My Week: Simon Fowler

The managing director of John Lewis's Peter Jones department store keeps staff and shoppers motivated during the busy Christmas season
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The Independent Online


I've been the managing director of Peter Jones, part of John Lewis, for five months but worked for the company for 23 years now.

The shop opens at 9.30am; at 9.20 we have a meeting. All the employees (or partners, as we call them) gather and I give them an update of how trade was the previous week. Last week, John Lewis generated £102m. Everyone is thrilled. I have a leadership meeting with my team at 10am every day to update ourselves on staffing and daily targets. I also spend a lot of time talking to partners about what makes their day tick. This takes about 70 or 80 per cent of my time: communication and engagement are top priority. In the evening I go to a private viewing of a gallery in Marylebone followed by an evening meal with my management office team for Christmas.


I see my senior leadership team today and discuss operating plans and brainstorm on the key areas that we need to build: partner, customer and profit. I go and see the director of the Saatchi Gallery across the way, an opportunity to talk about how our businesses might be able to work together in the future. We're also building links with the National Gallery and I have lunch with someone from there today.


There's a really good buzz in store and everyone feels very energetic and engaged with Christmas coming. One of the great things in retail is when you see strong results coming through as a consequence of the work you're putting in; it makes the work feel that much more worthwhile. I suppose John Lewis is doing so well partly because the general population feels a little bit jaded by the constant discussion of the recession, but I think they've also become very savvy shoppers and are looking for great service, great value and a great environment in which to shop.


We have launched classical calm, an idea we've been working on with the Royal College of Music. Every day from 4pm to 7pm until Christmas, we're holding mini pop-up concerts around the shop. We have harpists, string quartets and vocal quartets. We've conducted some questionnaires to run the theory that classical music releases sufficient endorphins to remove stress at this busy time of year. Eighty per cent of respondents agree it's working. We also have some free shopper treatments including shoulder massages and mini makeovers.


Our retired partners come in this morning for Christmas lunch and drinks. When people join John Lewis, they tend to work with us for a long time; when they retire we like to keep a sense of community with them. It's great fun catching up. I have to work the whole weekend for what I hope will be our second busiest week of the year so it's a quiet Friday night for me.