Inside John Lewis Review: Middle Class Comeback?

March 9, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

INSIDE JOHN LEWIS: Wednesday 10th March, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME

You know those things in life you don’t pay much attention to, but if they were to suddenly disappear you couldn’t survive, like oxygen? That’s how I feel about John Lewis. Except it’s not as useful as oxygen and a bit more expensive.

What I could do without is a banal documentary showing how the infamous department store is coping during “the worst recession in history.” Yeah? Then why does the narrator sound so flippin’ happy about it.

Managing director Andy Street is equally zesty. Then again, this could just be the JL “vibe”. ‘He’s John Lewis through and through; if you cut him in half, he’d be John Lewis’, says City Guardian editor Julia Finch. Testing this out on camera would no doubt make for a better show. Someone pass her the knife.

Bonus Day feels like a trip to the circus – Andy announces this year’s percentage and the store claps and cheers wildly. Never has the number 13 felt so welcome.

A pointless customer vox pop attempts to sum up the middle classes of today. ‘I think everyone goes shopping in John Lewis,’ a woman says, while shopping in John Lewis. ‘If John Lewis is short of anything, we’ve got it in our house,’ a man chuckles. I can only assume he lives in the furniture dept.

With everything so hunky dory, you wonder when it all went pear-shaped. Summer 2008 seems about right, they say, when the Lehman brothers went bust. ‘I thought oh my god, what are we gonna do?’ says Andy.

Build a new store the equivalent of five ASDAS in Cardiff – that’s what. Commissioned in the ‘good times’ they’ve no choice but to go with it – besides, the Welsh are hungry for those £50 pillows, lads! Zzz.

Meanwhile, marketing man Craig Ingles is working on the JL Christmas commercial with creative agency ‘Adam and Eve’. This prompts Ingles to say silly things like, ‘I saw Adam and Eve yesterday.’ I would tell you what the ad man had to say, if I weren’t so distracted by his gargantuan spectacles.

But things don’t quite run smoothly after all, brought home by poor sales, wiley competitors and an economics nerd from Oxford university who should have John Lewis as his chosen subject on Mastermind.

No doubt it will pull through by episode 2. This is John Lewis we’re talking about! It will, won’t it? Oh, god, I can’t breathe…