The managing director of John Lewis Leicester Cliff Vanstone explains why the store is continuing to do well despite the economic downturn.
In recent times a number of high street stores have sadly shut down due to declining sales. When asked about their position in the high street, managing director of John Lewis Cliff Vanstone said: “With regards to the news of various companies closing down it really is a sorry state of affairs and for us we love nothing more than a healthy vibrant high street because that’s a benefit for us.”
Recent Christmas sales figures for John Lewis showed sales between December 23 to 29 2012 coming in at £112.9m, up by 11.5 per cent on sales for the same week in 2011 and was the first time the company broke the £150m barrier. Online sales for the five weeks during the Christmas period were also up by 44.3 per cent on the previous year.
“I think it goes back to the values we stand for. We talk about honesty and integrity and actually that’s the way we apply our interaction to our customers. I think certainly the times we’re in now, customers become discerning as to where they’re going to spend their money and rightly so.”
Cliff joined John Lewis as a young 18-year-old and has been working at the company for the past 22-and-a-half years. “It’s not uncommon to find people who have been working with John Lewis for a long time,” he said. From working on the shop floor selling tennis and squash rackets he has rocketed up to the senior post of managing director for the store at Highcross Leicester.
Speaking about his post he said: “It is the leadership role of the shop. The direction and focus for the shop is very much instigated by me in conjunction with my steering group. While I make the final decision in some of those things and am certainly the most accountable when it comes to head office, it is an amalgamation of resources that I have here to set the direction.”
Working in retail of course involves working unsociable hours, but typically Cliff’s day would involve setting the agenda for the shop. From measuring sales and services targets, he will also get out onto the shop floor where all the action takes place to spend time with the customers and the partners. He said: “It never fails to amaze me what you can learn from being out there with the people in the shop who are driving sales. They can really help you in terms of what challenges the store may or may not be facing.”
Despite their growing online presence, Cliff adds: “We are certain that our shops really are at the heart and foundation of our operation and they will certainly continue to be.”