John Lewis Partnership
Since opening its first department store on London’s famous Oxford Street in 1864, the John Lewis Partnership has grown into one of the UK’s most popular retailers, and employs 76,500 people.
- Co-owned business with profit sharing schemes
- Good career structure and well defined career path
- A variety of employee benefits, including a 25% discount in John Lewis and 15% discount in Waitrose
- In some branches and roles the location can make it difficult to socialise among teams
- Working outside contracted hours and working weekends is not uncommon
Since opening its first department store on London’s famous Oxford Street in 1864, John Lewis has grown into one of the UK’s most popular retailers. After the death of its eponymous founder in 1928, his son John Spedan Lewis took the helm and implemented many of the practices that led to the company’s rise and sustained success.
Believing it was unfair that business owners received profits and benefits while its employees didn’t, Spedan Lewis created a profit sharing scheme, a representative staff, provided paid holidays and set up workers’ committees. During a time when employees’ rights were minimal, these were radical principles to implement; but by making the company’s workforce both employees and partners, Spedan Lewis gave his staff real incentive to help propel the company forward.
This united drive has manifested in the founding of direct services company Greenbee.com – later to become John Lewis Insurance – the launch of its online shopping site www.johnlewis.com and the purchase of the supermarket chain Waitrose. The latter has since swelled from 10 to 230+ stores with the partnership also investing in an online delivery service, Ocado, to deal with the growing demand for home delivered groceries. Today, the partnership employs 76,500 personnel across the John Lewis and Waitrose brands. The John Lewis Partnership is structured by business area: building and services, head office, IT, John Lewis branches, John Lewis Direct, John Lewis distribution, John Lewis manufacturing, residential clubs, Waitrose distribution, Waitrose farming and Waitrose supermarkets.
The John Lewis Partnership is a big player when it comes to CSR work. The company is involved in local and national community projects and has established links with schools, charities and local authorities. Most recently, the Partnership has been actively supporting the East London regeneration programme by planning to set up new local stores that will create up to 930 jobs. Additionally, the company provides free employment training, offering at least 250 job opportunities to the unemployed.
The Partnership is also committed to doing its bit for the environment. Sustainability is high on the agenda; in fact, the firm has created a 10-year carbon reduction programme that aims to cut the company’s carbon footprint by 15%. Other green initiatives focus on fuel efficiency/alternative fuels, renewable sources, the reduction of water use and packaging optimisation.
When it comes to diversity, the Partnership is certainly not lagging behind either. The firm’s recruitment policies clearly make room for this, providing equal opportunities for all – but that’s not all! John Lewis is a keen campaigner for improving employment opportunities for people regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, social background, religion, disability or sexuality. The company supports several campaigns such as Race for Opportunity and the Employers’ Forum on Disability. The company doesn’t stop there either and is keen to improve the proportion of ethnic minorities at its management level, whilst also supporting disability in the work place. Furthermore, John Lewis hosts a Business and Technology Education Council placement programme that aims to develop the skills and qualifications of students from deprived backgrounds.Read all 154 employee quotes
The John Lewis Partnership offers a Management Development Programme for both its John Lewis and Waitrose stores. The tailored programme is designed to equip its graduates with all the skills needed for successful management. If you pick John Lewis, then the long term aim would be to integrate you into a store’s senior leadership team responsible for executing overarching brand strategy at a local level. Senior management roles tend to be divided between customer-facing departments – including selling departments, catering and customer service – and operational support functions such as finance, supply chain and administration.
Both John Lewis and Waitrose offer positions as department managers and section managers. Those that have supervisor experience from a commercial environment can develop their leadership skills in the Horizons training programme or by joining as a Section Manager Trainee.
If you don’t fancy working on the shop floor, there are several graduate roles available at Head Office through the Buying, Finance, IT and Merchandising schemes. Those undertaking the Buying scheme will develop their skills over three to five years – progressing to Assistant Buyer in their second year before becoming a fully-fledged Buyer by the end of the programme. Graduates interested in working across John Lewis’ three main buying categories of home, fashion, and electrical and home technology will need a minimum 2:1 to stand a chance of making the scheme. This academic prerequisite also applies to the company’s other Head Office schemes, with the exception of IT. Plumb for the Merchandising programme and you’ll make the rank of Merchandiser within three to five years. Based out of the HQ in Victoria, successful Merchandising applicants will be good with numbers, capable of planning and reaching targets and have great communication skills.
The recruitment process varies from scheme to scheme. However, no matter which role you apply for an online application kicks off proceedings, with graduate schemes then holding assessment days. Held over two days, hopefuls will only make the second day if they pass the first. The first day is group based, with graduates being put through their paces in a number of exercises. The second day involves a series of individual activities. One Project Manager states that two interviews is the ‘standard’; expect questions focussing on your ‘flexibility, mobility and… past experience’. Make sure you also prepare for situational judgement tests as this may be required in the early stages of the application.
Internships and Placements
For those keen to gain some real hands-on work experience in retail management, count yourself lucky as John Lewis offers one-year placements and six-week summer internships for penultimate year students of any discipline. These schemes primarily focus on retail management and will significantly expand your business skills in trading, product presentations, stock control and selling techniques. Expect to gain a comprehensive understanding of life as a manager on the shop floor and find out what it takes to run a successful retail company. And guess what? If they like you, you may even be fast-tracked through the hiring process for the Retail Management graduate scheme – so make sure you give it a go!
Graduate Recruitment Info
John Lewis Insurance
Employees in the UK: 76,500
Stores in the UK: 34
No. of Graduate roles: 100
No. of applications per year: circa 8,000 (2011)
Graduate salary: £25,000
2nd floor home
Electrical Buying Office
John Lewis Insurance
Large Electricals (on rotation)
Nursery,Toys,Childrenswear,Menswear and Sports
With the ways of the partnership, the culture and working environment is one of respect for each other, and cooperation. Everyone is willing to help one another and there are many informal networks. Socialising amongst colleagues is as and when ensuring that team bonding is a constant. The structure of the company means that though it is hierarchical, the communication is there from heads down to administrators.Graduate, LondonHelpful?
Early mornings and late nights, it is retail after all. But I have two long weekends a month and flexible working hours.Graduate, Welwyn Garden CityHelpful?
14,000 people applied for 19 jobs so it was quite tough. I think in honesty they were looking more at who you are and your potential rather than what you have achieved. Do you have the skills there than can be worked on to make you a future leader? Just be very honest from day one.Graduate, BristolHelpful?
Manage the shop floor, work on projects, look at figures, deal with customers and partners.Graduate, BristolHelpful?
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UK Head Office:
John Lewis Partnership
London SW1P 1BX
Tel: +44 (0) 0207 828 1000