John Lewis opens in Robinsons

Singapore fans of the British homeware label can expect to find premium as well as exclusive products

Bed, bath and home accessories will be available at John Lewis' retail spaces here.
Bed, bath and home accessories will be available at John Lewis' retail spaces here.PHOTO: ROBINSONS SINGAPORE

Famed high-street department store giant John Lewis is making its Singapore debut this week.

The 151-year-old British store will sell its bed, bath and home accessories at Robinsons' three stores here: a 1,000 sq ft space at Robinsons The Heeren in Orchard Road, 450 sq ft at Raffles City in North Bridge Road and 300 sq ft at Jem in Jurong East.

The decision to bring the brand here was in part influenced by the number of items Singapore shoppers were buying from John Lewis' online store. Of the items they bought, 50 per cent were homeware.

Outside of Britain, Singapore also makes the list of Top 10 international locations the brand delivers to.

Ms Katie Jordan, 40, John Lewis' head of international development, says: "We've got a loyal customer base here. They know the heritage of the brand and that they'll get the best quality for the best price."

Singapore is the brand's third Asian market after South Korea, where homeware and gift items are sold at seven Shinsegae department stores; and the Philippines, where it is sold at 11 branches of The SM Store and Our Home stores there.

The brand, of which the British royal family are fans, has 44 stores across Britain, with a flagship store on London's famed Oxford Street.

The brand was spurred to open here after seeing how well it did in South Korea, where there are few Western expatriates.

John Lewis started as a draper shop in 1864 on Oxford Street, where its eponymous founder sold fabrics, lace, silks and ribbon.

When he died in 1928, his son John Spedan Lewis went on to expand the business in a department store format, selling household, fashion, beauty and electrical products.

The younger Lewis also started the John Lewis Partnership, an employee-owned British company which operates the John Lewis department stores as well as the well-known Waitrose supermarkets. Some Waitrose products are sold in Singapore.

Over the years, the John Lewis department store made its name making textiles and fabrics - so many that it could open a heritage centre in 2013, which houses more than 30,000 prints, including ones that adorned the state rooms of the Titanic ocean liner.

With the introduction of John Lewis here, Singapore fans can look forward to more than 500 homeware items such as bedding, bath towels, candles, duvets and pillows from John Lewis' in-house brands. These are made at the label's own Herbert Parkinson factory in Lancashire, in north-west England.

Prices range from $35 for a pillow case to $399 for a bedspread.

There are no plans to bring in John Lewis' other products or set up a standalone store, says Ms Jordan, though expansion is something the company might look at in the future.

On choosing the products for the store here, Ms Jordan says they worked closely with the buyers to "get (the fit) right for the market". The John Lewis brand can put out up to 100,000 homeware styles every season in Britain.

"We have a perception of what we think is right for the Singapore market. We're bringing the best of the brand - the premium products - because that's what customers are asking for."

So instead of The Basics line from the home and garden range at John Lewis, shoppers here can expect more luxurious options such as Egyptian cotton and goose-down duvets.

And Singapore will get some exclusive products - if only by default. Fitted bedsheets are being tailor-made to accommodate beds here, which are smaller than those in the British, Korean and Filipino markets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'John Lewis opens in Robinsons'. Print Edition | Subscribe