Last updated at 1:22 AM on 4th June 2011
For years, it has been a bastion of tradition on the High Street, with a strong appeal to the older shopper.
But after more than a century of success, John Lewis is preparing a revamp in a bid to widen its appeal to younger generations.
And the store’s marketing manager Craig Inglis yesterday even went so far as to say the retailer was suffering from a ‘beige’ image problem.
Despite regularly coming top in surveys rating service and staff politeness, John Lewis said it is '15 years behind Tesco'
In a series of impromptu remarks reminiscent of jewellery magnate Gerald Ratner’s disastrous prawn sandwich quip, Mr Inglis said: ‘There is a level of change occurring that hasn’t happened in the business before. We can be accused of being beige at times, so we’re trying not to be.’
Despite regularly coming top in surveys rating service and staff politeness, Mr Inglis added that John Lewis is ‘15 years behind Tesco, at least’ in terms of its ‘customer relationship management’.
Mr Inglis said the store has for the first time drawn up a charter defining its brand.
While the document has only been circulated internally, the Mail understands that the firm plans to focus on consumers in their 20s and 30s, as well as the more mature patrons it already targets.
It also plans to appoint a new ‘head of insight’ in the autumn.
'Beige': John Lewis's marketing manager Craig Inglis labelled the brand the colour
And following the store’s £6million TV advert last year, showing John Lewis merchandise being used at various stages in a woman’s life, it is preparing another campaign, which Mr Inglis said will most likely divide opinion.
He said: ‘There’s probably a group of our customers that hate our recent ads, but I think that’s OK. We’ve got to challenge them.’
His ‘beige’ comments to journalists from the magazine Marketing Week recall Mr Ratner’s 1991 blunder. During a speech to the Institute of Directors, the then boss of the Ratners Group jokingly described one of his own products as ‘total crap’.
He added that his High Street chain sold gold earrings for less ‘than a prawn sandwich from Marks & Spencer’ in remarks that sent the family firm’s share price plummeting.
Mr Inglis’s ‘Ratner moment’, meanwhile, put John Lewis on the defensive.
A spokesman said yesterday: ‘We always want new customers, but never at the expense of others.’
And it ‘categorically’ denied reports that its 86-year-old slogan Never Knowingly Undersold will be scrapped.
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I don’t understand this – John Lewis has new, own brand ranges which are young and appealing and items that are reasonably priced and reliable like the Value baby range. Their shops offer something for everyone. Lots of young people go there for wedding lists. They must notice that they can shop there after they’ve bagged all the gifts - you’d assume they’d like to buy other products the store stocks. In most provinces John Lewis is the only good quality department store. Local branches are highly valued by shoppers. Often it’s the only place where you can buy everything you want under the same roof. Plus it’s the only retailer where staff will go above and beyond. They’re always helpful, polite and willing to point you in the right direction – or even hold your hand (metaphorically) and get you to the appropriate department. And my husband would not be without the wrapping service when it comes to my birthday! It’s fantastic.
- girlthursday5th, Liverpool, 04/6/2011 00:58
What appalling journalism is this? Any monkey with a typwriter can cut and paste words out of context to manufacture a story. I heard Inglis speak too. He loves the brand and its customers. But he talked about how to appeal to a broad audience - as Britain's favourite department store should. He acknowledged that some people might find it beige, and challenged his team to be imaginative where they needed to be. And yes he mentioned Tesco, but not admiringly, he just gave them credit for where they had innovated. It was an honest and utterly wholesome assessment of the brand's marketing, in keeping with an honest and wholesome brand. It's just a shame it has been so poorly reported in search of a headline that never was. Well done John Lewis and keep up the good work Craig Inglis
- Janine, London, 03/6/2011 23:38
What appalling journalism is this? Any monkey with a typwriter can cut and paste words out of context to manufacture a story. I heard Inglis speak too. He loves the brand and its customers. But he talked about how to appeal to a broad audience - as Britain's favourite department store should. He acknowledged that some people might find it beige, and challenged his team to be imaginative where they needed to be. And yes he mentioned Tesco, but not admiringly, he just gave them credit for where they had innovated. It was an honest and utterly wholesome assessment of the brand's message, in keeping with an honest and wholesome brand. It's just a shame it has been so poorly reported in search of a headline that neve was. Well done John Lewis and keep up the good work Craig Inglis.
- Janine, London, 03/6/2011 23:24
NO! John Lewis the best store in the Uk. If Inglis does this, he should be sacked.
- Liz, London, 03/6/2011 23:17
A story about a British institution under attack is always a good read. Unfortunately, the facts don't really support the angle taken here. I was at the meeting which Craig Inglis addressed. He gave an object lesson in how to attract new customers without alienating current ones. He also appeared very protective of this great British brand. I think someone has possibly been a little guilty of hyperbole here.
- Richard, London, 03/6/2011 23:11
Oh dear, Marks & Spencers did this a few years ago and it is still a mess, they are still unsure who their target shoppers are. Younger shoppers do not have any money, oldies do. John Lewis do this at their peril, it's time to sell the shares and buy them back in a few years when the price bottoms out. - Long_Shanks, England, 3/6/2011 17:27 Don't believe any of this I work at JL and I have heard nothing about this at all...def not on any agenda I have been told and there are no shares...its not a PLC its owned by the employees
- JLhappy, London, 03/6/2011 23:09
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