Behind the scenes of John Lewis in Cheltenham
- Credit: Anna Lythgoe
With just a few weeks until the grand opening, Cotswold Life was offered a hard-hat tour of the new John Lewis store on Cheltenham’s High Street.
With John Lewis Cheltenham’s construction phase nearing an end, some of the team behind the 115,000 sq ft shop – set on the site of the old Beechwood Arcade shopping centre – revealed an early insight into its layout and design.
The striking new store is the brand’s 51st shop – the first in Gloucestershire and the last in a line of new John Lewis stores to be built for quite some time – with the Regency town being chosen for its “inspirational” values.
“Our team on the ground have done a fantastic job,” says Gavin Smith, senior manager, physical estate change, “and while there’s clearly more work to be done, we’re now on the home straight and heading towards opening day.”
The architecture of the shop was commissioned by Haskoll, and designed with the town’s rich heritage in mind. The striking frontage includes five window bays, each featuring wrought-iron curves inspired by the Regency era the town is so well known for. Throughout the store, you can see these architectural details echoed in lighting design and, in particular, a mesmerising dichroic panel installation on the first floor; as the sun changes position, the panels change colour, refracting the light and recreating the arches of the façade in an ever-changing light show.
With the customer at the forefront, all walkways have been designed intentionally wide to accommodate pushchairs and wheelchair users, and a positive all-round experience is behind every aspect of the design.
“It’s our job to deliver a world-class shopping experience,” continues Gavin, who has to date been involved with 26 of John Lewis’s 51 stores.
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Set over two floors, John Lewis Cheltenham will provide a range of exciting services and experiences, alongside the latest and best products in fashion, beauty, home, electricals and technology. Located at the heart of the shop will be an Experience Desk - John Lewis’s concierge-style service which will see partners introduce customers to everything that the shop has to offer. Service partners will be on hand to help customers plan their visit to the store, from booking a personal styling session at the Style Studio to securing an appointment at the Nail and Brow Bar. An exciting addition to the store is the Discovery Room which is to host upcoming events such as wine tastings, brand showcases and events linked to the world-famous Cheltenham Festivals.
To the front of the store, on the first floor and accessed by an escalator near the entrance (making good use of those impressive windows), will be a Huffkins café where shoppers can meet over coffee and pastries, while at the rear will be John Lewis’ own 130-cover restaurant, with its own entrance direct onto Albion Street.
Stocking more than 41,000 products, John Lewis Cheltenham will also offer customers the opportunity to choose from a host of popular brands such as American womenswear label Madewell, and much-loved favourites such as Apple and Dyson. Three personal styling suites will cater for women wanting top-to-toe advice, while on the opposite side of the store in the menswear department, men will be offered the same service. It is also planned that there will be regular fashion talks for those wanting to gen up on the latest styles and pose questions to those in the know.
The new store will be providing work for around 300, with roles including selling and service, personal stylists, assortment specialists and visual merchandisers, as well as maintenance and catering partners.
New branch manager, Martin Bundy, says, “With opening day quickly approaching, we’re so excited to share this first glimpse inside John Lewis Cheltenham. The building continues to transform day by day, and you can now get a fantastic impression of how the various areas of the shop will look when we open our doors in October.
“The halo effect of having John Lewis in Cheltenham will be very positive for the brand… we’re very excited about being here.”