John Lewis is to mark its 150th anniversary this year with a celebration of the company’s growth from a humble draper’s shop to a £4billion international business.
The commemorations – an interactive exhibition where visitors will walk the cobbled streets of Victorian London leading to the original draper’s shop that opened on May 2, 1864 – will be hosted at the department store’s Oxford Street flagship shop.
The exhibition will feature a replica of the office where John Lewis’ son, John Spedan Lewis, implemented his plans to turn the company into a partnership making all its employees co-owners – despite his father’s misgivings.
An installation will tell the story of how a World War II bomb threatened the future of the company while another will explain the “craft of shopkeeping”.
A number of brands such as Silver Cross, Dualit, Kenwood and Barbour and designers including Orla Kiely, Alice Temperley, Ted Baker and Lucienne Day have produced exclusive products for the event.
The company, which now has 41 shops across the UK and 91,000 staff, said it hoped the event would give consumers a better understanding of John Spedan Lewis’ idea of “a better way of doing business”.
John Lewis managing director Andy Street said: “A lot of people know that our ownership structure is different and that we share our profits in the form of a bonus, but our history and heritage has been a well-kept secret.
“We felt our 150th anniversary would be a great opportunity to tell the story of a very different way of doing business and explain how the craft of shopkeeping is part of our DNA.
“We hope customers enjoy discovering what is behind the John Lewis shopping experience.”
Events to celebrate the anniversary in Aberdeen will start on the first weekend of May.
Rob Holder, head of branch at John Lewis Aberdeen, said: “As John Lewis marks its 150th anniversary, it’s a chance to reflect on the heritage of our brand.
“From that small draper’s shop in Oxford Street, John Spedan Lewis’s expertise, co-ownership business model and dedication to customer service grew our brand and created a ‘better way of doing business’.
“John Spedan Lewis’ vision was to create a new business model that gave all its partners a voice and a stake in the business – an incredibly pioneering approach.
“His vision still runs through the business today.
“This year, John Lewis Aberdeen also celebrates 25 years of trading in the city. With two momentous milestones for our shop, we’re hosting a series of celebratory events which will start on May 3.
“We look forward to welcoming our customers to join our celebrations over the coming months.”