Friday, 10 July 2009

Never Knowingly Undersold

Breaking away from the recent spate of designers designing more accessible (read "cheaper") ranges for high street stores (think: Matthew Williamson and Jimmy Choo for H&M for example), John Lewis has just announced that it will launch a premium label own-brand collection in September. Rather than seeking to appeal to the masses, John Lewis are seeking to appeal to a smaller audience. An interesting strategy in the current economic climate. Surely brands want to maximise sales and make their products as accessible as possible, rather than narrowing the pool of potential customers?

Well, no, and Fashionista thinks it a savvy move. John Lewis is a high street favourite. According to the John Lewis Partnership website, "John Lewis has been recognised as top for customer service by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index" and, in January, was voted "Britain's favourite retailer 2008" (as part of a customer satisfaction index). Whilst this may all be true, Fashionista thinks the general perception is that John Lewis is the "sensible" department store. It doesn't quite have the glitz, the luxury, or the cutting edge fashion of Harrods, Harvey Nichols or Selfridges - but you know you are going to get good quality, good value goods if you walk into John Lewis. You also know you'll find most things you are looking for from their huge stock of more than 350,000 separate lines. Except, perhaps, that luxurious "a little bit special" evening dress, or impeccably tailored suit. Enter the new premium label.

John Lewis already draws in most people off the high street. So one of its aims for the new label must be to draw in the small handful of fashionistas who will shop in "The Big 3" or will more frequently be seen snaking in and out of stores on London's Bond Street or Sloane Street. Another aim must be to provide even more choice to the existing John Lewis customer, filling the only gap in its product range to avoid losing business to rival department stores. If this move works, John Lewis really could become a one stop shop for all shopping needs. But will customers go for it?

Fashionista will be interested to see whether this works. She thinks it is an ambitious move and queries: can the brand distance itself sufficiently from its current reputation (echoed in the strapline "never knowingly undersold") so that customers will want to spend money on a luxury piece branded "John Lewis"? Fashionista anticipates that it will take great products, the right price point, clever PR and marketing, and has her fingers crossed for this high street favourite.


Thrifty Gal said...

I think the success of this depends very much not only on the clothes but how they affect the layout. I often go into John Lewis and emerge empty handed simply because I can't find anything, whereas Selfridges, though vast, has a clean, easy to follow lay out.