Unlocking international growth for a British institution

The challenge.

In 2014 John Lewis were exploring ways to expand their business internationally. After weighing up the pros and cons of a number of different approaches, they decided to pursue a wholesale retail strategy; selling their Own Brand fashion and home products through international retailers.

They had big ambitions for this venture; looking to generate sales of up to £100m+ by 2020.

In contrast to their UK heartland, the John Lewis brand had very little brand equity or meaning in international markets. Therefore, it was imperative to develop a strong and compelling ‘sales pitch’ to generate interest internationally. .


How do you find a story that can work across continents and cultures? With the existing UK positioning focused on a retail angle of ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’, the team were lacking a coherent way to describe their Own Brand offering.

Our task was to develop a single-minded Own Brand positioning that could work across the fashion and home segments and across a variety of diverse launch markets.

The solution was underpinned by a combination of analytical rigour and a deep understanding of consumer motivations and needs.

CLEAR first built a simple market framework designed to pull apart the 12 launch markets along two key drivers of choice, forming 4 distinct market clusters.

This market understanding helped us to flex and optimise the final proposition for each market cluster; dialling up different elements of the positioning to reflect those local nuances.

Quality, curation and design.

Although they seem quite different on the surface, we realised that fashion and home were both fundamentally lifestyle categories, and that developing a bigger lifestyle idea for consumers to buy into was the key to tying together these disparate categories.

Through extensive qualitative exploration in 5 diverse markets we also identified several core benefits that were relevant to lifestyle category shoppers in all markets – quality, curation and design. These three consistent benefits formed the building blocks of our final positioning.

Mapping the experience.

We developed a compelling new positioning around the idea of ‘curation’, and a blending of the old and the new. We also leveraged the rich heritage of John Lewis through a promise of ‘British style diversity’, backed up by their high standards of craftmanship and quality.

This positioning not only gave the team direction on key messages to land with potential retail partners, but also provided clarity on the priority sub-ranges to best support this positioning.

We're delighted to be expanding our international presence and bringing John Lewis to new countries around the world, both through physical collaborations and by expanding our online international delivery destinations.

Katie Jordan, Head of International Development, John Lewis

The impact

The new wholesale proposition for international partners was rolled out successfully to 5 markets – Ireland, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines.

John Lewis now operate 12 individual shop-in-shops with a number of international retail partners.