The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is rebranding its two businesses – John Lewis and Waitrose – as it looks to make more of its key points of difference amid the strategic challenges facing high street retail.
The move will see John Lewis rebranded as ‘John Lewis & Partners’ and Waitrose as ‘Waitrose & Partners’ from September 2018. The company has not issued further details on what this might mean, simply saying that more details “will be announced in the coming months”.
“The new brand is a really clear statement about the core of our business – our partners at the heart of everything we do. We speak about partners as our clearest and most valuable point of difference, the thing that makes us special, enabling us to offer truly personalised experiences for customers,” a spokeswoman tells Marketing Week.
The rebrand comes as JLP issues a profit warning, cautioning that profits in the first half will be “close to zero” and in the second half “substantially lower” than last year as it looks to offset struggles on the high street with plans to invest in its brands, products and service.
The partnership says it plans to raise up to £500m over the next three years to invest in product and service innovation. This will be done by “rebuilding profitability” at Waitrose, creating more value from its property estate and conducting a review of its pension scheme.
That investment will be put into “differentiating” its retail proposition. JLP points to its “excellent” brands and their “proven capability” to develop new products and services, as well as its high-quality store estate and “leading” ecommerce operation. It will also look to expand the role of its store staff, which it calls ‘partners’ to boost the customer experience.
“It is widely acknowledged that the retail sector is going through a period of generational change and every retailer’s response will be different. For the partnership, the focus is on greater differentiation – not scale,” says the company.
“We have clear plans to build on our strengths and to sharpen our points of difference in both Waitrose and John Lewis. These plans include further investment in and development of unique products and service, together with a greater emphasis on own brand and innovation.”
At Waitrose, the focus will be on core customers, extending own-brand and raising quality. It will also look to expand its health and wellbeing offering, as well as increase the number of in-store specialists to advise customers. Waitrose.com will also be an area of focus, with sales already growing at 21% year on year.
For John Lewis, the focus will be on three key areas – unique products, personal service and expanding into new services. This is especially true in women’s fashion, where John Lewis will look to acquire niche brands, secure exclusives from international labels, and growing design capability. It has a target to increase own-brand sales from 30% currently to 50%.
Again, the focus for partners will be on offering advice and expertise, with John Lewis seeing a shift from “ubiquitous” transactional shopping to personalised service. It also wants to expand services, particularly in the home and financial markets, as exemplified by its acquisition of home improvements business Opun earlier this month.
JLP chairman Charlie Mayfield adds: “The John Lewis Partnership is a unique business with different ownership, a different purpose and a different outlook to any of our competitors. As retail changes we need to tread a path that enables us to thrive as a business while building on the qualities that make us different. The measures that we have outlined today are an important next step in our strategy that will ensure we emerge stronger from this period of profound change.”