jones. Find out more about John Lewis department stores.


John Lewis hands control of Peter Jones to John Spedan Lewis who sets up staff committees, the forerunners of todays Committees for Communication. Find out more above Our founder.


First edition of the Gazette published, founded by John Spedan Lewis.


The death of John Lewis leaves John Spedan Lewis as owner of both stores. He converts the firm into a public company, John Lewis and Company Limited. First constitution is published.


Creation of the first Trust Settlement: the John Lewis Partnership becomes legal. From now, profits are available for distribution amongst all Partners. Read about our seven principles that define how we run our business.


The Partnership buys Waitrose, a chain of 10 shops.


The Partnership doubles in size by buying the Selfridge Provincial Stores Group. One of which was Cole Brothers (now John Lewis Sheffield).  Find out more about John Lewis department stores.


Creation of the second Trust Settlement: John Spedan Lewis transfers his remaining shares and ultimate control to the Trustees. Find out more about Leckford Estate.


John Spedan Lewis retires as Chairman and is succeeded by Bernard Miller. Waitrose opens its first supermarket in Streatham. Find out what is truly important to the Partnership - Partnership spirit.


Death of John Spedan Lewis. Find out more above Our founder.


Bernard Miller retires as Chairman and is succeeded by Peter Lewis, nephew of John Spedan Lewis. Find out what is truly important to the Partnership - Partnership spirit.


Waitrose opens its 100th food shop.


Peter Lewis retires as Chairman and is succeeded by Stuart Hampson - Partnership spirit.


Launch of Ocado, the online service that delivers Waitrose groceries to many homes in the UK. Ocado is part-owned by the Partnership.


John Lewis launches, the online shopping site.


The John Lewis Partnership launches Greenbee, a new direct services company.


Sir Stuart Hampson retires as Chairman and is succeeded by Charlie Mayfield.


The first smaller format John Lewis at home shop opened in Poole, Dorset.


We are now one of the UK' top ten retailers with 29 John Lewis shops (28 department stores and one John Lewis at home), 224 Waitrose supermarkets, an online and catalogue business, a direct services company, one production unit and a farm. Go to information about the John Lewis Partnership. Read our Strategy.

The early years

Born in September 1885, John Spedan Lewis was the eldest of two sons whose father had opened the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street. By the age of 21, not only had he acquired a quarter share holding in the department store - download a copy of the letter introducing John Spedan Lewis as a partner in the business (PDF size: 335KB), written by his father in 1907 - he was well on his way to becoming Director of Peter Jones, the other shop in his father's control.

The beginnings of a radical idea

It was during this time that Spedan Lewis became aware that he, his brother and his father between them were enjoying earnings equivalent to those of the entire workforce in both shops. But it wasn't until a riding accident forced him to convalesce that he was able to spend time developing his ideas for the future of the business, ideas that would radically change its foundation.

With the happiness of his employees firmly at the centre of his mind, he began to instigate new systems and practices as soon as he returned to work. Intent on bettering the working conditions and spirit of the company, he offered shortened working days, the setting up of a staff committee, a third week's holiday paid holiday was an innovation for the retail trade at this time and eventually, a house magazine, the Gazette, which is still published today.

Trying it out at Peter Jones

By 1914, a conflict with his father, who was alarmed by some of these bold practices, meant Spedan withdrew any active involvement with the Oxford Street shop in exchange for total control of Peter Jones. And although it had been unhealthy financially, Spedan's bravery paid off as within five years it converted an annual deficit of £8,000 to a profit of £20,000.

Founding the John Lewis Partnership

In 1920, the first profit-sharing scheme was introduced along with a representative staff council. A reconciliation with his father after his mothers death meant the cooperation between the two stores resumed, then his father's eventual death in 1928 gave Spedan sole ownership. He created the first Constitution and the following year the John Lewis Partnership Limited and signed the First Trust Settlement. This gave him practical control of the business, but allowed the profits to be distributed among the employees. Twenty-one years later, he signed the irrevocable Second Trust Settlement, and the Partnership became the property of the people employed within it.

The Partnership

When our founder, John Spedan Lewis, set up the Partnership, he was careful to create a governance system, set out in the company's Constitution, that would be both commercial - allowing the company to move quickly and maintain a leading position in a competitive industry, and democratic - giving every Partner a voice in the business they co-own. This combination of commercial acumen and corporate conscience, so ahead of its time, is what makes us the business we are today.

A system of checks and balances

High standards of corporate governance are at the heart of the Partnership: our structure gives our management the freedom to be entrepreneurial and competitive in the way they run the business for long-term success, while giving the company's owners, the Partners, the rights and responsibilities of ownership through active involvement in the business.

The Chairman, the Partnership Board, the divisional Management boards, the Group Executive, and the Business Strategy Group form the management of the company. The Partnership Council, which elects five Partnership board directors, the divisional and branch level democracy, make up the democratic bodies that give Partners a voice and hold our management to account.

Governing authorities

At the top level, the Partnership has three governing authorities: the Partnership Council, the Partnership Board, and the Chairman.

The Partnership Council is unique in corporate governance: directly elected by Partners, it holds the Chairman and executives to account and appoints five non-executives to the Partnership Board. The Chairman appoints five executives to the Board: the Managing Director of John Lewis and Waitrose, the Finance Director, the Director of Personnel and the Partners' Counsellor. The Board also has two external non-executive Directors, one of whom is the non-executive Deputy Chairman.

Partnership Council

Partnership Board


Partnership Council

The Partnership Council embodies our democratic structure. Representing Partners as a whole, most of its members are elected by Partners. Its main role is to hold our management to account, to influence policy and to make key governance decisions. It has the power to discuss, to ask questions, and to make recommendations on any subject and elects five directors to the Partnership board. The Council has the ultimate power of dismissing the Chairman if he fails to fulfil his responsibilities.

The Council has an important role in deciding how our profits are spent, particularly on things that affect Partners directly, like pay, pensions and discount policies. It also has a budget of 1 per cent of the pay and bonus received by Partners to spend on the care and wellbeing of working and retired Partners, leisure facilities (around 50 per cent of the budget), and charitable giving. The Council may also offer financial help to Partners who are in exceptional need.

The Chairman appears before the Council twice a year to report and answer questions on his running of the Partnership. Other key directors report once a year.

Partnership Board

The John Lewis Partnership board is responsible for the proper management of the Partnership's commercial activity. Members of the Partnership Board include the Chairman, five directors appointed by the Chairman, five directors elected by the Partnership Council who provide a direct link with the Partnership's democratic structure and two non-executive directors.


The Chairman has personal responsibility for ensuring that the Partnership retains its distinctive character and democratic vitality.

He is also ultimately accountable for the Partnership's commercial performance and is responsible for developing a business strategy which ensures the long-term sustainability of the Partnership in a competitive environment. His democratic and commercial roles come together when he appears twice a year at the Partnership Council to report on the performance of the trading divisions and on responses to the annual Partner Survey, to set out strategic goals and to answer questions from elected representatives.

About Charlie Mayfield

Charlie Mayfield became the Partnership's fifth Chairman in March 2007. He joined the Partnership in 2000 as Head of Business Development, responsible for business strategy and development for both John Lewis and Waitrose.

Charlie joined the Board as Development Director in 2001 and was responsible for developing the Partnership's online strategy. He became Managing Director of John Lewis in January 2005 prior to taking up his appointment as Chairman of the Partnership in March 2007.

Charlie began his career as an officer in the army. He joined SmithKline Beecham in 1992 and became Marketing Manager for the Lucozade brand, before moving to McKinsey & Co in 1996, where he worked with consumer and retail organisations.

Charlie is a Government appointed Commissioner of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and chairs Business in the Community's Business Action on Economic Renewal Leadership Team.

Management bodies

Our top level of management includes the Chairman and the Partnership Board , who are responsible for the overall strategic direction of the Partnership. The other Partnership management body is the Group Executive, while John Lewis and Waitrose have their own Divisional Management Boards.



Group Executive

The Group Executive includes the executive directors on the Partnership Board plus directors with specific responsibility for co-ownership aspects of the Partnership, the Partners' Counsellor and the Strategy Director. The Group Executive gives a monthly review of performance and is the forum for discussion of Partnership-wide initiatives and issues.

Divisional Management Boards

Day-to-day management and strategic direction of our divisions John Lewis and Waitrose rest with the divisional Management Boards, who are accountable to the Chairman for performance, and are held to account internally by their own Divisional Councils.

John Lewis Management Board Waitrose Management Board

Group Executive

The Group Executive includes the executive directors on the Partnership Board plus the Director of Partnership Services. The Group Executive gives a monthly review of performance and is the forum for discussion of Partnership-wide initiatives and issues.

Divisional Management Boards

Day-to-day management and strategic direction of our divisions John Lewis and Waitrose rest with the divisional Management Boards, who are accountable to the Chairman for performance, and are held to account internally by their own Divisional Councils.


The John Lewis Partnership's seven principles define how we run our business. They are as relevant today as they were when they were set out by our founder, John Spedan Lewis, in our constitution.


The Partnership's ultimate purpose is the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business. Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members, they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards profit, knowledge and power.


Power in the Partnership is shared between three governing authorities: the Partnership Council , the Partnership Board  and the Chairman .


The Partnership aims to make sufficient profit from its trading operations to sustain its commercial vitality, to finance its continued development and to distribute a share of those profits each year to its members, and to enable it to undertake other activities consistent with its ultimate purpose.


The Partnership aims to employ people of ability and integrity who are committed to working together and to supporting its Principles. Relationships are based on mutual respect and courtesy, with as much equality between its members as differences of responsibility permit. The Partnership aims to recognise their individual contributions and reward them fairly.


The Partnership aims to deal honestly with its customers and secure their loyalty and trust by providing outstanding choice, value and service.

Business relationships

The Partnership aims to conduct all its business relationships with integrity and courtesy and to honour scrupulously every business agreement.

The community

The Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

John Lewis

John Lewis began in 1864 with the opening of the first shop in London's Oxford Street. 'Never Knowingly Undersold', our unique promise to our customers that the price of any item we sell will always be as low as the lowest price in the neighbourhood, has been our slogan for over 75 years. Through the efforts of our Partners serving customers with our suppliers' high quality goods, we have succeeded in building the largest department store retailer in the UK, with 29 John Lewis shops (28 department stores and one John Lewis at home) and a growing online business -

Our Partners work hard to offer customers everything they need under one roof: the best fashions, furnishings and household goods of all kinds at competitive prices with excellent service and free delivery.

Supported by our network of suppliers around the world, John Lewis department stores - voted 'Britain's favourite retailer' in the Verdict consumer satisfaction index, January 2010, well as being the second overall and rated top in every sector in which it trades in an annual customer service survey by Which?, January 2009 - typically stock more than 350,000 separate lines. In July 2009 John Lewis came first in the UK Consumer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS). Our stores at Oxford Street and Bluewater also include a John Lewis Foodhall from Waitrose.

In February 2010 John Lewis became the Official Department Store Provider to London 2012.

The John Lewis at home shop is a third of the size of a typical department store. Focussing exclusively on the home, electrical and home technology assortment and with additional features including a café and collection point the first of these smaller format shops is located in Poole, Dorset.

John Lewis Management team

The John Lewis Board is responsible for and manages John Lewis's commercial activity and develops the strategy and business plan for the company.

Products and services

Our reputation is built on our strong product range and on the excellent service offered by Partners across the business. John Lewis's name is not just seen as a guarantee of quality, value and style, but also as something that differentiates us from the competition.

With over 350,000 lines available in our stores and more than 70,000 lines available online, our buying teams work hard to ensure we offer quality products, responsibly sourced and giving value for money. This product range is backed up with our aim to offer all our customers an excellent level of service.


The John Lewis assortment offers branded products from leading suppliers, exclusive lines and own-brand merchandise. Launched in 2003, own brand is a constantly expanding range including merchandise from fashions to electrical appliances. At our stores in Oxford Street and Bluewater you'll also find the John Lewis Foodhall from Waitrose featuring seasonally-sourced and speciality foods. The new small format John Lewis at home shop in Poole, Dorset focusses exclusively on the home, electrical and home technology assortment.

The John Lewis name aims to be a guarantee of the quality, value and style of a product and also as something that differentiates our assortment from the competition. The assortment is continually under review to ensure the products available will appeal to the widest spectrum of customers.

The Merchandise Standards department works with our buying teams to make sure that every product we sell is safe to use and fit for purpose, and that all own-label branded and exclusive products comply with the relevant consumer legislation and safety standards.

At John Lewis branches and on the website you'll find many eco conscious products from cleaning products to carpets. The provenance of our merchandise is also very important. John Lewis sells one of the widest ranges of Garden Furniture on the high street and in 2010 it is all FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified meaning the products can be tracked all the way from the tree to your back garden. To find out more about eco conscious ranges visit the website


Our 'Never Knowingly Undersold' pricing policy ensures that even when competitors are holding sales, customers can be confident in the price they are paying at John Lewis. Each store actively checks the prices of shops in the local area and if we find the same product being sold at a lower price, we reduce the local price is reduced to match. If a customer finds that one of our products is sold for a lower price by another local retailer, we will lower the shelf price so that all customers benefit. Please note, because it is difficult to make straightforward comparisons with conventional shops 'Never Knowingly Undersold' does not apply to prices.

The John Lewis Value range, launched in 2009, incorporates merchandise that fills the most essential needs, suitable for everyday use or first home buyers. The range, which will be expanded to over 300 lines during 2010, includes products in areas such as Home, Fashion, Haberdashery and Beauty self-selection.


John Lewis welcomes all customers and we are committed to ensuring that everyone can access our products and services and that every customer receives the same high level of service. Our multichannel approach - shops, internet shopping, call centres and home delivery - means everyone can access our goods and services in whichever way is easiest for them. Most branches offer the 'click and collect' service allowing customers to place their orders via the John Lewis website ( and collect from the shop, thereby guaranteeing stock availability.

We aim to offer every customer the best possible experience backing up the product offer with a high level of service from initial purchase to after-sales whether it's face-to-face, online or over the telephone. We ensure all selling Partners have excellent product knowledge and communication skills and many branches offer a range of specialist advisors in areas such as fashions, furnishings and nursery. A bespoke upholstery service is available in all branches. The John Lewis website includes hints and tips to help you with your product choices.

Making our own textiles

John Lewis has one production unit Herbert Parkinson in Lancashire, where we make our own-brand furnishings, fabrics and curtains.

Heather Metcalfe and Ron Bartram, Herbert Parkinson

Heather Metcalfe and Ron Bartram, Herbert Parkinson

Herbert Parkinson makes John Lewis's own-brand duvets, pillows, furnishing fabrics and ready-made curtains, and provides our made-to-measure curtain service.

Founded in 1934, Herbert Parkinson became part of the John Lewis Partnership in 1953, when we were looking for a mill to produce our own fabric designs.

Future expansion

John Lewis is committed to growth, bringing our brand to more areas of the country with new stores and a growing online business.

Construction is well under way on our new shop at the Olympic site in Stratford which is scheduled to open in 2011. The first John Lewis store outside the UK will open in Dublin and we are committed to opening our first shop in Sprucefield, Northern Ireland at the earliest opportunity.

Other new department stores are planned for Leeds, Oxford, Portsmouth and Preston. 

A second new format 'John Lewis at home' will open in Croydon in the autumn of 2010. The 'at home' format focuses exclusively on the home sector including home and electrical and home technology assortments, and with no fashion assortment. 


Waitrose joined the John Lewis Partnership in 1937 as a chain of 10 specialist food shops, with the first supermarket opening in 1955. Over the years our Partners have stayed true to Waitrose's beginnings, combining the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop. We have worked with producers and growers, pioneering local and organic products and championing sustainable sourcing, to build a network of 224 shops around the UK known for the freshness, quality, safety and provenance of the food we sell.


Customers are spending increasing amounts on services and experiences travel, leisure, financial and so on and want to buy them from a company they can trust. To meet this need, in 2006 we launched Greenbee, which offers a distinctive range of products and services specially chosen with Partnership customers in mind. Just like John Lewis and Waitrose, customers can trust Greenbee to offer products and services that are both excellent quality and good value, sourced from carefully-chosen partners who are equally committed to their customers