John Lewis and Waitrose are set to open a “consumer-centric” concept store at its Southampton department store on November 19, which will showcase services and experiences across fashion, beauty, cookery, gadgets, gardening, and interiors.

The “experience playgrounds” are part of John Lewis Partnership’s goal to explore the future role of the shop in customers lives while also bringing John Lewis and Waitrose closer together, by highlighting their retail “dream team” of experts including interior designers, chefs and wine connoisseurs, gardeners, gadget specialists, personal stylists and make-up artists.

Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis and Partners, said in a statement: “Our goal is to offer customers unrivalled access to expertise and impartial advice in as many areas of their lives as we possibly can in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

“We know that shopping for a new gadget or beauty product can be a daunting experience, with so much choice on offer. We want to help navigate customers through that.”

Highlights include allowing customers to learn to bake bread in the first-ever Waitrose and Partners Cookery School to open in a John Lewis and Partners shop, pop-up workshops ranging from barista and photography courses to wreath-making and modern calligraphy, as well as specialists offering advice to help customers overhaul their wardrobes in the style studio, change-up their beauty regimes, moodboard for a home refurbishment and learn how to set up their new devices in the gadget hub, The Download.

John Lewis and Waitrose team up to launch new “consumer-centric” concept

Over the Christmas period, customers will also be able to learn to make festive treats such as gingerbread and yule logs, as well as receive advice on how to style a Christmas tree or find the perfect party outfit.

There will be services and experiences on every floor of John Lewis Southampton, explained the retailer, with the team of impartial expert Partners on-hand to “help shoppers make the right choice for them”. If successful, the “experience playgrounds” model could be rolled out across the country, said the retailer.

In addition, there will be a new farm shop and roof garden from the Partnership’s Leckford Estate, in Hampshire, just 25 miles from the Southampton shop, which is the only farm owned by a UK food retailer and has a professional in-house horticultural team as part of its specialist plant nursery. The gardeners have designed a rooftop garden filled with planted apple trees, providing a taste of rural living, alongside the farm shop and cafe.

Cross added: “Our new concept shop is an example of how we’re reinventing the department store of the future to make us stand out from the competition.”

Shoppers can book time with experts and buy gift experience packages for the range of free and paid-for events at the Southampton Experience Desk in store. The new concept comes as John Lewis and Waitrose move towards operating as a single business. In October, the two retailers announced that they would no longer operate as two separate business units from February 3, 2020, which it notes is expected to save the retail group around 100 million pounds over time. The move it adds will “enable a faster delivery of better products and services” for its customers, as both brands will be managed by a single executive team responsible for the Partnership’s business strategy and performance.