Airport store is the runway for John Lewis’ international business

By opening its first airport store, John Lewis has firmly set out its stall in terms of international aspirations. While it is keeping schtum about any plans to open stores overseas for now, it will be no surprise to anyone when it eventually does reveal store openings abroad.  


Opening an airport store is one of the best ways to open up your brand to an international audience. By having stores in global hubs, you increase exposure to new markets while limiting the risk of a full blown roll out.

If anything, John Lewis is slightly behind its rivals in looking overseas. Marks & Spencer has found success since relaunching itself internationally with stores in Paris and Amsterdam last year. Meanwhile Debenhams’ international performance is going from strength to strength. The opportunities overseas for a brand such as John Lewis are obvious. It has a strong reputation for quality and service and range of exclusive products.

Topshop’s Justin Cooke talked about international expansion at Marketing Week Live in June, and how the way to approach new markets is not on a country by country basis, but by targeting influential cities around the globe. This kind of approach would be suited to John Lewis and starting out with airports is a good way to do that.

An airport store is a smart first step to test the waters and appetite among international customers. From it, John Lewis will be able to glean data about who its store is popular with which will be a valuable insight when it does come to scoping out locations abroad.

If it finds travellers from France shun its airport store, yet Japanese air travellers make a beeline for it and spend time and money in the store and then online, a flagship in Tokyo might be a better idea than one in Paris.

The airport store will also offer a way to drive up demand for the brand and will naturally, if the communications and channels are right, drive international customers to the online platform. John Lewis delivers to 33 countries already and is likely to expand this or at least see orders rise as more airport shoppers see the brand.

The obvious way to use the airport store to build the international online business is by using digital platforms or kiosks in store to showcase the full range, in a similar way to John Lewis’ smaller format multichannel store which opened in Exeter last year.

John Lewis’ multichannel strategy has been a phenomenal success and it has consistently outpaced its peers. That success will doubtless continue overseas.

Writing about international exposure seems an apt way to end my time at Marketing Week.  Over the last four years, parts of the industry have become unrecognisable. The pace of change has been both daunting and exciting and the way our industry has embraced and driven innovation is phenomenal. It’s been a pleasure to cover some of the most high profile creative, brand and business strategies emerging from the UK and follow the opportunities and challenges facing marketers in ever sector. Many of the challenges and opportunities marketers face in Australia are the same, but the climate is enviably better. See you on the other side!

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