Oct 29, 2019
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John Lewis is slow in latest week but beauty rises, retailer launches big eco project

Oct 29, 2019

John Lewis Partnership sales fell 3.5% in the latest week, the seven days to October 26, dropping to £219.24 million. And that fall was driven by weak results at the John Lewis department store chain. 

Sandra Halliday

In fact, total sales there for the week were down as much as 7.7% year-on-year as the company came up against the anniversary of promotional activity in 2018 and a Partnership card spend incentive.

But at least the Fashion department saw its sales rising by (an admittedly small) 0.3%. It was an increase nonetheless and seems to have been driven by the Beauty, Wellbeing and Leisure category which is part of that department. Its sales were up 28.4% as the company price-matched a competitor’s promotion, while sales of Premium Beauty products were up 37.8%. The negative aspect of this is, of course, that the company seems to be driving sales upwards at the expense of margins as it matches the prices charged by its rivals.

Was there any better news elsewhere? Not much. Home sales were down 19.3%, continuing a run of bad results. However, Christmas sales were up 7% and cold weather products such as new season rugs and weighted blankets also rose. 

And while Electrical and Home Technology sales were down 7.1%, Small Electrical sales were up 5.6% as customers shopped for personal care tools, with sales in this category up 45%. 

Meanwhile, this week the company also launched a major pilot at its Oxford shop to encourage a “reduce, reuse & return” culture among customers, which “could provide a blueprint for other shops”. 

The pilot "will test ways in which the retailer and its customers can reduce their impact on the planet, potentially saving thousands of tonnes of plastic and packaging from going to landfill.”

In “a first for a department store”, the shop has removed 5p plastic carrier bags to reduce the amount of plastic it produces. The retailer will encourage customers to bring a bag, or buy a reusable one instead. Over a year it’s estimated that this could save 5,000 tonnes of plastic.   

The Oxford shop will also become the first in the UK to trial a reusable ‘Click and Collect’ bag made from 100% recycled materials. One in four orders will be delivered to the shop in these reusable bags, meaning customers will be handed their orders without any additional packaging. 

And in place of bubble wrap, the retailer will trial new recyclable wrapping for china and glass products bought in the shop. It will also be encouraging customers to bring back any hangers they no longer need, so they can be reused or recycled. 

And the company will “reward ‘my John Lewis’ customers who bring back empty beauty product packaging and pre-loved clothing with gift vouchers.” The beauty product recycling scheme named ‘BeautyCycle’ was tested earlier this year and this week is being permanently introduced to 36 John Lewis shops that have a Beauty Department. 

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