Now you can book your theatre seat or air fare at John Lewis

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The Independent Online

The John Lewis Partnership branched out into the financial services, travel and ticketing businesses yesterday, launching a new online and telephone-based subsidiary to complement its core department store and Waitrose supermarket divisions.

The new venture, called Greenbee, went live yesterday, offering customers a range of general insurance products, as well as travel agency and ticketing services. The company has said it will expand into life insurance, in partnership with Friends Provident, in the New Year, and is finalising a tie-up with Cox & Kings to provide high-end holiday packages.

Axa will underwrite Greenbee's home, travel and wedding insurance packages, while the group has tied up with Expedia and Seetickets to provide its travel and event ticketing services.

Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said the launch was a natural progression for the company. Waitrose is the only one of the UK's five largest supermarkets to not yet offer financial services products. However, the group said it would not be offering them at the till like its competitors. Greenbee's products will be available only over the phone and internet, and will promoted via a magazine given away in stores.

James Furse, the managing director of Greenbee, said the launch had been driven by demand from John Lewis and Waitrose customers. "They want to shop with us because they have confidence in our brand, and they have been telling us that they want access to services which until now we haven't provided."

Mr Furse said the company was considering eventually expanding into other financial services products, but said it wanted to build up the business slowly.

While John Lewis's famous "never knowingly undersold" promise will not be extended to its financial services range, the group said it intends to ensure its products are competitive. The company said research group Defaqto has already rated its home contents insurance product as the "number one policy" for cover in the UK, and its buildings insurance as the second best.

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