talking trends Pushing the boundaries

John Lewis & Partners trading director Simon Coble looks back at a period of ‘generational change’ for the retail sector


ohn Lewis & Partners has just released the annual edition of its Retail Report. Entitled ‘How We Shop, Live and Look’,

the review is based on the department store group’s sales data from August 2018 to August 2019. It analyses which products fell out of favour, the trends that soared and the themes which dominated the year. Introducing the report, trading director Simon Coble said: “With the retail sector going through a period of generational change, never has there been a time so crucial for brands to showcase their identity. Retailers are embracing their strengths and what differentiates them to stay relevant in today’s climate. At John Lewis & Partners, we have spent the last 12 months reimagining and redesigning how experiences can push the boundaries of how we shop and the products on offer. Against a backdrop of instability and

uncertainty, retailers have to work even harder to maintain customer trust and loyalty. This means adapting to the times to remain relevant to customers’ lives.

We believe in the future of shops. A physical shopping destination creates human connections and builds trust, particularly at John Lewis & Partners, where our Partners [staff], with specialist expertise and training, offer specialist advice and personalised support. A growing range of services are at the heart of our transformation, designed to meet the individual needs of customers and embrace the fun of shopping. Offering the ability to delight customers with immersive experiences and make their purchases more meaningful is where bricks triumph over clicks. As a destination for customers during key life moments and big decisions, understanding how the nation shops, lives and looks remains at the top of our agenda. This year’s Retail Report, our seventh edition,

explores how JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) is revamping our living space, why 2019 was the year of oversized dresses, longer lengths and looser-fitting styles and, of course, what items we left behind.

Timeline of the year

John Lewis said: ‘The ongoing political uncertainty dominated the year’s news agenda. However, this was not the only big news of the year. Climate change activism and record-breaking temperatures brought environmentalism onto the mainstream agenda and the nation declared war on single-use plastic, with many making some small but significant changes in their lifestyles and routines.’

OCTOBER 2018 #SALADBOWLGATE: A John Lewis salad bowl, which had been a wedding present, containing sweets for trick or treaters was taken from the owner’s doorstep on Halloween. After her plea for its return went viral, John Lewis & Partners sent a new one to the victim of #saladbowlgate.

NOVEMBER 2018 ELTON JOHN ADVERT: The singer’s life story featured in John Lewis & Partners’ Christmas advertising campaign. The ad was shared over 5,000 times by John Lewis staff, before officially airing on TV screens, trending on Twitter within 16 minutes.

DECEMBER 2018 GATWICK DRONE SHUTDOWN: John Lewis stopped selling drones soon after, following a significant sales dip after hundreds of flights were cancelled at Gatwick Airport.

JANUARY 2019 THE GREAT BRITISH TIDY UP: Tidying up became the new detoxing in January, with Japanese organising consultant and author Marie Kondo’s show hitting

TV screens. Storage box sales soared by 47% and clothing hooks were up 36% for the month.

FEBRUARY 2019 RECORD-BREAKING VALENTINE’S DAY: Customers were not shy of showing their appreciation for loved ones on February 14 and John Lewis saw record sales of romantic gifts. Confectionery sales were 80% higher than the previous week and alcohol gift sales bubbled up by 40%

MARCH 2019 THE FLEABAG EFFECT: As the second series of cult comedy BBC series ‘Fleabag’ hit TV screens, cus- tomers mirrored the look of its anti-hero by styling black jumpsuits with red lipstick. John Lewis’ best seller was the Somerset Black Lace Jumpsuit.

APRIL 2019 EASTER HEATWAVE: It was the hottest Easter Monday on record and the nation couldn’t wait to roll up their sleeves and get into the garden. Lawn- mowers were a cut above other purchases, reaching a 76% increase that weekend, while overall sales of gardening equipment were up 12%.

MAY 2019 BIRTH OF PRINCE ARCHIE: John Lewis revealed that parents were investing in the latest gadgets to help their little ones fall sleep, from the Whisbear E-zzy Sloth Monitor to the Bluebell Smart Monitoring system.

JUNE 2019 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup drew one billion viewers for the first time. The sporting event saw customers browsing on their phones during the ad breaks and sales of sports headbands were up 76%.

JULY 2019 HOTTEST DAY ON RECORD: On July 25 the UK experienced temperatures of over 38°C, the hottest day ever recorded. Measures to keep cool saw cus- tomers investing in fans (+120%), sprinklers (+59%), paddling pools (+42%) and baby pools (+96%).

AUGUST 2019 THE RETURN OF PEAKY BLINDERS: The new TV series of crime drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ aired in August, leading sales of flat caps to reach their peak this month (+25%).

Looking back

over the year, it would be wrong not to mention the nation’s growing concern for environmental challenges. [Music festival] Glastonbury made the decision to ban single-use plastic bottles for the first time this year.

Our own data paints a picture of shoppers becoming increasingly mindful about the purchases they make. Our response is to offer investment pieces at affordable prices that customers will treasure for the long-term and this year, we have made significant progress in sourcing the most sustainable materials and ethical brands across our range.

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