John Lewis and Waitrose open 'experience playground' in Southampton

Chefs, gardeners and interior designers will host events in-store.

John Lewis and Waitrose: concept shop brings together best of both brands
John Lewis and Waitrose: concept shop brings together best of both brands

The John Lewis Partnership has launched a concept shop with a series of services including chefs, gardeners, interior designers and tech specialists.

The Southampton store aims to bring the best of John Lewis and Waitrose together. 

In the design hub, interior designers will offer 15-minute drop-in sessions to advise on home makeovers. Customers can create a bespoke magnetic mood board with samples of carpets, wallpaper and fabric.

Chefs and wine experts will lead courses ranging from pan-Asian cooking to classic techniques, including pasta- and bread-making. Drinks specialists can host wine, gin and whisky tastings in customers’ homes.

A rooftop garden has been filled with planted apple trees and will sit alongside the Leckford farm shop and café. From 5 December, customers can sample a rooftop menu inspired by flavours of the countryside. Gardening talks will also be held in-store, including how to create a terrarium and wreath-making.

Gadget specialists will hold regular tech talks on subjects such as taking the best selfie and family snapshots using a smartphone.

Walk-in wardrobes will replace conventional fitting rooms. Studios will offer customers a place to book style appointments, read fashion magazines, listen to music, lounge on sofas and get a drink.

Finally, make-up artists will conduct personal consultations, make-up talks and work at demonstration tables, where customers are encouraged to "stay and play" with cosmetics across all brands.

If the "experience playgrounds" concept is successful, it could be rolled out across the country.

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis & Partners, said: "Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to expertise and impartial advice in as many areas of their lives as we possibly can – in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

"Our new concept shop is an example of how we’re reinventing the department store of the future to make us stand out from the competition."