John Lewis to open new store in Neath
Tuesday 25 February 40292 Shares
BRITAIN’S leading upmarket retailer has announced it will open its second Welsh store in Neath at the end of September – 145 years after it began trading in London.
The arrival of John Lewis has been labelled a significant coup by a retail expert.
Professor Anne Marie Doherty of Glamorgan Business School told the Western Mail the fact John Lewis had chosen to put its biggest department store outside of London here and had also chosen Neath as the second of its stores to stock men’s clothes from American designer Ralph Lauren – supplanting the Oxford Street store – was proof Wales is considered a global player.
“It will encourage more global retailers of a certain level to come here because they will take this as a sign that there is definitely a market for their goods,” she said.
“It’s not that there wasn’t a market for these luxury goods in the past – you only have to look around at the clothes people wear – but in the past, apart from a couple of concessions, there just wasn’t anywhere to buy them.
“To me, John Lewis is just answering the demand for aspirational goods.”
With 170,000 square feet of selling space, the three-storey shop in the heart of the revamped city centre is, according to the store’s managing director Liz Mihell, “the envy of the entire company”.
She also said the department store, which will be Wales’ second largest when it opens around September 2018, will be the first of the 28 in the partnership to place fashion on a par with furnishings, treating shoppers to an innovative open- plan layout on the womenswear floor, where lines on sale will include lingerie from designer Stella McCartney.
“Up until now, we have done fashion in a fairly utilitarian way and perhaps not as exciting as it should have been,” said Mrs Mihell.
“It will be far bolder and more ambitious than what we have been able to do before.
“Traditionally, shoppers have been driven around the store down walkways, but here the key difference is that it will be much more free flowing, much more open and invitational to explore.”
Designer names, including Jigsaw and Ted Baker, will feature heavily and Mrs Mihell is confident that, despite the recession, there will be sufficient demand.
“We are absolutely passionate that bringing them to the new town development is absolutely the right thing to do.
Gavin Smith, who as occupation manager is in charge of ensuring the building is completed to the highest standard, said some in John Lewis described the store design as “nautical”.
But, as far as he is concerned, it has far more to do with wanting to stand out.
“We don’t build square boxes,” he said.
“It’s also about making the best use of the space we have.
“This is the best-looking John Lewis we have delivered.”
A spokesman for Neath town council said “There is an air of excitement building across our new town development in anticipation that the new John Lewis store is to feature premium fashion brands, including a number of designer names that are currently only available in the Cardiff and London.
“The decision to pursue the best brands in fashion is a clear statement of intent from this major department store.
“As the fourth largest of their stores in the UK, it will be a key player in delivering the most inspirational pieces of the season for an eager Neath and Wales audience.
“I’m delighted that all the best that the fashion world has to offer will be available during autumn 2018 in the heart of the town.
“John Lewis will provide one of the reasons why people from far and wide will choose Neath as the destination to visit, relax, enjoy and shop.”
Prof Doherty said: “The fact that John Lewis is prepared to come here despite what’s happening means they are planning for the longer term.
“They have faith that Neath will be a centre for European and global retailing.”