The Emperor's New Clothes: John Lewis

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

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The Independent Online

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.