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Troubled John Lewis bets big on Instagram personal styling service


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

March 16, 2020 | 5 min read

John Lewis' in-store personal styling service has emerged as bright spot in its struggling clothing business. Now, the retailer is looking to capitalise on this via Instagram with the launch of a digital styling service.

Troubled John Lewis bets big on Instagram personal styling service

Troubled John Lewis bets big on Instagram personal styling service

Last year, sales achieved from the John Lewis in-store styling service rose by 50% for its women's business and 155% for its men's. Proof that its team of 210 stylists are a useful tool, total fashion sales were up 1.3% and up 2.2% against the market.

Keen to test out this successful service digitally, John Lewis will now offer select customers 15- to 30-minute video calls on Instagram to give customers advice from the comfort of their home.

Following the consultation, shoppers will be sent a shoppable link to items they liked so they can purchase them to be either sent to their home or picked up in-store.

The success of the service on select customers will determine whether the trial will go out to its 618k Instagram followers later this year.

“We are all so familiar with using Instagram for fashion inspiration, and given many of our fashion stylists already talk directly to customers who follow them on Instagram, this feels like a natural extension of our Personal Styling Service," explained Christine Kasoulis, partner and director of John Lewis’s Fashion Business.

“We want to offer this to help customers who would like advice quickly, don’t need a full one-hour appointment in a shop and those customers who aren’t near a shop, or find it hard to get to one. If this is popular with women we will expand the service to our male customers.”

The personal styling venture arrives amid a big strategic review as the troubled retailer plans out a route through this make-or-break year.

This month, as part of its turnaround plans, it dropped its staff bonus to 2%, the lowest it’s been since 1953, as operating profit dropped 23% year on year.

Given the drop in its operating profit, last week John Lewis debuted its first-ever product-focused TV campaign outside the key Christmas period and clearance period. The TV spot showcased over 200 products from its spring and summer clothing range, under the tagline ‘Spring: we’ll help you style it.’

This came off the back of the shock departure of its customer director, Craig Inglis, who had first joined the retailer 12 years prior. While he was renowned for his work orchestrating John Lewis’s legendary advertising, the months prior to his departure were under a spotlight, in the wake of a £26m pre-tax loss in September. A worrying signal given it has made a profit of £800,000 in the same period a year before.

To combat declining sales, John Lewis Partnership kicked off a major restructure to bring John lewis and Waitrose under the same management structure.

As part of the restructure, Waitrose boss Rob Collins left the group, with its managing director of department stores, Paula Nickolds, taking on the role of executive director of brand, heading marketing, service and digital innovation across the group. However, Nickolds’ place in the group was never to materialise, as she departed before even starting.

The company's decision to up its game on Instagram adds it to the list of rival's who have been finding success.

Under pressure to attract a new, younger, generation of shoppers, in recent years, Marks and Spencer (M&S) has been funnelling more of its media budget into the social platform. It has been experimenting with Instagram Shopping and IGTV to shift more of its struggling clothing business.

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