John Lewis joins the online revolution

Wow, John Lewis is really pulling out all the stops. First the AW08 and SS09 ad campaigns with Karen Elson, then a fashion push in its online offering (fashion currently comprises only 6% of total sales, it aims for 30% by the end of the year). Online branded fashion and beauty ’boutiques’ are being rolled out with a total of 16 expected to be in place by the end of the year with Ralph Lauren, Bobbi Brown, Orla Kiely and Mulberry some of the names being bandied about so far.

On digging further, I’m told that the goal of this new push is to ‘reflect the instore experience online’. As well as translating the expertise that John Lewis prides itself on (Marie O’Riordan, ex-editor of Marie Claire, provides the trend tips), there is a focus on convenience. Customers can return their unwanted items to a branch instead of dealing with post offices (and postal strikes) and possibly – this is still being trialled – pick up purchases from a local Waitrose store. This is the kind of initiative that might get me interested as I’ve still not been bitten by the online bug.

Incidentally, Tesco has just launched its own fashion ecommerce site and Selfridges is aiming to follow suit with the full-on online fashion experience next year, so 2010 is really shaping up to be the year online fashion goes fully mainstream. But back to John Lewis. Still on the ‘expert’ tip, for the last year the store has been expanding on its personal shopping service. This month, the focus is on fashion guidance for graduates. Graduates going for job interviews will be invited to bring in interview-appropriate pieces from their existing wardrobe to be teamed with key items from John Lewis to bring them up to date. Tips on general professional presentation (nails, hair etc) are all part of the service. What a good idea. If there’s one thing the recession has done, it’s making retailers try harder and initiatives like this should help give John Lewis the edge over competitors. Let’s see what they come up with next.