Amid concerns of the present economic slowdown continuing, Britain’s biggest department store chain John Lewis will go ahead with its planned expansion in 2011.
The group – which consists of the John Lewis and Waitrose brand, has planned to spend about £250 million to start new stores and augment their online presence. “We believe there are a lot of opportunities for the brand and we’re investing in the long term” said Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis.
The flagship brands sales growth through conventional stores and over the internet has been better than competitors and the company hopes to maintain the lead for the next twelve months. Justifying the capital expenditure for new stores, he said: “Our online business is on fire, so we have to invest in the infrastructure”. Talking about expanding online business, he said: “But as customers spend more time shopping online, we must also make sure our stores are attractive places to visit and that is something some of our competitors have not got right”.
The store at Reading will be refurbished at a cost of £20 million. The largest store of the company is scheduled to open at Stratford, east London in the middle of next year.
John Lewis has been operating on a different technology platform for online sales when it had acquired the US retailer buy.com’s UK operations. However, the company now plans to merge the high street stores and online store onto a single platform for better synergy and enhanced customer experience. Staffs can access the system for orders placed by both online and high-street store customers and sort out problems more easily.
Mr. Street said that the board may also okay opening up of two more ‘At Home’ stores. ‘At Home’ is the exclusive arm of John Lewis, selling homewares, electrical and furnishings. Justifying the expansion, he said: “When we open an At Home store it accelerates online sales in the catchment area, as people become more aware of the brand”.