IoC visit John Lewis at Magna Park MK

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John Munnelly talks shop on e-commerce expectations John Munnelly talks shop on e-commerce expectations

John Munnelly

Drivers are closer to the customer experience than ever before.

Thunderstorm and downpour on the M1 approaching the massive Magna Park campus of John Lewis to get in line with the giant green aero waggons of the high street retailer stamped with quality in a tradition dating from 1864 to a turnover today nearing four and half billion pounds. The camouflage blue multi-tone stripes of Magna Park sheds were in their element as the giant buildings merged into the clouds to hide the excellence of logistics that lay inside. Green boxes on Knapp systems for a delight of sortation.

John Munnelly took centre stage to talk shop, himself Manchester born and bred, he was former Sainsbury’s before John Lewis, where he has created a building akin to a pilgrimage for logisticians to see retail in delivery. ‘The world of retail is a crazy place at the moment’ commented John.

With TVs and wall projections, John ran a PowerPoint of history, 1864 Oxford Street, John Lewis opens in London. 1928 the son, John Speadon Lewis delivers entrepreneurial skills. 1937 Waitrose purchased and food added to the mix. Bounced into present day, 2005 a vision to build ten new stores in ten years, no sign of e-commerce, logistics was a very manual operation, ethos was a five day week and finish early on a Friday in the warehouse, the operation was over stocked.

The executive reviewed automation & efficiency. John spoke frankly on future views of the day. ‘Direct to customer back in 2005 was an afterthought’ It was 2011 when John Lewis introduced online fashion. By 2012 there was a reviewed strategy for 2020. John spoke, ‘A single pool of stock, store & ecommerce together.’ A customer purchasing at John Lewis can collect from Waitrose, this is clearly a unique double layer in high street retail brands. John explained, ‘for e-commerce, click and collect is fifty per cent of the business. Our High Wycombe store downsized the stock room, opened a new fashion section in the existing space and the store turnover went up 37%. We are working towards a sell one, pick one operation.’

Displaying a wall sized rainbow photo of the Magna Park campus sheds, John had a shot with a rainbow spanning MP1 and MP2. ‘We have been blessed with good luck. Our design principles and future vision was much before e-commerce. Building the DC in a modular way was a great success, it helps us cope with peak. We have been able to add mezzanine floors for more capacity. 900 thousand feet of new garment facility will bring more single pool of stock view to Magna Park campus.

John talked about the staff tem and every partner in the supply chain. ‘John Lewis Partner model is a chemistry that works, investing by all in the solution.’

John Lewis road transport is called the green van fleet, two man delivery and a lot of installation work is at the heart of the operation. Drivers may complete the final mile building a barbeque or plumbing-in a washing machine. ‘Drivers are closer to the customer experience than ever before.’ A bespoke training centre with three dummy houses sat inside for training of all things delivery in a final mile that finishes with the product fixed in and working in a client's home. ‘Reverse logistics is a challenge, there are issues with abuse, multi purchase send-backs can cost three times the delivery charge.’ We have a reverse logistics hub in Birmingham.

John wrapped up with three words, Predictability, Capability and Dependability.


Christmas is our profit zone, then came Black Friday, Ali BaBa / Chinas singles day, all these seem to come in November. Who knows where the next peak challenge will come from?

‘We are inside the fourth industrial revolution.’ ‘I believe omni channel trumps pure play.’ Two years ago John Lewis invested 15% in IT, today its 37%, a huge shift in only two years.


‘The engine room to deliver’ Traditionally the back room was brown coated drivers, today the back room has become the front room. ‘Drivers are closer to the customer experience than ever before.’


‘Great value to the client, customer service and trust.’ ‘We cannot compete with Amazon but we can deliver dependability.’