They aim to sell, under one roof, just about everything you need in life. A typical John Lewis store stocks more than half a million lines in the space of one year. There are 27 shops in the UK, and a further 10 in the pipeline. It all began in 1864, when a draper called John Lewis opened a small shop in Oxford Street, London, which, by 1905, had grown into a department store about to gobble up its ailing rival Peter Jones. John Lewis's son took over the reins, and under his control, the shop adopted the "Never Knowingly Undersold" slogan, still going today, and structured the company so that all employees are treated as partners, and get a share of profits: this year everyone got a bonus of 14 per cent of their annual salary - that's seven weeks' pay.

Vital statistics:

John Lewis employs approximately 27,000 staff, and the goods they sell account for annual sales of £2.4bn.

The office:

Head office is in London's Victoria Street, just along from Westminster Abbey, but graduate recruits will start work in a uniform behind a counter in one of the stores somewhere in the UK.

Is this you?

If you've got the shopping gene, or, more important, understand why others have it and how they exercise it, then this is the job for you. Every year John Lewis take about 20 graduates for their retail management scheme, the next intake due in September 2006. Any honours degree will do.

The recruitment process:

Applications for 2006 will open at the website,, in autumn this year. The key stage in the selection process is an assessment centre exercise, where applicants, among other things, are taken to a real shop floor and asked for observations on visual merchandising, customer service and stock layout. Those taken on start work at the sharp end of retail: on the shop floor selling goods to customers, and gradually accumulating responsibility with experience.

In parallel there's a programme of training seminars and courses, bringing graduates from different locations together. Each recruit also has an individual mentor. Within 18 months all graduates are expected to move into a management role.

Top dollar?

Graduate recruits start on a salary between £19,500 and £22,000, depending on location and qualifications.

Beam me up Scotty?

Graduate trainees progress to a number of areas, among them branch management, personnel, buying, and supply chain management. Geographical mobility will help you progress.

Who's the boss?

Managing director, Charlie Mayfield, was an army officer before doing an MBA and going into business in 1992. He joined John Lewis in 2000 from the management consultants, McKinsey and Company.

Little known fact:

When the first John Lewis opened his shop in 1864, his first week's takings amounted to 16 shillings and fourpence, which, as anyone over about 40 should tell you, is equivalent to around 82p.