John Lewis plans buy-back scheme in 'assertive and aggressive' sustainability push

Brand aims to contribute to circular economy with initiative that follows similar move by Ikea this week.

John Lewis: brand is buying back items from customers
John Lewis: brand is buying back items from customers

John Lewis & Partners has announced plans to launch a “buy-back” or “take-back” scheme across all of its products by 2025.

With a focus on contributing to the circular economy (in which resources are re-used to reduce waste) the brand also has ambitions for all key raw materials in own-brand products to be sustainable by the same year.

“Rent, recycle, re-use, these are areas which to be frank any retailer has got to be more assertive and more aggressive in,” Sharon White, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said.

“Our customers are saying 'we want you to be more sustainable, we want to understand that what we buy today isn't going to end up in a landfill in a year's time'.”

Pippa Wicks, executive director of John Lewis, said that the brand already operates buy-back schemes in its fashion and beauty departments, under which customers can donate items in return for vouchers.

“We're only scratching the surface at the moment,” Wicks said. “I was reviewing some of our furniture products last week and they're actually part of the circular economy, so we're also thinking about how we design our products.

“It's early days but we're ready to go, and I think we're going to be accelerating that.”

The announcement came after Ikea this week unveiled a scheme to buy back unwanted furniture from customers to resell. Initially running for a week around Black Friday, Ikea said that if the scheme is a success, it would become a permanent offer next year.

John Lewis Partnership has also unveiled a five-year plan to reach profits of £400m by 2025, with a focus on savings, insurance and private rented and social housing.

The strategy includes plans to:

  • Source only from net zero carbon farms in the UK by 2035

  • Halve food waste and household food waste by 2030

  • Recruit people leaving the care system

  • Grow delivery capacity beyond 250,000 orders per week (up from 55,000 before the pandemic), 25% of which will be reserved for vulnerable people

  • Provide housing for communities in the Greater London area, with the brand making planning applications on two sites in the new year

White argued that initiatives such as the buy-back scheme and the development of housing made sense for the John Lewis brand. “I don't see these as diluting the brand," she said. "I don't see these as an overstretch.

“I see these as a very natural extension and a deepening of the relationship we have with customers, and taking the partnership model – which is very important at this time in the country – to a broader set of services and customer relationships.”

Waitrose today also announced it would expand an on-demand delivery trial with Deliveroo to a further 25 stores, covering 3.1 million more households.

The trial, which Waitrose said was attracting new, younger customers to the brand, is part of its efforts to grow its online shopping channels after its long-standing partnership with Ocado came to an end. 

Last month, John Lewis launched a campaign to promote its home business.

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