John Lewis

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London

John Lewis in London

Som­er­set-born John Lewis opened his first shop in 1864, on Oxford Street. Lewis began by sell­ing rib­bons and hab­er­dash­ery and pro­gres­sive­ly branched out into new lines. His son John Spedan Lewis took an active part in the busi­ness from an ear­ly age but his rad­i­cal ideas on staff remu­ner­a­tion, wel­fare and par­tic­i­pa­tion brought the two into con­flict.

Spedan with­drew from any involve­ment in the Oxford Street busi­ness in return for total con­trol at Peter Jones, Sloane Square, which his father had acquired in 1905. He suc­cess­ful­ly intro­duced a con­sul­ta­tive sys­tem of man­age­ment while trans­form­ing the for­tunes of what had been a fail­ing enter­prise.

Father and son were even­tu­al­ly rec­on­ciled and, on the former’s death in 1928, John Spedan Lewis gained sole own­er­ship of the busi­ness. With­in a year he had estab­lished the John Lewis Part­ner­ship, the prof­its of which were dis­trib­uted among the staff, thence­forth known as ‘part­ners’. Soon after­wards the part­ner­ship adopt­ed the pric­ing pol­i­cy and slo­gan it still pro­claims today: “Nev­er know­ing­ly under­sold.”

Mean­while, over in Acton, Wal­lace Waite and Arthur Rose had built a flour­ish­ing gro­cery store busi­ness they called Wait­rose Ltd. The John Lewis Part­ner­ship acquired the com­pa­ny’s ten stores in 1937, the same year in which the present Peter Jones depart­ment store opened – to wide­spread archi­tec­tur­al acclaim for its pio­neer­ing use of cur­tain-walling. Three years lat­er the part­ner­ship bought Jones Broth­ers, Hol­loway Road, from Sel­f­ridge Provin­cial Stores.

By the out­break of the Sec­ond World War the Oxford Street busi­ness had grown to fill a pair of depart­ment stores, but these were destroyed by fire after being hit by an oil bomb in 1940 and rebuilt in the present form in the late 1950s.

In 1955 the first Wait­rose super­mar­ket opened in Streatham, where the part­ner­ship had ear­li­er acquired Prat­t’s depart­ment store.

John Lewis became an anchor store of the Brent Cross shop­ping cen­tre when it opened in 1976 and sub­se­quent­ly chal­lenged the dom­i­nance of Ben­talls in Kingston upon Thames. In 1990 the part­ner­ship closed its Streatham (Prat­t’s) and Hol­loway Road (Jones Broth­ers) branch­es – despite the pleas and protests of dis­mayed local res­i­dents.

The group has since opened addi­tion­al Lon­don branch­es at West­field Strat­ford City and on the Pur­ley Way, west of Croy­don (a one-floor ‘at home’ store).

The John Lewis Part­ner­ship is head­quar­tered in Vic­to­ria.
John Lewis Oxford Street fascia