“IT’S a kind of magic” - that’s the verdict of Julie Blake, managing director of John Lewis Solihull after the department store revealed a bonus to all its staff - or Partners - of 17 per cent - equivalent to nine weeks’ salary.
Speaking just after the envelope had been opened by employee Kate Richman to whoops of delight from the store’s expectant 550 staff, Julie, who joined John Lewis as an A level management trainee 28 years ago, said: “We are all co-owners, which gives everyone a share in our business. It creates a different atmosphere amongst the workforce because we are all working for each other.”
The bonus was higher than City experts had predicted and applies to all the company’s 84,000 staff nationwide across both John Lewis and Waitrose.
The Solihull store has done particularly well, with a sales surge in the last quarter of plus five per cent over the same period in 2011.
“We were just shy of a record year, the snow just scuppered us at the end,” said Julie.
She admits though that the demise of some big names has helped the company’s growth.
“We have gained quite a bit of market share, and unfortunately that’s because some of the names on the high street have fallen away.
“Sales of electricals, particularly TVs and tablet computers, have gone through the roof.
“It’s about trust - when customers buy something our after sales service is second to none borne out by our guarantees.”
Buyers using the internet have surged too while the Solihull store has been strong in key areas: Sales are high in fashion as well as electricals and the store is a must for local families.
“Solihull is a very strong family market for us, childrenwear has done very well as has our toy department,” said Julie, who commutes from Maidenhead in Berkshire every day to be in the borough.
And the secret of John Lewis’s success? “We don’t have all our eggs in one basket, we have a broad range of products,” she said.
“But it’s also about being fleet of foot and adapting our business model. You’ve got to plan ahead and you’ve got to be relevant, newness all the time, we’re constantly looking at ways to meet the customer’s demands,” she said.