John Lewis to branch out with range of smaller stores

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The Independent Online

John Lewis is to increase its presence by opening at least 10 smaller department stores, kicking off with a shop in Exeter next year.

The retail stalwart has identified "at least" 10 locations for the new format stores, which will help John Lewis reach catchment areas that it does not access now, due to the near-freeze in large retail property developments.

The department store in Exeter is scheduled to open in late 2012 and will offer customers its full product assortment. That shop will be 65,000 square feet and overall the new format stores – whose offer will be tailored to locations – will average between that and 100,000 sq ft.

Andy Street, the managing director of John Lewis, said: "This is about bringing the full-line [product] assortment to locations and using the space innovatively."

The average John Lewis department store is 132,000 sq ft, but its London's Oxford Street shop is 320,000 sq ft. John Lewis will open a new standard size department store in Stratford, East London, in September, followed by one in Birmingham in 2014 and another in Leeds at an unspecified date.

It also has four John Lewis at Home shops, its standalone home and electricals format, and plans to add another six by the end of next year. John Lewis – which along with Waitrose forms the John Lewis Partnership – has grown sales by 2.3 per cent for the 23 weeks to 9 July.

Mr Street said: "We had a difficult spring but the past couple of months have seen a positive hardening of trade so it is a bit more encouraging. Our improvement is about outperforming the market, not the market strengthening."