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John Lewis launches first-ever annual retail report How We Shop, Live and Look

Published 04 November 2013

John Lewis today launched its first How We Shop, Live and Look report, which offers a fascinating insight into what and why we bought and how we bought it, over the past twelve months.

It is the most comprehensive review of data that the retailer has ever undertaken and reveals the tastes of a nation in our homes, our wardrobes and our handbags.

How we shop
In analysing online shopping behaviour, the report discloses that we're making best use of the multitude of shopping channels now available to us by weaving them into our routines. In a typical shopping day, visits to johnlewis.com via tablets peak steeply at 9pm and during ad breaks, when people use tablets while watching TV. Traffic from smartphones then reaches its peak until 9am, as those who aren't asleep shop from their beds. When people arrive at work, desktop becomes our shopping channel of choice, until roughly 4pm.

By comparing information about different online buys, upholstery is revealed to have the highest number of views before purchase and furniture has the longest buying journey of any product, taking up to nineteen days. Meanwhile, children's items tend to have the fewest number of views before purchase, suggesting, equipped with the information they need, people will gravitate towards the most practical choice for their particular purchase.

The spontaneous nature of shopping on mobiles and tablets has also meant that John Lewis's mobile site sees a greater proportion of its sales driven by fashion products than johnlewis.com as a whole does, as people look to get their instant fashion fixes, wherever they may be.

How we live
When it came to furnishing our homes, the current national obsession with the size of our TV screens is supported by John Lewis data. The report notes that sales of 60"- 69" TVs increased by 145 per cent, compared with a decline of 34 per cent for screens of 23" - 31". 46" plus screens are now the fastest growing area within TVs at John Lewis. Improvements in picture quality and a desire to replicate a cinematic experience are driving forces here.

In our kitchens too, our love of gadgetry shows no sign of abating. Sales of sous vide equipment increased by 44 per cent year on year and KitchenAids were up 66 per cent. This appetite for serious culinary equipment was no doubt influenced by a plethora of TV cookery shows and a desire to not just view but replicate the ambitious creations seen on our screens.

Space remained at a premium, with the average British home now measuring just 925 square feet, compared with an average of 1,647 square feet in the 1920s1. The UK's shrinking living space is clearly reflected in the report, which notes that we downsized furniture in 2013 and moved to multi-functional pieces; petite sofas have sold well compared with 2012. Meanwhile, garden spheres, which provide an additional 'room' outside the house, have also proved popular.

How we look
Shaping how we look today, the report notes that customers are defying convention and no longer dress for their age; older customers are making bolder choices which suit their silhouettes, reflecting a younger mindset. Meanwhile, young women are adopting styles traditionally associated with their mothers and grandmothers, with the rise of the Young Old-fashioneds, a trend characterised by ladylike femininity. Supporting this, sales of patterned square silk scarves, increased by 24 per cent over the past year at John Lewis and pearls are enjoying a renaissance with sales rising by 10 per cent.

Sartorial elegance was the order of the day in menswear. Demand for gentlemanly attire and accoutrements increased, with bow ties up by 15 per cent, cravats by 10 per cent and brogues by 26 per cent. A men's dress cane and a white tuxedo jacket both sold out in eight weeks. In fact, John Lewis's audience is more male than you might think, and men now make up 44 per cent of its customer base2.

In reviewing what we buy and when, it appears that seasonal anchors are now supplemented by a series of mini peaks based on external factors, from celebrity outfits to weather. For instance, in late March 2013 when the UK enjoyed sunny weather, John Lewis saw nearly one pair of sunglasses fly off the shelves every minute. Compare this to the unseasonably chilly May, when John Lewis saw a peak of coat and outerwear sales not normally seen outside of October and November.

What shaped the way we shopped?
The report maps key events from the past year to show how they influenced sales. Food mixers leapt 62 percent and cake cooling racks flew up 70 per cent during series three of The Great British Bake Off and after the horsemeat scandal, sales of a £35 plastic mincer increased by 48 per cent year on year. When the UK's daffodils failed to bloom as a result of a prolonged cold spell, artificial flowers made a come-back with sales running at 18 per cent higher in spring/summer 2013 than the same time in 2012.

Where some products took off, others dwindled. Coloured jeans, e-readers, three-piece suites and 3D TVs are amongst those items listed as having fallen from favour this year.

With customer numbers having grown by nearly one million in the past year and evidence that two per cent of the UK public (900,000 people) refers to John Lewis every day in conversation3 How we Shop, Live and Look can be seen as a viable reflection of the products which the UK bought over the last year, revealing the trends at the heart of the nation's collective consciousness. In fact, John Lewis's audience is younger and less affluent than you might imagine. Nearly half have a household income of under £30,000 and 39 per cent are under 34 years old4.

Commenting on the significance of the report, Andy Street, Managing Director, John Lewis, explains, 'Since 1919, we have released our weekly trading updates to the general public. With our 150th anniversary approaching, our first ever How We Shop, Live and Look report provides an even richer analysis of the products and channels favoured by the nation, their peculiarities and preferences. By opening this data up to the public, we hope to offer some real sociological insights, which people can turn to in years to come for a nostalgic glimpse of how we shopped, lived and looked.'