The John Lewis & Partners Retail Report - capturing an eventful year in Britain

Tuesday 23 October 2018

In this annual edition of the John Lewis & Partners Retail Report, we take a look back at the year we wore leopard print and Generation Z Yellow, we invested in eco-friendly water bottles and vegan beauty products and we stopped using alarm clocks and DVD players.

This was the year we took sustainability more seriously, with shoppers taking more responsibility to protect the planet. In the home, we saw the rise of quirky, eye-catching pieces as customers put their own stamp on interiors. In fashion, a more confident approach to style meant shoppers opted for bold and bright colours. And beauty went bespoke, with a focus on products tailored to individuals.

As with previous years, we have analysed extensive internal data to get an insight into the products which fell out of favour, the trends that soared and the themes which dominated the year.

What we left behind:

  • The alarm clock - as people opt to use their smartphones, sales of alarm clocks were down 16%. This year we have reduced our range by 30%.

  • The small TV - it was all about the big screen this year as TVs and phone screens were supersized. In fact, screens have nearly doubled in size, from 36” in 2010 to the most popular +70” screen today.

  • The DVD player - with the rise in popularity of streaming services, the DVD player has become old technology, down 40%.  

  • The trouser press - they may have once been cutting edge but trouser presses are down 36%

  • The cold shoulder dress - a big trend last year, this style has literally been given the cold shoulder as customers opted for shirt dresses instead, down 15%.

  • The door knocker - traditional door knockers are down 9% as people invest in tech-advanced smart doorbells, up 367% since we started selling them in July 2017.

2018: The events that defined the year   

This year was one of the toughest retailers have seen. Uncertainty dominated as the high street faced difficult trading conditions and political questions over Brexit continued. One thing that was certain was the big events that had a noticeable effect on our shopping patterns:

  • World Cup: Sales of 60” TVs were up 249%, corner sofas were up 87% and barbeque sales sizzled, rising 40% between 24 June and 14 July.

  • Royal Wedding: The wedding of the year firmly secured Meghan Markle’s place as a style icon. Sales of the Mulberry Darley bag shot up 327% after she was spotted carrying it and in the week she wore a bright yellow dress, yellow was our most searched colour and yellow dress sales quadrupled.

  • Extreme weather: Sales of boots were up 63% in February and March while inflatables shot up 316% during the summer heatwave.

Mobile overtook all other platforms as the most convenient way to shop

More customers than ever before are choosing to shop using their smartphone over a desktop or tablet. For the first time, the majority of online shoppers (42%) are visiting our website via their smartphone and the number of orders placed on mobile phones is up 35%.  Customers are also being much more specific about what they are looking for on our site, using more search words and filters to narrow down their options.

The year we shopped more sustainably

This year’s BBC series Blue Planet II finished with a rallying cry to encourage people everywhere to take more responsibility for the world we live in. This was a defining year for sustainability, with shoppers becoming more mindful about what they buy and what impact a purchase has on the planet. In the four months after the final episode of Blue Planet II, sales of reusable coffee cups, travel cups and flasks were up 71% on last year.

The Love Island effect

The latest season of Love Island was more popular than ever and once again the show spurred a rush in sales of inflatables and water bottles, like the ones featured in the program. But the biggest surprise, after years of declining sales, is that the thong is back with sales up 72%, alongside suspenders which were up 132%. Colourful men’s swimming shorts also proved popular, and our range of recycled swimmers was up 33%.

Simon Coble, Trading Director at John Lewis & Partners, said: 'It is fascinating to see what trends our customers have fallen in and out of love with this year and how big events like the World Cup and the Royal Wedding have such a significant impact on what we buy.'

'How we shop is changing at incredible speed and shops need to combine the very best in service and experiences with unique and fantastic products. And the mobile phone is vital in both as a means to browse and research but also as a place to buy.'

'Identity was a major theme across all shopping trends this year and it is no coincidence that the idea of identity is central to John Lewis’s long term plans - our strategy is firmly about dialling up what makes us different so that we remain relevant. It is our job not only to celebrate what makes us stand out as a business but also to help our customers celebrate everything that makes them unique too.'

*The John Lewis & Partners Retail Report is created every year and is based on its shopping data from August 2017 to September 2018

Download a copy of the John Lewis & Partners Retail Report 2018 

Notes to editors:

John Lewis & Partners operates 51 John Lewis shops across the UK (37 department stores, 12 John Lewis at home and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2) as well as The retailer stocks around 350,000 separate lines in its department stores and on across fashion, home and technology. This year John Lewis won, 'Best Multichannel Retailer 2018', 'Best Clothing Retailer 2018', and 'Best Furniture Retailer 2018' at the GlobalData Customer Satisfaction Awards 2018.  John Lewis Insurance offers a range of comprehensive insurance products - home, car, wedding and event, travel and pet insurance and life cover - delivering the values of expertise, trust and customer service expected from the John Lewis brand.

*GlobalData Retail Customer Satisfaction Awards 2018

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For further information please contact:

Lexi Finnigan,
Partner & Corporate Communications Manager
tel: 0207 592 6424