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John Lewis reveals 2020 trading report: "The year that changed everything"

Tom Bottomley
21 December 2020

John Lewis has today released its annual ‘Shop Live Look’ report examining how we “lived, worked, socialised and shopped in this extraordinary year.”

Key trends include a shift to more casual clothing, and shopping online more than ever – with online sales accounting for 60-70% of John Lewis sales compared to only 40% pre-pandemic.

Customers have also switched to shopping “all day long”, as they now shop during the working day between 11am-4pm rather than in the evenings from 7pm-10pm, with the shift to many now working from home having a huge impact.

Other trends include how people have taken pleasure from the simpler things in life, rediscovering the art of letter writing while they’ve been unable to see loved ones, and “recreating holiday vibes” in back gardens.

With special occasions and holidays put on hold this year, consumers have taken a step back and “become more tuned into the world around us” - from supporting reuse and recycling to sending a little love via online gifts – with a 55% increase in people sending orders as a gift compared to 2019, and a +370% uplift in greeting card sales online.

John Lewis Christmas Shop 2020

John Lewis Christmas shop

Simon Coble, Trading Director of John Lewis, said: “The world is a very different place than it was in January. This year we stayed in, hunkered down, decked out and spruced up our homes. At John Lewis, we’ve been quick to change the way we help our customers - from the launch of virtual services bringing our partners' expertise directly into their homes to offering them more local and convenient places to pick up their Click & Collect purchases.

“While this extraordinary year is drawing to a close, there are many lessons we’ve learned, from embracing time spent with loved ones to enjoying the simpler things in life which will stay with us for the future.”

Notably, the report says “Christmas came early” with the earliest ever launch of the John Lewis Christmas shop. Christmas sales at John Lewis were up +112% versus 2019 in the last week of September. Sales of Christmas trees and decorations were up +232% and +156% respectively.

Hush joggers John Lewis

Hush joggers

“We freed ourselves from the tyranny of the waistband,” the report confirms, as people became comfortable keeping it casual. With many people working from home, sales of loungewear and leggings rose by a staggering +1,303% compared to May 2019.

Bright colours dominated homes and wardrobes across the country as Brits embraced the rainbow as a sign of resilience and hope in support of the NHS and key workers. Sales of women’s fashion lines featuring rainbows doubled at John Lewis.

Old routines were replaced with new in 2020. Gone were alarm clocks, with sales down -38% as people replaced waking up for the daily commute with longer breakfasts, seeing sales of espresso makers up +12%. New ways to keep kids entertained saw a return to old childhood favourites to shelves, such as Hornby and Scalextric.

Travel was largely off the agenda, with sales of suitcases tumbling -69%, and going “out out” was also not on the cards, seeing the sales of high heeled shoes drop -62% and party handbags crash -56%. Government guidance to wear face coverings saw sales of lipstick down -54% but sales of mascara had an uplift.

War Paint Reiss

Interestingly, men’s make-up went mainstream following War Paint for Men’s successful pop up at John Lewis Oxford Street. The retailer launched War Paint for Men online after demand was more than 50% higher than expected instore.

With the nation opting for pyjamas and loungewear, sheer underwear and all-in-one bodies were also popular choices to wear underneath.

Additionally, as gyms across the UK closed, people embraced home fitness, with sales of fitness trackers and smart watches up +64%. John Lewis launched Peloton concessions in nine of its stores in response to this trend.

Coble concluded: “There’s no question 2020 will be remembered as the year that changed everything. The global COVID-19 pandemic has transformed every aspect of our lives - how we shop, live, socialise and work. It has been a year in which people’s homes truly became their castles. We couldn’t venture out into the world, so we brought the world into our homes.”

In terms of what’s to come for 2021, the report says a baby boom is on the cards, with searches for ‘new baby’ on up +274% in December, and there will be “more love for our homes, wellbeing and the planet.”

The casualisation trend is also set to continue, and next year will see more fashion brands focusing on loungewear and athleisure as customers opt for more casual attire when it comes to their day-to-day wardrobe choice.

2020 also saw most of the population trialling working from home for the first time, and this trend is showing no sign of slowing for 2021, with many looking to create an optimised working environment - purchasing new office equipment as well as updating existing technology, and even creating new areas in gardens to work from.

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