Sustainability in the real world: John Lewis & Partners

While the world talks about the sustainability dream that is yet to come, it is always refreshing to hear from a retailer for whom efficiency in the supply chain has always been important. Where Waitrose and John Lewis had, and still do for now, different ways of tackling this, the coming together of both businesses has re-energised their service and sustainability focus.

Ben Farrell, JLP’s head of operational support tells Retail Connections that the drive to improve has all been about customer service, as more and more business goes online, now over 43% across the group, “The spider’s web of customer interactions has been getting more and more complex, with the result that their view is not necessarily our view.” Fixing this is not cheap. Farrell said. “Each percentage point of online growth costs us £1m.”

The company has already been thinking cross-business, in that John Lewis customers can pick up their orders from a Waitrose store. However, they can also pick up from Booths supermarkets or Co-ops, which are located where JLP stores are not.

Balancing service and sustainability

The trick for JLP is to give a good service but demonstrate sustainability at the same time. Farrell explained, “Consolidation of tasks and orders saves time and money; for instance, a member of staff can deliver as well as install a product in the customers home.” In-store, this is also about rethinking how staff serve, because John Lewis & Partners currently delivers 27 different customer experiences.

Collaboration with other brands has enabled delivery consolidation so that vehicles are as full as possible and intelligently routed. JLP has extended its strategic partnership with Boden, managing the brand’s deliveries through the JLP click and collect network.

Waitrose Unpacked

JLP has led the way on a reduction in packaging in several ways, notably the Waitrose Unpacked store where produce is displayed without packaging. It has also found a way to cut out delivery packaging by putting orders into reusable bags.

Farrell pointed out that this is good business. “Sales in our Oxford Unpacked store have gone up by 6%.” The group is open about the challenges it faces as retail continues to change at pace and more and more business shifts online.

Clearly, there is an appetite in the group to do more, building on what has already been achieved. Key to this will be partnerships, across departments, with staff, technology suppliers and other retailers and brands.

Chris Field is Chairman of Retail Connections, and CEO of Fieldworks Marketing.

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