Wednesday 17 March 2021 10:00 am

Shakespeare: So far, consumers remain on John Lewis' side

Retailer John Lewis has announced hundreds of jobs are at risk as the brand considers the permanent closure of more department stores following the “economic earthquake” of the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff were already told earlier this year that there would be no annual bonus this year.

The chairwoman of the John Lewis Partnership, Dame Sharon White, said that John Lewis had witnessed “a decade-load of change concertinaed into one year” and was having to adapt to changing customer shopping habits. The value of John Lewis’ department stores had been diminished by the growth of online sales which were up by 73 per cent as in-store sales fell 59 per cent.

YouGov BrandIndex data shows that Current Customer scores, which indicate whether someone has purchased goods from the retailer in the past three months, declined steadily from 17.1 in March 2020 to its lowest score of 9.9 in July as a result of the pandemic. These scores then spiked to pre-pandemic levels at Christmas (17.8) but decreased again as a result of the January lockdowns.

However, while Consideration scores (whether someone would consider purchasing from the brand in future) fluctuated throughout the past 12 months – likely reflecting seasonal changes and reactions to changing restrictions – they have remained within 38.5 and 43.2 indicating that consumer desire to shop at John Lewis has not changed. 

John Lewis recently announced it will roll out a new pricing structure once stores reopen on 12 April while remaining true to the brand’s fair value ethos. John Lewis’ Value score, a net measure of whether consumers think a brand represents good or poor value for money, increased by 1.3 points from 17.1 in the 12 months before the pandemic began to 18.4 for the 12 months after. While this score has increased, there is room for John Lewis to improve – the brand currently ranks eighth behind high street retail competitors like Marks & Spencer, who rank fourth with a score of 26. 

John Lewis consistently ranks top of YouGov’s Best Brand Rankings and has the highest Reputation score among high street retail brands (45.8). It similarly scores highly for Impression (50), a net measure of whether consumers have a positive or negative impression of the brand and quality (58.9), a net measure of whether consumers think the brand represents good or bad quality. 

Whilst lower prices are good news for customers, this new focus on value must be careful not to damage John Lewis’ image and reputation among customers by lowering quality.

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