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For close to a century, John Lewis has been “never knowingly undersold”, but the retailer is now positioning itself as being there “for all life’s moments” as it adapts to a profound shift in spending habits driven by Covid-19 and rising living costs.
The pledge is designed to tap into what the department store chain is billing as the “moments economy”, as Britons spend smaller amounts on enjoying day-to-day life – from hosting a dinner party to celebrating a dog’s birthday – rather than splurging on set-piece events such as foreign holidays.
The retailer’s annual How we shop, live and look report, published on Monday, finds Britons largely put their lockdown lifestyles behind them over the past 12 months, as work and social lives gradually returned to normal.
Women abandoned the comfort of velour tracksuits and sports bras, with sales of underwire bras and shapewear up sharply, and demand for blazers rising by 75%.
Sales of ironing boards increased by nearly a fifth and “wave-styler” hair appliances were up by 28%. Sales of smart menswear also rose by 60%.
The return of the commute also featured prominently, sending demand for laptop bags and travel mugs up by a fifth and 65% respectively.
The retailer has also stopped selling wall-mounted desks, while having less time for lockdown hobbies led to sales of bread bins tumbling by 42%, as the sourdough love affair faded.
With weddings, festivals and family gatherings back on, sales of occasion hats soared by 168%, while demand for champagne flutes and wine glasses surged by 88%. Jigsaw puzzles also suffered from the return to business as usual, with sales plunging by nearly 70%.
Among the major fashion trends is the rise of baggier boyfriend jeans, up by 85%, signalling a move away from skinny jeans after two years of leisurewear.
But Britons’ newfound love for outdoor swimming has turned upmarket changing robes into a high-street trend, with sales of the gowns, made by brands such as Dryrobe, doubling.
The research also highlights the rise of the Netflix party, with a quarter of Britons inviting friends and family over to watch something during the past year. And the Lionesses’ victory at the European Championship in July sent searches for football boots and sports bras soaring on the John Lewis website.
The second series of Bridgerton helped corset sales rise by a fifth, while the new Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie, has inspired a “Barbiecore” trend. Sales of pink lipstick and clothing have increased by 83% and 22% respectively, leaving “no question as to what the colour of 2022 would be”, the retailer said.
Last month, John Lewis retired the 97-year-old “never knowingly undersold” price pledge, which had become a hindrance in an online world, and said it will instead focus on “everyday quality and value”.
The move is part of a “journey to reimagine our business”, according to Pippa Wicks, John Lewis’s executive director, and is part of a shake-up that will involve new ventures such as renting flats.
The “experience economy”, in which people put their spare cash towards making memories, going on holiday or throwing birthday parties, has fuelled consumer spending for the past two decades.
But research into the shopping habits and social media feeds of millions of consumers made it clear to the retailer that “something has begun to change”, said Wicks.
She said: “We are already synonymous with the big occasions, from Christmas to planning a nursery. We will become the place that people know they can come to bring a little joy to all of life’s moments.”
As the cost of living continues to rise, two-thirds of 5,000 people polled over the summer told the retailer that they still want to celebrate modestly with friends and family even if their finances are under pressure. More than half of respondents said they would prefer to spend money on things that made them happy day to day.
John Lewis plans to revamp its stores over the coming months, so customers can browse by “moments” rather than traditional departments such as clothing and homewares.
Michelle Ogundehin, a TV presenter and trends expert, said: “People aren’t having dinner parties to show off their homes any more. They’ll buy table decorations and flowers to make more of the moment. There’s a growing appreciation that we can burn a beautiful candle and sit outside with friends, and don’t need to be on a beach in Marbella.”
Occasion hats +168%
Changing robes +100%
Pet accessories +100%
Champagne flutes and wine glasses +88%
Boyfriend jeans +85%
Women’s blazers +75%
Smart menswear +60%
Wired bras +45%
Laptop bags +20%
Ironing boards +19%
Jigsaws – 68%
Velour tracksuits – 50%
Bread bins – 42%
Non-wired bras – 33%
Microwaves – 13%
Soup makers – 12%
Wall-mounted desks – delisted