John Lewis : a Royal partnership

Last modified on 2014-11-25 16:41:05 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

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The John Lewis Partnership’s 69,000 Partners own the leading UK retail businesses – Waitrose (grocery stores) John Lewis (department stores) and John Lewis insurance & financial services. Uniquely for a retailer of its size all employees are partners and share in the ownership of the enterprise.

John Lewis Oxford Street holds a Royal Warrant  awarded by Her Majesty the Queen as suppliers of  ‘haberdashery and household’ goods and the John Lewis shop in Reading, Berkshire (their closest John Lewis branded store to Windsor Castle) also has a Royal Warrant from HM the Queen as ‘suppliers of household and fancy goods’, received on 1 January 2007.

The partnership owns the small Windsor department store called Caleys, the smallest of the John Lewis owned department stores and one of the oldest. Situated in the shadow of Windsor Castle, it has served the royal household since 1818, when it received the Royal Warrant from Queen Charlotte. The Royal tradition has continued and still hold a Royal warrant from HM The Queen, first awarded by her in 1955. Peter Jones, the wholly owned department store located on Sloane Square, London,  also part of the John Lewis Partnership, holds  Royal warrants from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.

John Lewis began in 1864 with the opening of the first shop in London’s Oxford Street. ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’, their unique promise to customers that the price of any item they sell would always be as low as the lowest price in the neighbourhood, has been their slogan for over 75 years.

Born in September 1885, John Spedan Lewis was the eldest of two sons whose father had opened the original John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.

John Spedan Lewis

John Spedan Lewis

Spedan Lewis became aware that he, his brother and his father between them were enjoying earnings equivalent to those of the entire workforce in both shops. But it wasn’t until a riding accident forced him to convalesce that he was able to spend time developing his ideas for the future of the business, ideas that would radically change its foundation.

As soon as he returned to work, intent on bettering the working conditions and spirit of the company, he offered shortened working days, the setting up of a staff committee, a third week’s holiday ( paid holiday was a real innovation for the retail trade at this time) and eventually, a house magazine, the Gazette, which is still published today.

Following his father’s death in 1928, Spedan was bequeathed sole ownership. He set about creating the first Constitution and the following year the John Lewis Partnership Limited  signed the First Trust Settlement. This gave him practical control of the business, but allowed the profits to be distributed among the employees. Twenty-one years later, he signed the irrevocable Second Trust Settlement, and the Partnership became the property of the people employed within it.

john lewis emma watson people tree

Emma Watson creative advisor to People Tree now at John Lewis

John Lewis’s name is synonymous with quality, value and style. Over the years, John Lewis has become the largest department store retailer in the UK, with 29 John Lewis shops (28 department stores and one John Lewis at home) and a growing online business –  John Lewis has consistently been voted ‘Britains favourite retailer’ (and again, in 2010 ). The company has recently recently introduced new fashion ranges including the British fair trade and organic label ‘People Tree’ . Emma Watson is creative advisor and model for their range. They also stock Hobbs, Barbour, Prada, Jigsaw, Mulberry, Osprey London and Orla Kiely to mention a few.

From the John Lewis celebration of Britain range

From the John Lewis celebration of Britain range

The website stocks more than 70,000 lines sourced from across the globe, focused on the best of home, fashion, giftware and flowers and is consistently ranked one of the top UK online shopping destinations. Recently the company  launched a ‘Celebration of Britain‘ range with an eclectic mix of retrospective and modern designs.