A history of John Lewis as new Exeter store opens
Hundreds of shoppers are to flock to Exeter tomorrow to be among the first to set foot in a brand new John Lewis store.
Boasting 65,000 square feet of space spread over five floors, the store will offer a huge selection of clothing, homeware, electrical appliances and jewellery. It is the first John Lewis store to open in Devon and Cornwall.
John Lewis, which came into existence in 1864, has established itself as a household name, adored by families and fashionistas alike.
Promising quality and value, the department store giant has stuck by its slogan 'Never Knowingly Undersold' for more than 75 years.
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The retailer assures its customers the price of any item it sells will always be as low as the lowest price in the neighbourhood.
And with new stores springing up nationwide, John Lewis is now the largest department store retailer in the UK, with 37 John Lewis shops (29 department stores and eight John Lewis at home), and a growing online business - johnlewis.com.
The first John Lewis store opened in London's Oxford Street in 1864. Mr Lewis took 16s 4d on his first day.
Fast forward to 1885 and his son, John Spedan Lewis – the founder of the John Lewis Partnership – was born.
Spedan would go on to leave a major mark on commercial history, inviting partners to co-own the business.
The John Spedan Lewis way – as alive today as it was 80 years ago – puts the happiness of employees at the heart of the business, and gives every partner a voice.
By the age of 21 Spedan had acquired a quarter share-holding in the department store, and was on his way to becoming director of Peter Jones, the other shop in his father's control.
He offered shortened working days, a third week's paid holiday and set up a staff committee, as well as a house magazine, the Gazette, which is still published today.
By 1914 Spedan withdrew all active involvement with the Oxford Street shop in exchange for total control of Peter Jones, following a conflict with his father who was alarmed by some of his innovative practices.
Six years later the first profit-sharing scheme was introduced, along with a representative staff council.
Cooperation between the two stores resumed after Spedan and his father reconciled. His father's death in 1928 gave Spedan sole ownership.
He created the first Constitution and the following year the John Lewis Partnership Limited, and signed the First Trust Settlement. This gave him practical control of the business, but allowed the profits to be distributed among employees.
Some 21 years later he signed the binding Second Trust Settlement, and the Partnership became the property of the people employed within it.
It is today the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership, where all 81,000 staff are partners in the business.
In the years that followed, John Lewis would come to be associated with high quality food also. In 1937 the business bought Waitrose, a chain of 10 specialist food shops, with the first supermarket opening in 1955.
Waitrose opened its 100th food shop in 1992, and there is today a network of 285 shops.
John Lewis built on its link with high end food once again in 2000 with the launch of Ocado, the online service that delivers Waitrose groceries to homes in the UK. Ocado is part-owned by the Partnership.
Johnlewis.com went live the following year.
Fast forward to 2012 and John Lewis is deemed 'Britain's favourite electricals retailer'. It also achieved the top accolade for customer service in the Verdict Consumer Satisfaction Index published in April.
John Lewis was also the official department store provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Meanwhile its website stocks more than 200,000 products, and is consistently ranked one of the top online shopping destinations in the UK.
The business has annual gross sales of more than £8.7 billion.
Exeter shoppers have enjoyed a sneak preview of the range of products that will be available in the brand new store, thanks to a pop-up shop which opened last month.
The shop, which will open for a total of six weeks, houses fashion, beauty, consumer electronics and home products across 1,200 square feet.