The Emperor's New Clothes: John Lewis

Good old John Lewis – reliable, efficient, smart. Never knowingly overimpressed, Jane Merrick begs to differ

Share

Everyone loves John Lewis don't they? It shares its profits with the workers, while being the only major department chain that can still boast of an entire section for haberdashery. There's something so reassuring about the gleaming white floors and wooden and glass counters. Never knowingly underloved, that should be their motto.

In the 1970s, when wraparound childcare meant being carried in a hippy-print silk scarf (they're on the ground floor) on your mother's back, my mum took us to the Buttery at our local John Lewis after school. When I bought my first flat, I filled it with John Lewis furniture, lights and towels. Christmas shopping I can do in one carefully planned afternoon in one of its shops. The creative genius who set a John Lewis advert to The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" last Christmas knew what they were doing: Smiths fans from the 1980s are now the anguished middle classes, worrying whether the toys on the third floor are made from sustainable wood.

But when John Lewis announced last week a pre-tax profit rise of 60 per cent in the first half of the year (see Margareta Pagano, page 87), thanks in part to its sponsorship of the Olympics and to running up vintage Union Jack bunting for the Diamond Jubilee, I didn't want to crack open the Waitrose Cava.

The Christmas before last, I ordered a new bed from John Lewis online. The website made clear the delivery driver would both dismantle and take away the old bed. I was alone in the house with my six-month-old daughter on the day the new bed arrived. When the driver and his mate announced that they couldn't take the old bed away – because it wasn't dismantled – I ran to block the front door, insisting they shouldn't leave until they removed it. As my baby screamed, one of the men shouted that they would call the police and have me arrested for refusing to let them go. I opened the door and let them out, and haven't shopped at John Lewis since.

But is the clink of china in the Buttery too attractive to resist? Maybe I can forgive John Lewis one day. But I might just stick to hooks and eyes.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice