Department store chain John Lewis has today opened its first flexible format store in Exeter as it continues with its growth strategy.
Hundreds of shoppers queued outside the store in the city centre ahead of its opening this morning, rushing to see its range of fashion, beauty, consumer electronics and nursery products.
In terms of size, the flexible format store sits between a smaller John Lewis At Home unit and the traditional department stores though seeks to leverage the business‘ position as an omnichannel retailer by offering a “comprehensive online operation” which compliments its bricks & mortar offering.
John Lewis‘ Head of Format Development Tim Harrison told Retail Gazette last month ahead of the opening that it is important for the people of Exeter to understand the retailer‘s proposition and believes that its omnichannel focus is key to its success.
He told us: “In the modern world, the fact that you can start doing click & collect now so that the product can be delivered to Exeter just helps launch the shop when it opens.”
Around 300 new jobs will be created locally at the branch and the department store is set to open at least 10 locations across the UK, having already announced plans to open stores in York and Chelmsford with the former planned to open next year.
Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis commented: “Today marks an important milestone in our growth strategy and we are thrilled to be expanding our offer to customers in the South West.
“This is the first of our full line flexible format department stores, a concept which means we can now consider opening shops in areas that were not always thought feasible for a traditional John Lewis department store building.
“We hope customers will be as delighted with the shopping experience that this new shop offers as we are.”
It has also been announced today that sales at John Lewis jumped 16.2 per cent last week as colder weather boosted footfall.
Sales at johnlewis.com grew 45.8 per cent on the year in the week to October 6th 2012 while Telecoms fared best across EHT, up 72 per cent.
Meanwhile, mixed weather saw Waitrose‘s total sales increase 6.8 per cent on last year as its online offering saw sales rise 62 per cent for the week with its delivery service making 7,000 deliveries across the country.
Commenting on the strong results, Paula Nickolds, Buying Director of Home at John Lewis, said that the run-up to Christmas is now well underway and praised the opening of the Exeter store, which it is hoped will further improve its position.
“The greatest recognition and final thought must go to everyone who has played a part in creating our new shop in Exeter which opens today, the first new format full line department store,” she said.
“The collaboration and pace of working required to reach opening day is nothing short of extraordinary, and the shop represents an exciting and brave development for John Lewis which we can feel incredibly proud of.
“Let‘s hope the residents of Exeter are equally excited about becoming regular John Lewis customers!”