My mum loves John Lewis. Last week she compared its Cardiff haberdashery department to paradise as she escaped the ‘chaos’ of the city centre and was warmly welcomed by a ‘partner.’ She didn’t agree with my rather cynical post Should we see through the new John Lewis/Waitrose rebranding? and loved the new advert.
This doesn’t mean I’m not excited about the opening of John Lewis along with the rest of Cheltenham. It’s created quite a buzz in the town and when it opened last week, people were queuing up outside. We steered clear in the first few days as we knew it would be busy. Instead, Ed and I went along today to have a look around and ended up being quite impressed.
The department store is still bustling with people and is quite the social hub (we bumped into two friends!) It’s all shiny and new and the staff all seemed very proud to be working there. We spoke to a few members of staff who were extremely helpful – two on the Experience Desk and another partner on ‘Personal Styling.
We had a browse around the ground floor and ended up in the Discovery Room where Ed got involved in a free craft making workshop with illustrator Imogen Harvey Lewis. The artist helped him design a beautiful fish and there were a few other children and parents getting involved. The aim of the Discovery Room is to provide a space for the community. There will be a number of free workshops held from make-up tips to kids’ craft. You can ask at the Experience Desk or call 01242 544042 to find out what’s on.
We also had a look upstairs at the cafes – both were very busy so we’ll probably return for a nice cake when it isn’t half-term. We also checked out the feeding/baby room which was very serene.
I’m looking forward to returning to have a closer look around as I’ve booked a free personal styling ‘Wardrobe Refresh’ session in November. I also like the look of the handbags!
John Lewis and Partners is certainly the store of the moment in Cheltenham and with the opening of other stores such as Urban Outfitters, there seems to be optimism for some high street retailers in the town. We didn’t have the time to go and have a look at House of Fraser but I do feel a bit sorry for the store – surely there will be an impact.
In fact, you could compare Cheltenham’s John Lewis and Partners to a description of the previous ‘department store of the moment’ in the Gloucestershire Echo in 1935 (Yes, we do enjoy browsing the British Newspaper Archive!) ‘There’s always something going on at Cavendish House; something to be seen that’s a little newer, more beautiful, more interesting maybe, than you will find elsewhere. There’s always the courtesy of the staff, their helpfulness and the same earnest desire to meet your every requirement.’
The Restaurant at Cavendish House also used to be the, ‘ideal rendezvous for Lunch, Tea or Coffee.’ For now, the new shopping and ‘dwelling’ place seems to be John Lewis and Partners. I’ll have to take my mum.