John Lewis and Waitrose rebrand to underline purpose rather than 'relentlessly chase scale'

It's not known if John Lewis' its creative, famously centred around product and storytelling, will change because of this pivot / John Lewis

John Lewis and Waitrose are to be known as John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners following a rebrand which aims to underline the qualities that make the group different from its competitors amid a year of doom and gloom for retailers.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership – which is owned by its 85,500 staff – confirmed the rebrand would take place across stores from September.

Revealing the decision, he highlighted the brand’s purpose and focusing on the qualities that make the department store “different” would be the strategy moving forward, rather than pursuing scale.

More details about what the rebrand will look like are expected in the coming months.

The Drum asked John Lewis’ longstanding advertising agency Adam&Eve/DDB how its creative, famously centred around product and storytelling, will change as a result of this pivot towards purpose. However, the agency declined to comment.

Mayfield said: “The John Lewis Partnership is a unique business with different ownership, a different purpose and a different outlook to any of our competitors. As retail changes we need to tread a path that enables us to thrive as a business while building on the qualities that make us different.

“For us, the relentless pursuit of greater scale is not the right course. Our plans put differentiation, innovation and Partner led service at the heart of our offer. The measures that we have outlined today are an important next step in our strategy that will ensure we emerge stronger from this period of profound change.”

Changes on the ground

Away from the rebrand, the C-suite will focus on three key areas for John Lewis in-store and online: unique products, personal service and expanding into new services.

At the heart of the strategy is developing "a curated and targeted assortment," which the company claimed was "increasingly unique to John Lewis."

Also on the cards is the acquisition of more "niche" brands, securing exclusives with international brands and significantly growing internal design capabilities.

It said that John Lewis will expand beyond shops and online into new and enhanced services, with a focus on home and financial services.

Waitrose, meanwhile, will centre on core customers, with plans to extend the range of own-brand and exclusive products.

Waitrose execs will also hone in on wellbeing and health, with plans to offer shoppers a more personalised service. Every employee, said the group, will become a 'food ambassador', and in-store Waitrose will offer more specialists to advise consumers.

The move is part of a three-pronged approach from the 150-year-old retail group, which it hopes will develop and strengthen the business following a warning on Wednesday (27 June) that profits will be “substantially lower” this year.

As well as an increased focus across the whole business on competing through differentiation, the group has promised to continue to invest £400m to £500m a year in product and service innovation.

In addition, it's promised to “recognise and enhance the role” its staff (or partners) play in the business; the rebrand being billed as “a sign of intent” to employees that it will continue to invest in pay and other benefits.

In March, the group announced that staff bonuses had been cut for the fifth year in a row. Employees got a 5% bonus, down from 6% last year and the lowest since the 4% paid out in 1954.

Retail in jeopardy

All this comes amid a growing panic in the retail industry with competitors like House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer being forced to shutter bricks-and-mortar stores amid increasing rent and rivalry from pure digital players like Amazon.

Today, the John Lewis Partnership announced plans to sell five Waitrose convenience stores around the UK to the Co-op and Aldi.

Mayfield said that given the market uncertainty he was expecting first-half profits of “close to zero” and lower overall full-year profits.

In 2017, the group made £26.6m in the first half of the year alone.

Mayfield asserted: “We all must feel the jeopardy of what is going on in retail right now. I am not going to try and soft soap anyone and say it will all be ok and the sun will be coming out soon.”

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