John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

John Lewis: a design for the interactive exhibition on Oxford Street
John Lewis: a design for the interactive exhibition on Oxford Street

Celebrations starting next month will mark the founding of the store, famous for being ‘never knowingly undersold’, by John Spedan Lewis in Oxford Street in 1864.

Cross, who joined the company last year, said the business’ origins and growth into today’s £4 billion concern were largely untold.

"There is an extraordinary relationship between the consumer and our brand," he said. "Not enough people know the story."

The anniversary gives the brand a chance to relate its founder’s radical approach of structuring his business as a democratic partnership, with its employees sharing in its profits.

The John Lewis team, working with Brands2Life for PR, has sent journalists a book of the most interesting stories from the history of the business, accompanied by a copy of its constitution.

"We have given them the story and they will all tell it in their own way," Cross said.

Consumer-facing activity will include a television advert and activity in its shops around the country from 3 May for an eight-week period.

The flagship Oxford Street store will host an exhibition showing visitors the milestones in John Lewis history as well as the future of retail as seen by the Royal College of Art.

Its roof garden will also be open to the public for the first time as part of a partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society.

Cross said the campaign was intended to tell the story of how the business has grown in a "John Lewis way".

"It’s a brand that is understated and doesn’t shout, so what we do has to be tasteful and respectful. This is the first time we’ve opened up our doors in this way."

The celebrations also extend into the realm of commerce with collaborations with brands and designers on a number of products made to mark the anniversary.

Partnerships include Antoni & Alison, Jaeger, Ted Baker, Lucienne Day, Barbour, Alex Monroe, Jo Malone, Liz Earle, Dualit, Vitra, Alessi, Links of London and Silvercross.

VIPs will be invited to an event opening the exhibition at the Oxford Street store, featuring actors and actresses.

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