John Lewis: results are disappointing but it is a business that embraces change
John Lewis: results are disappointing but it is a business that embraces change
A view from Kate Jones

John Lewis is looking to the future with optimism, not fear of change

This morning's results from John Lewis prove that even the well-loved stalwart can't escape the trials of the stormy retail market, but it is a future focused brand that 'means business', argues consultant and retail watcher Kate Jones.

This mornings results don’t make good reading for the John Lewis Partnership. Profits are down a whopping 26% to just £96m in the six months to August 1.

Although overall group revenues are up, not even high-end Waitrose can escape the supermarket price war and for the first time in seven glorious years, like for like sales fell by 1.3%.

John Lewis is leading the way in omnichannel retail and shaping its business accordingly

Retail is tough and it is getting tougher - you only have to look at what is happening to Morrison’s right now to know that. Things are so bad following a 47% drop in profits that 11 stores are set to close with the loss of an estimate 900 jobs.

This comes off the back of flogging off 140 loss-making convenience stores to an investment business. They just couldn’t make it work and in comparison John Lewis' performance starts not to look quite so bad.

Times are changing and changing very rapidly in retail.

If your business is the wrong shape you’ll fail – the margins for error are just too slim for survival of anyone but the fittest.

Recent board level changes at John Lewis are a clear sign of things to come. As Craig Inglis takes his seat as customer director, the old title and role of marketing director has now become defunct.

Putting the customer first

Customers are where it is at and John Lewis is not the only one to address this with customer directorships at Asda, Tesco and British Airways too.

As Sir Charlie Mayfield, John Lewis' CEO very eloquently put it, creating this new role of is about "making sure that the customer is at the heart of everything we do. It is about good products, good service and good value."

It is also about reflecting changing shopper habits and John Lewis is leading the way in omnichannel retail and shaping its business accordingly.

Mark Lewis moves from online director to retail director and Andrew Murphy has a newly created role of group productivity director – specifically focussed on new ways to boost performance and the future organisational structure.

In short, John Lewis means business. Yes, trading is tough and customer habits are changing but this is a company looking to the future with optimism, not fear of change.

Putting customers first is always the right thing to do and John Lewis are doing just that, right from the top.