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The John Lewis ‘nightmare’ is a dream for many of us

Voice Of EU



The John Lewis ‘nightmare’ is a dream for many of us: Britons still love the department store chain… no matter what Boris’s consort might say

There are slurs, and then there’s the ignominy suffered by one of Britain’s most popular department stores following Carrie Symonds‘s arrival in Downing Street and a guest’s description of the decor as a ‘John Lewis nightmare’.

The shame of it. But not for long. Consumers rallied because this was an attack on the spiritual home of Middle England; a mugging of sensible tastes and aspirations, an insult to vast swathes of the population for whom walking into a John Lewis store is like sinking into a hot bath on a cold night.

Where has the Duchess of Cambridge been known to go for the odd spot of shopping?

Fresh: John Lewis's Modern Mediterranean range. British consumers have rallied around the much loved department store chain following remarks from Boris Johnson's girlfriend

Fresh: John Lewis’s Modern Mediterranean range. British consumers have rallied around the much loved department store chain following remarks from Boris Johnson’s girlfriend

To Peter Jones, of course, the John Lewis outpost on the King’s Road in Chelsea, an elegant but soothing emporium which its clientele call ‘PJ’s.’

So loved is the John Lewis brand that after news broke last month that the 170-year-old Sheffield store would close, fans began pinning heart-shaped love letters to its windows. 

And not for nothing did the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman say that when the end of the world came he wanted to be in the haberdashery department of Peter Jones ‘because nothing unpleasant could ever happen there’.

John Lewis is like a family member you moan about. Fine to do so but you don’t much like it if somebody else is criticising him or her.

What’s more, let’s not forget that the John Lewis Partnership is the largest employee-owned business in the UK. 

Success from 1864 to 2021

John Spedan Lewis introduced the 'Never Knowingly Undersold' slogan in 1925

John Spedan Lewis introduced the ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ slogan in 1925

John Lewis, the founder of the chain, was just 28 when he opened the first store in Oxford Street in 1864. Haberdashery and textiles for homes and clothing were the foundation of the business.

Lewis offered better value than competitors, making a profit of 25 per cent on the wholesale price of goods; the norm was 33 per cent.

Lewis who was described as ‘irascible, but highly principled’ was an adept deal-maker.

When the Peter Jones store in Chelsea began to fail in 1905, he walked into the shop and handed over a wad of cash to buy it on the spot from the owners.

His son John Spedan Lewis – who introduced the ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ slogan in 1925 – believed that more democratic practices would boost sales and employee welfare.

The first bonuses to staff were paid in 1920.

John Spedan Lewis established the Partnership in 1929, signing away his family’s ownership rights. Waitrose, a grocery business set up in 1904, was bought by John Lewis in 1937. It has a 5 per cent share of UK supermarket sales.

John Lewis began to sell furniture in 1918. In the 1950s, the company worked with emerging designers such as Robin and Lucienne Day, one of whose designs, a steel and plywood dining chair, is still on sale today (£340).

The online division john was established in 2001. Online now accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of turnover.

John Spedan Lewis was an early believer in the promotion of women to key roles in the workplace.

Today Pippa Wicks is executive director and Sharon White is chairman.

Earlier this year, Sharon White said: ‘We are going through the greatest scale of change in the partnership’s 156-year history.’

The 78,000 staff are partners and co-owners who have a say in how the company is run and are entitled to a share in profits, although this cherished bonus was scrapped for this year.

John Lewis — which has been around for 156 years — has been navigating choppy waters long before any attempts at capsizing this once-trusty vessel.

During the pandemic, the company has cut its number of shops from 51 to 34, leaving the inhabitants of cities such as Aberdeen, Peterborough and York, as well as Sheffield, to mourn the passing of this retail stalwart.

The Never Knowingly Undersold pledge is ‘under review’, but no more store closures are planned for the time being.

Instead, it has launched its new Anyday brand, a range of 2,400 home, technology and baby pieces, created by the company’s own designers and costing 20 per cent to 40 per cent less than its other collections.

The aim is to win back the faithful (but Carrie presumably is a lost cause) who have strayed to such homeware and furniture rivals as Dunelm, a £2.9 billion company set up in 1979 and Wayfair, a giant American online operation now fast expanding in the UK, thanks to its tech expertise.

As part of its recovery plan, John Lewis says that it will be turning some of the unwanted space in Oxford Street and other stores into housing.

This will be an opportunity to live above the shop.

For some John Lewis lovers, this arrangement would not be too close for comfort, but prove to be their ideal home.

Household items to suit every budget 

Sumptuous sofas

The Anyday Sweep three-seater sofa (in two colours only: blue and grey) is elegant and uncluttered and just £499.

The Booth two-seater sofa in opal dark teal, £899, (pictured) or from £1,499 if you want leather

The Booth two-seater sofa in opal dark teal, £899, (pictured) or from £1,499 if you want leather

The Booth three-seater has the same clean lines and costs from £999 for fabric upholstery (in a choice of 168 fabrics, Booth two-seater in opal dark teal, £899, pictured) or from £1,499 if you want leather.

The Platform 5 corner sofa (with side table) is the spacious, stylish seating of which you dream when living in a tiny flat. It costs from £3,799.

Smart dining

The pleasingly informal Anyday Anton oak table seats six on two benches and costs just £399. It’s Scandi cool for less. 

Scandi cool: The pleasingly informal Anyday Anton oak table seats six on two benches and costs just £399

Scandi cool: The pleasingly informal Anyday Anton oak table seats six on two benches and costs just £399

The Gallery Direct Madrid in walnut also seats six (£799). 

Its curved, mid-century style makes you want to give a dinner party and ask friends to dress up (no trackpants, or hoodies, thank you).

The Matthew Hilton extending table for Case Cross (£2,645) can accommodate as many as 14 people, but it’s unobtrusively smart rather than imposingly grand. Just the thing for brunch, or Christmas dinner.

Bedding for all

John Lewis inspires a sense of calm. This is either boring or reassuring, depending on your view, but also why its bedding tends to be associated with a better night’s sleep. 

Brighter bedding: Mustard cushion £5

Brighter bedding: Mustard cushion £5 

Apart from cushions such as this mustard one (£5), you can choose between the Anyday hollowfill duvet (£10 to £18), the duck feather and down duvet (£40 to £75) — or invest in peaceful slumber by ordering a dual- tog Bavarian goosedown duvet, made by Herbert Parkinson. 

This is John Lewis’s very own bedding maker, based in Darwen, Lancashire. Prices range from £600 to £760, for a king-size, super-king or emperor.

Is this Downing Street-type extravagance? Not if you consider that the cost starts at around £1.60 a night over a year, which is the sort of sum that John Lewis, the company’s founder, used to sell his luxury wares more than 150 years ago.  


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Inside the tiny ‘smart home’ that will be sold in London for less than £300k

Voice Of EU



Making homes affordable for first-time buyers is a problem that does not have one easy solution.  

With house prices having risen rapidly since the start of the pandemic, many are finding themselves priced out – especially in inner cities. 

But major housebuilder Barratt Homes thinks it has found a way for young people to climb on to the housing ladder without breaking the bank. 

The living area in Barratt's 'SMRT' home. The apartment comes in at just 37 square metres

The living area in Barratt’s ‘SMRT’ home. The apartment comes in at just 37 square metres

At its Eastman Village development in Harrow, North London,  it has built a tiny home measuring just 37 square metres or 400 sq ft. 

It may have the smallest floor plan that can be built under the Government’s minimum space standards, but Barratt describes the flat as ‘a forward-thinking luxury product that is perfectly proportioned’. 

Although the apartments might charitably be described as ‘cosy,’ the price is right, with homes starting at £290,000. This is £40,000 cheaper than the standard Barratt home in London. 

It says the tiny homes are designed to ‘help ease the squeeze experienced by London’s “generation rent”, who face ever-rising property prices and rental costs’. 

According to Halifax’s latest house price index, the average house price in London is currently £508,000; a figure which has increased by around £25,000 since the start of the pandemic. 

Barratt is calling the new design a ‘SMRT’ home, and launched off-plan sales at the development in Harrow at the weekend. 

If it is successful, it could roll out the pocket-sized apartments across the country – and prices outside of London would likely be even lower.  

This is Money went on a tour of the show apartment, and spoke to Barratt’s senior sales manager Joseph Antoniazzi about whether this is really what first-time buyers want. 

The flats have been designed by Barratt’s in-house design team, BD Living, and Blocc Interiors.  

They have aimed to make the most of what little space is available, for example by adding a built-in storage unit with shelves and cupboards around the bed, and a kitchen storage cupboard that houses the washer dryer but also has room for other bulky items such as a hoover or ironing board. 

According to Barratt, small is beautiful. Its marketing material for the apartments says: 

‘While the square footage may be smaller on paper, the illusion of space created by wide balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, and clever interior layouts, means the apartments feel open, optimised, and modern. 

‘Storage in every nook and cranny means there is no need for clunky furniture like wardrobes, sideboards, and drawers.’ 

The bedroom in the SMRT home has storage for clothes built all the way around it

The bedroom in the SMRT home has storage for clothes built all the way around it 

The kitchen cupboards have pull-out shelves to store canned food and spices, and the worktops are slimmer than average to maximise the floor space, as is the dishwasher. 

‘We have maximised every inch and made sure the space is really functional,’ said Antoniazzi. 

There is space for a small dining table in between the kitchen area and living room. Antoniazzi says they initially installed a table that folded out from the wall, but that potential buyers did not respond well to it so it was changed.  

For those working from home, there is the option to have an ‘office niche’ which consists of a desk and storage in the living room, side-by-side with the television. 

The 'office niche' in the living area provides a small space in which to work from home

The ‘office niche’ in the living area provides a small space in which to work from home

Although this may work for a single person, it could present a challenge for a couple that were both working at home.

There is also the option to have a small dressing table in the bedroom, though this would need to sit behind the door. 

In the bathroom, there is a well-sized shower cubicle, which Antoniazzi said buyers preferred to a bath.  

The outdoor terrace is small, with room for two chairs and a small table, but it backs on to a larger shared garden which gives the illusion of space. 

The apartment comes with a small terrace which backs on to a larger shared garden

The apartment comes with a small terrace which backs on to a larger shared garden

For flats on upper floors, there would instead be a balcony.

Antoniazzi said the homes were designed for first-time buyers, key workers and students, and acknowledged that they would not be suitable for a family. 

‘It is very much first-time buyer driven,’ he said, adding that lifestyle changes during the pandemic had seen families move out of locations like Harrow to the countryside, and be replaced by renters from central London – as people from across the spectrum sought to move up a level in terms of space. 

‘Post-lockdown, we saw a change in the type of buyer that was coming to view our apartments in Harrow. 

‘Whereas previously it was couples and young families, we saw the profile change towards people who had previously been renting in central London and didn’t want to waste money on rent any more.’

The storage cupboard in the kitchen provides some space for household essentials

The storage cupboard in the kitchen provides some space for household essentials

He said the idea for the micro-apartments came from the fact that many of these potential buyers had saved up during the pandemic and were keen to get on the housing ladder, but needed something more affordable than the market average. 

Antoniazzi also said the small homes could become a more popular way of getting on the housing ladder when the Government’s Help to Buy scheme ends in 2023.  

Barratt has said that, if buyers respond well to these micro-apartments, they could build more in cities across the country. 

The apartments could work well for single occupiers, who often struggle to get a large enough mortgage because of salary requirements. 

Living there as a couple could be a squeeze – but the success of the SMRT homes will reveal whether first-time buyers think that is a price worth paying to get on the ladder.

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Family of Covid patient who left hospital urges people to follow ‘proper’ medical advice

Voice Of EU



The family of a Covid-19 patient who last week left Letterkenny University Hospital after being encouraged by anti-vaccine campaigners has criticised those involved and encouraged people to follow “proper” medical advice.

Joe McCarron, from Dungloe, was the subject of a viral video in which a group of people insisted that he be released from the hospital, despite medical staff stating this would worsen his condition.

He left on Tuesday but returned to the hospital on Thursday in an ambulance. A spokesperson for his family on Sunday said Mr McCarron was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit but was showing signs of recovering despite Covid-19 having caused him “serious lung damage”.

They said Mr McCarron’s wife, Una, “would like to thank the staff and apologise for the actions of Joe’s so-called reckless friends earlier in the week.

“They did not help Joe’s recovery in any way. We would encourage everyone to follow proper medical advice.”

The family offered its thanks to those who had sent messages of support.

In the video, one activist said he was “rescuing” Mr McCarron and falsely claimed that treatment in the hospital would “kill” him.

One staff member told the man that leaving the hospital would risk “endangering” his life, but the activist said it would be better if he were to “die in the house than he dies here”.

Mr McCarron, who appeared to be struggling to breathe in the footage, then agreed to return home and was later shown in a video posted on social media saying that he felt much better and accusing the hospital of mistreating him.

In a statement last week, a spokeswoman for Saolta Hospital Group (SHG) which oversees Letterkenny Hospital, said it could not comment on individual cases, citing its legal and ethical obligations regarding patient confidentiality.

The group has previously said it is “gravely concerned” by a number of recent incidents in which groups of activists have attempted to spread disinformation about Covid-19 at hospitals.

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How to get the Warm Home Discount and why you should act fast

Voice Of EU



Could YOU save £140 on energy bills with the Warm Home Discount? Some suppliers have opened applications… but you should act quickly

  • Thousands could save £140 on their energy bills through a Government scheme 
  • We reveal whether you could be eligible for the Warm Home Discount 
  • We also asked suppliers whether their applications are open yet  
  • Can you save money? Try our Compare the Market powered energy comparison 

Thousands of households are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill this winter through the Warm Home Discount.

Low income homes and those receiving their pension could see a significant chunk taken off their bills if they sign up to the scheme in the next few weeks.

This will be particularly important as the new energy price cap level is set to kick in at the beginning of October, rising bills for millions of customers.

Customers are encouraged to apply as soon as their supplier opens applications as there is a limited number of discounts to go around. 

Thousands are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill through the Warm Home Discount

Thousands are eligible to receive £140 off their energy bill through the Warm Home Discount

Several providers have said they will offer the discounts on a first come, first served basis meaning eligible households should act fast.  

This is Money has detailed exactly what the Warm Home Discount is, how you can apply and which energy suppliers have started taking applications for the scheme.

What is the scheme?

Eligible households could get £140 off their electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme which officially opens on 18 October 2021.

The money is not paid directly to customers but instead is a one-off discount on a home’s electricity bill between October and March.

Customers may be able to get the discount on their gas bill instead if their supplier provides them with both gas and electricity and should contact their provider to find out.

Am I eligible?

You could be eligible if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit – known as the ‘core group’.

If you are in this category, you will receive a letter between October and December 2021 telling you how to get the discount if you qualify.

Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by 31 March 2022.

If you have not received a letter and think you are eligible, contact your energy provider.  

Customers could also be eligible if they are on a low income and meet their energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme – known as the ‘broader group’.

If in this category, you will have to apply for the discount through your provider which will decide who is eligible or not.

As the number of discounts is limited, customers are encouraged to apply as early as possible to ensure they can take advantage of the scheme.

Households can still qualify for the discount if they use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter.

Suppliers will tell you how you will get the discount if you’re eligible, for example a voucher you can use to top up your meter.

A number of providers have already opened their applications for the discount scheme

A number of providers have already opened their applications for the discount scheme

Which energy suppliers have opened applications?

Ovo, which also looks after SSE, said it doesn’t yet have a firm scheme opening date but it’s likely to be later this month.

It added its advice to customers at the moment would be to register their interest online and it will be sure to contact them with more information as soon as the scheme is open. 

British Gas said its scheme for 2021/22 is now open and customers can apply. 

EDF added its scheme is also now open and customers can apply on their website. 

The supplier said it encourages customers to apply as soon as possible as the scheme will be closed once it hits its maximum number of applications. 

It added it anticipates applying the rebate to eligible customers accounts by the end of February 2022. 

Octopus Energy said it has already opened its applications now. 

There is no specific deadline for applications but it will be mentioning the scheme to customers who might be able to benefit from being in the broader group. 

Bulb said customers in the broader group for the Warm Home Discount can now register their interest on its website and it will email them when applications open later this month.

It added it processes applications on a first come, first served basis so it encourages members to register their interest as soon as they can. 

Eon is now taking applications and is encouraging customers to apply as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Eon Next’s scheme will open in the coming weeks, but customers can register interest on the website now and it will contact them when it opens. 

Scottish Power added its applications had been open since 10 August.  


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