Despite being “thrilled” with the performance of its Buster the Boxer Christmas ad this year, John Lewis conceded its festive ads are “no long as groundbreaking” and says it could switch up its approach in 2017.
John Lewis posted a 2.7% rise in like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 31 December. In a press briefing, Marketing Week asked John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield whether the emotional blockbuster approach of its Christmas advertising was on the wane, as some critics have suggested.
Although Mayfield said he was “thrilled” with the 2016 ad and how it generated 53.5 million views across social channels in its first week alone, he did suggest the approach from ad agency adam&eveDDB could be in need of “some changes”.
He told Marketing Week: “It’s clear on the strength of consumer reaction the ad remains popular. Is it as groundbreaking as the first time we did it or people saw it? Possibly not. In some ways we can post-rationalise these things and look back and overlay a moment [that shift] happened.
“The brand has evolved for 10 years now and, along with Waitrose, become a lot more accessible for Brits thanks to our advertising and that’s a great thing. But we are looking at the best way to evolve that going forward. It isn’t about doing the same thing each year [with our advertising] but doing different things. That’s partly in terms of creativity and how we then wrap things around it.”
The acceleration of online
Over the festive period, shop sales at John Lewis were up 0.8%. Although solid, this was some way behind John Lewis’s impressive ecommerce performance as online sales rose 11.8%. In Christmas 2015, online accounted for 36% of the total sales at John Lewis and this number grew to 40% in 2016.
There was also a continued rise in mobile orders. Mayfield said sales from mobile phones were up by 80% over Christmas, now accounting for 37% of all traffic to the John Lewis website.
He added: “We kept click-and-collect going right up until 23 December so it’s clear we’re now better prepared to deal with online orders. Looking forward we want to improve our operational performance to sustain online growth. That’s one of our biggest priorities.”
The Waitrose brand also had a strong Christmas with sales at established stores up by 2.8%, largely thanks to strong trading at its in-store cafes. And at the John Lewis Partnership, total sales were up 4.9% versus last year to £1.9bn.
But despite the partnership’s overall positive performance, Mayfield has warned its annual bonus scheme for staff will be significantly lower than last year due to the “challenging year” that lies ahead and the continued weakening of sterling as a currency. This marks the fourth year in a row that it has cut the level of payouts to staff.