Susan Morrison: John Lewis staff a gift to the once-a-year shoppers

John Lewis has changed beyond all recognition for blokes who only darken its doors once a year. Picture: Neil Hanna
John Lewis has changed beyond all recognition for blokes who only darken its doors once a year. Picture: Neil Hanna
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And now its head first into the sales, because there’s nothing like greeting the new year with a scorched credit card.

A word of praise for one beleaguered retail battalion, the staff of John Lewis. Pre-Christmas, some shoppers, mainly men, let’s be honest here, just strolled in, completely unaware that anything has changed.

They only shop once a year, and based on one conversation I overheard, at least one chap was taken aback to discover that the multi-storey car park was no longer there.

These gallant gentlemen and other last-minute gift buyers have been used to the certainties of John Lewis, secure in the knowledge that the shop would not only have that little special something, well, anything, really, but also where that something would be.

Things have changed. John Lewis is now surrounded by what looks like the opening scene of a film set in a post-apocalyptic future. Not only that, but the shop itself is in a constant state of reorganisation. Departments that have sat since time began on the first floor are now dispersed. Even the comforting coffee and carrot cake must be tracked down.

I saw big blokes in near panic meltdown when the welcoming sights, scents and sounds of professionally-wielded wrapping papers on the perfume selling counters were not quite where they should be.

No wrong turns in the Crystal Maze

Panic not. The amazing staff of John Lewis somehow kept a smile on their faces and were ready to direct the most outraged shopper to their chosen department. When, demanded a Morningside matron, did the lighting department move? Just this morning, madam, and now it’s on the top floor, said the charmingly polite young man. I don’t know how the staff do it. When we moved house it took me two weeks to stop getting on the wrong bus. Every day must be like a giant Crystal Maze game for them. A good new year to them and thanks for the directions.