John Lewis is set to put social media marketing content into the hands of its staff and create 80 new buying and design roles, managing director Paula Nickolds has said.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday for the full-year results of the John Lewis Partnership, the parent company of the department store chain, Nickolds said staff – who are all partners in the business – will be able to personalise and share marketing content through their own accounts.
It comes after the retailer carried out a trial before Christmas across six stores, involving around 100 partners, who posted bespoke content that was created in-house on their Instagram and Twitter accounts accompanied with the #wearepartners hashtag.
Nickolds said the trial attracted nine million impressions, and the retailer now plans to roll it out to other colleagues across the business.
“Our partners do need to be brand ambassadors – that’s the direction of travel,” she said.
“As co-owners of the business, it’s in their personal interest for that to be the case.”
Meanwhile, John Lewis said it launch a recruitment drive for 80 designers, technologists and brand managers.
Nickolds said she hopes to hire 70 per cent more technologists and 50 per cent more designers to ramp up its efforts on product differentiation.
Fashion continued to be a star performer for the department store, recording a 3.2 per cent year-on-year uptick in sales.
The news comes as John Lewis introduced a new concierge-style shopping experience at its new Oxford store, where staff had been provided “theatre training” by The Oxford Playhouse to teach them “the art of outstanding service”.
The department store also trialled a new in-store sleepover experience at its London flagship as well as Cambridge and Liverpool, which allows customers to try out a mattress and other furniture before buying it.
The initiatives all form part of an ongoing strategy to increase footfall and improve customer experience offerings.
John Lewis as a whole was the star performer in the full-year results for the John Lewis Partnership, where “intensifying margin pressure” at stablemate Waitrose dragged down figures.
In the year to January 27, gross sales across the partnership rose two per cent, with like-for-likes growing at 0.4 per cent and 0.9 per cent at Waitrose and John Lewis respectively.
Despite sales edging up over the year, profits took a hammering. Group profits before partnership bonus, tax and exceptional items dropped 21.9 per cent to £289.2 million.
The group’s poor performance has also driven a drop in partnership bonus for the fifth consecutive year to the lowest level for 63 years.
The partnership said it suffered major exceptional charges of £111.3 throughout the year, including a restructuring and redundancy bill of £72.8 million.
Profit before partnership bonus and tax also dived 67.2 per cent.
Furthermore, operating profits before partnership bonus, tax and exceptional items at Waitrose was down 32.1 per cent, compared to John Lewis’ 4.5 per cent rise.