The poet Sir John Betjeman once remarked that when the end of the world came, he would want to be in the John Lewis [then Peter Jones] flagship store on Sloane Square, as “nothing unpleasant could ever happen there”.
From poetic tributes to wedding gift lists and annual Christmas commercials, the apparent fondness for the John Lewis brand is a quintessentially British trait.
So while questions remain over how the prime minister funded the £58,000 renovation of his Downing Street flat, controversy also continues to mount over the flat’s furnishings allegedly being labelled a “John Lewis nightmare”.
“Time for an interiors refresh? We pride our Home Design Service on having something for *almost* everyone,” came the tongue-in-cheek tweet from John Lewis on Wednesday. Meanwhile, shoppers browsing the furniture department of the company’s Oxford Street branch were far from pleased.
It’s “quite a snobby thing to say” and “very crass”, according to Kitty, a 30-year-old copywriter visiting the Oxford Street branch with her mother.
“John Lewis is a British staple, so it’s a kick in the teeth to a lot of people for them to suggest that their home was decorated in a way that wasn’t good enough for them,” she says. “It shows that they’re quite out of touch with a lot of people in the country, who think that this is a really nice shop.”
The positives of the store, for Kitty, are that it’s both good quality and incredibly reliable, as “if something goes wrong, they’ll always sort it out for you”.
Mary, Kitty’s mother, who has shopped at the store for over three decades, says that John Lewis is much loved due to its affordability and customer service. “The staff are all really nice, and with the products, they’re not cheap, but they’re also not overpriced – it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to make a load of money off of ordinary people.”
Visiting the Oxford Street store marks the first time Josie Sykes, a retired personal assistant, has left the house for over four months due to the pandemic. “I like the layout, the choice and the variety, and I find the staff always really friendly,” she says.
Sykes, who is shopping for new garden furniture, says John Lewis is her favourite store, mainly due to its simplicity. “I’m really enjoying being here, and being able to look around and see new things. Everything is arranged clearly – it’s straightforward and lovely.”
Lynne Mansfield, a 67-year-old retired accountant, has shopped consistently at the store since her early 20s, having bought her daughter’s first cot there in the 1970s. “For me, John Lewis means good value and good customer service,” she says. “It’s one of those stores that has survived, and you always know what you’re going to get.”
Mansfield believes the alleged derogatory comments regarding the John Lewis decor of the flat to be “completely arrogant”. “I think the prime minister should have more important…