Retail Insider held its latest Breakfast event this week with Simon Russell, director of retail operations development at John Lewis, and Tatiana Fokina, CEO of Hedonism Wines, discussing the evolving role of the store in a multi-channel world.

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Tatiana Fokina, CEO, Hedonism Wines

Senior retailers from the likes of House of Fraser, Laithwaites Wine, New Look, and Wayfair along with other executives from across the sector attended the event at the Gilbert Scott restaurant at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London to hear about how to maximise the value of the store.

Fokina kicked of with the story of the Hedonism Wines store in Mayfair that has spent zero on marketing but has garnered a strong following because of its unique offer. Its 7,100 lines  – of wines, spirits and whiskies – range from less than £10 to £100,000-plus per bottle.

As well as its staggering product range she highlighted the use of in-store theatre, with tasting machines offering 48 wines, iPads for customers’ children, and knowledgeable employees who Fokina says “go the extra mile”,  as among the draws for its customers.

Its appeal has certainly tempted a high level of spend, with an average of £110 spent per bottle, and the highest single order worth over £260,000. Another attribute to the store has been the launch of a website this year, which Fokina says has proved a major driver of footfall to the physical outlet.

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Simon Russell, director of retail operations development, John Lewis

Running stores and a website as complementary assets is well known to Russell who highlighted how online sales are higher in areas where there is a John Lewis store. This bodes well for the company as he stated its plan was to grow from the present 40 outlets to a potential optimum 60 stores.

One of the keys to the success of the multi-channel model at the company has been the restructuring of the business whereby there are no longer separate teams for online and stores. They have been merged into one for each area such as finance and buying.

There has also been early recognition by senior management of the value of investing in technology rather than using these funds to simply add another store. New tills with internet access  providing visibility of out-of-stocks and enabling browsing are among the areas of investment.

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But it is not all about technology as Russell says one of the most popular elements in-store remain the cafes and restaurants that increase dwell time and free tea and cake are to be offered to members of its forthcoming loyalty scheme. This follows the free coffee and newspapers that can already be enjoyed by customers signed up John Lewis’ myWaitrose.

Many thanks go to PCMS Group, Bond Dickinson and Clipper Logistics for their support, which made this Retail Insider event possible.