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

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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 lewis.com 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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Girl who fell from ‘Santa train’ settles High Court action

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A girl who fell out of a miniature “Santa train” on her way to visit a festive grotto has settled her High Court action against the operators for €192,000.

Freya Moore, who was six at the time of the 2016 incident, fell out through a door gap over which a chain was placed as the train was going around a corner in the Donegal attraction, it was claimed.

Her jacket allegedly got caught in part of the train and she was dragged for a short distance with her leg getting caught under the train before the alarm was raised, it was further claimed.

Freya, now 11, suffered a soft tissue injury to her leg and later required plastic surgery.

Through her father, Chris Moore, Breton Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, she sued the operator of the Santa Train, Gerry Robinson, trading as Difflin Light Railways, operating at Oakfield Park, Raphoe, Co Donegal.

The accident happened on December 17th, 2016, when she was on a visit to the Santa Train excursion which involved travelling from “Oakfield Park Station” to a Santa’s grotto.

Liability was not conceded and there was a full defence to the claim.

In the action, it was claimed the defendant was negligent on a number of grounds including a failure to provide a safe premises and to ensure the chain across the door was at a height suitable to ensure a child of her age would not fall out.

It was claimed she was left with a scar on her right lower leg and may require further plastic surgery in the future. Afterwards, she was worried about accidents and falling out of a car and was anxious when visiting fairgrounds.

Micheál Ó Scanaill SC, for Freya, told the court the case had been settled for €192,000.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna approved the settlement with a payout of €2,000 for Freya and the remainder to be lodged in court until she reaches 18. The judge wished her the best of luck.

Mr Robinson died in October 2021.

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Catella invests €15.5m in Portuguese student accommodation

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The Catella European Residential Fund (CER) has made its first venture into the emerging Portuguese institutional investment market for student housing with the acquisition of an asset in the municipality of Cascais, just to the west of Lisbon, for €15.5m. The vendor is Value One HoldingThe property is located close to the beach in the Lombos neighbourhood of Carcavelos within the Cascais municipality and is a 10-minute walk from Portugal’s most prestigious business school, the NOVA School of Business and Economics, which has a student population of over 3,500. The centre of Lisbon can be reached within 20 minutes via two train stations. The 6,622m² property was built in 2020 and comprises 192 spacious single rooms (20m² on average) with a gym, rooftop terrace, study, music and leisure rooms and parking. It is 99% occupied and has obtained LEED Gold sustainability certification for its construction.

 

European student accommodation provider MILESTONE operates the residence under a management contract. MILESTONE was founded in Vienna, is a member of the Value One Group, an international real estate Developer and student housing operator and brings extensive knowledge of the conception, design and successful management of student housing, combined with international expertise. MILESTONE currently has 4,627 beds of purpose-built student housing under management and in development across Austria, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

 

Eduardo Guardiola, Managing Partner of Catella AM Iberia, said: This is a milestone for CER marking the vehicle’s first investment in Portugal. It is also an important step for CRIM as it represents the investment manager’s entry into Portugal. For Catella AM Iberia it marks our third transaction as advisors on a student accommodation acquisition in the Iberian region. The Portuguese real estate market is becoming increasingly relevant across both the affordable rental and student housing markets – which although very different in maturity and size offer some excellent investment opportunities.”

 

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Kirstie and Phil’s Love It Or List It viewers slam father-of-two who ‘clearly wants a bachelor pad’

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Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed a father-of-two who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said he wanted a home where his children were ‘out the way.’

Sophie and Paul, from Aylesbury, who had spent the last eight years  in their home, had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years. 

The couple had allocated £90,000 to transform their house, but also had a £525,000 budget to look at new homes elsewhere. 

Following Kirstie’s advice on the show, they spent £80,000 converting their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension.

But many of those watching were unimpressed by Paul’s attitude after he said he liked their new playroom because it meant his children ‘couldn’t bug him’.

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil's Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who 'clearly wanted a bachelor pad' after he said a home where his children were 'out the way'

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said a home where his children were ‘out the way’

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage 

One wrote: ‘He doesn’t like his in-laws, his kids or his house. Think he wishes he was still a bachelor.’

Another wrote: ‘The partner is just gross, he just keeps going on about not being a bachelor anymore and how he doesn’t want the kids to bug him.

‘I get the sense he still likes to think of himself as a bachelor, I can just imagine him on a night out without her.’ 

Appearing on the programme last night, Sophie and Paul had been together for eight years and had two children, seven-year-old Finley and three-year-old Georgia. 

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years 

Following Kirstie's advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

Following Kirstie’s advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

But when Paul bought their three bedroom house 13 years ago, a family home was not the objective. 

He explained: ‘This was my bachelor pad. I’m team List It, I want something fresh and new for Sophie and the kids.’

Meanwhile Sophie said: ‘I’m definitely a home bird and I love being here.’

She said they relied on her parents ‘a lot’ because they lived at the bottom of the road.   

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were 'always on top of each other'

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were ‘always on top of each other’ 

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property's conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn't fit for purpose for their children

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property’s conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn’t fit for purpose for their children 

But Paul said: ‘My pet hates include the location, the small bedroom upstairs is a tiny box-room. 

‘The playroom downstairs isn’t fit for purpose, the kitchen needs overhauling and the garage is a mess.

‘The most important thing for me in a house is having the divide between adult space and children space and I think that’s important especially as they grow up.’ 

Sophie added: ‘We’ve been in a limbo now for three years where nothing has been done.’  

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured)

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured) 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner)

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner) 

While Sophie said the bedrooms were 'nice' (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was 'a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk'

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’ (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk’

She told Kirstie and Phil she wanted to extend their home, while Paul said: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the property. We’re all on top of each other here.’ 

But Sophie admitted she was unwilling to move further than a 15 minute drive from her parent’s home. 

Kirstie warned they would have to go to the top of their budget to fix the home’s problems, suggesting extending the kitchen diner into the area where the current conservatory is.

Meanwhile she said they could also convert the garage into a new living room, creating space for a new hallway. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured)

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured) 

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it's playroom, adding it would 'keep the children out the way' (pictured)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it’s playroom, adding it would ‘keep the children out the way’ (pictured) 

Upstairs, the extension would give space for four bedrooms and a master suite.

Meanwhile the first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was. 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden.

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’, Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk.’  

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured)

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured) 

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom 

However the couple ultimately decided the downstairs living space wasn’t large enough for their family. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000. 

The detached home had been on the market a while, and Phil hoped that a deal could be done.

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen.   

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple's changes to their property and were blown away

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple’s changes to their property and were blown away 

Commenting on the couple's decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they 'wouldn't come through to bug us'

Commenting on the couple’s decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they ‘wouldn’t come through to bug us’

Paul commented: ‘Good playroom at the front…keep them out the way. Eventually this could be my main cave.’ 

And the final property in their search was in the quaint village of Stoke, with Paul saying: ‘I like the outside and it’s in a good location.’

The four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000, with a large kitchen diner and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom.

Outside, there was a double length garage which could be used for storage space. 

Fifteen months after the couple started the renovations on their home, Kirstie and Phil returned to find the property had been completely transformed. 

However despite Sophie and Paul's joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

They were blown away by the extension the couple had added to their home, with even Sophie admitting it was ‘bigger than they expected it to be.’

Meanwhile Paul added: ‘It’s definitely not a bachelor pad now.’

And commenting on the decision to build a separate  play room, he said: ‘The children can turn right [to the playroom] as opposed to coming all the way through here and bugging us.’ 

Overall the couple spent £80,000 and the property value has increased by £150,0000.

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitude. 

One wrote: ‘I think this guy just doesn’t want to live in the same house as his kids.’

Another added: ‘The guy on this obviously wants away from her parents and somewhere to shove the kids out of the way…he wants a bachelor pad…just come out and say it!’

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