Disclosure: as with the majority of blogs, products featured on Midlifechic sometimes (but not always) include affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase, you are helping to support the site because a small referral commission may be paid. This contributes towards hosting fees, software costs, site maintenance and other plug-ins. Midlifechic could not exist without these small payments, so every contribution makes a big difference.

So how are you doing? Have you had that first flutter of festive feeling yet?  This is always a disorientating time of year. We pivot from bonfire night towards Christmas seemingly overnight and for a while it can feel as though we’re being swept along with something we’re not quite a part of. I’m noticing that after years of familiar Christmases, ours is changing. For the first time ever we won’t have any boys at home until Christmas week itself so even though everyone knows me as being a complete devotee of the shiny season, I confess I’ve been finding it hard to get to grips with the amount of work that will go into what I know will be over in a flash this year. Because we’re only going to be together for a short stretch of time, I’ve been putting pressure on myself to shake things up… to make up for the loss of build-up by changing everything to make it more exciting.

But on Monday I had a long chat with the eldest on the phone. As we share a love of retail and marketing we were going through the Christmas TV ads as we always do and I was surprised by how strongly he reacted to one I quite liked. It was all about doing Christmas your way, throwing out traditions you don’t feel like sticking to and he was furious about it. Apparently he and his friends all feel the same way – that Christmas has to be about tradition. He told me that they all felt it had hit completely the wrong note. His point was that for young adults making their way in what feels like a very precarious world at the moment, the one thing that’s keeping them going is the thought of returning home for Christmas – precisely because everything will be the same. They’re looking forward to logging off and regressing to a version of their childhood and they really, really don’t want anything to change.

I’d already written this when lo and behold – the new John Lewis Christmas ad was released yesterday and it was all about tradition. It has to be said that the launch of the JLP ad has become a part of most people’s Christmas tradition in the UK over the last fourteen years so before I go on to talk about what’s new at John Lewis, I’ll add it below for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. And as I know you like a little bit of retail insider chat, it’s worth understanding the background to the creative brief before you watch it.

For the first time since 2009 John Lewis put their advertising account out to pitch this year and Saatchi and Saatchi, doyennes of the 20th century’s advertising heydays, won it with their ‘traditions’ concept. JL Marketing Director Rosie Hanley explained why – “the thing we loved about traditions was that traditions allow us all to have common ground. In a relatively divided country, or indeed, across generations, traditions bring people together, but they are also very personal and individual to us.” The campaign pitch reflected the YouGov research into Christmas that JL had also commissioned which revealed just how rooted in tradition Christmas is – but that lots of us have also adapted our traditions, especially since lockdown caused us to rethink so many parts of our lives. So the ad is the depiction of a new festive spirit showing how the unusual and unexpected rather than the conventionally ‘perfect’ can lead to a new kind of happy Christmas if you let it. It urges people to ‘let your traditions grow’. So here it is.

It’s true that we have to adapt our Christmases as our lives and the people in them change. It’s good to hold tight to the traditions that we can but also understand that we have to let others go. It sums this year up for me in particular as I accept that I need to adapt as my own family changes and so Mal and I will have to find a few new traditions of our own. And with that in mind I’m feeling full of spirit, just in time for my annual trip to John Lewis – let me show you what’s new there this year.

Christmas 23 – what’s new at John Lewis?

For the last six years the first of our new traditions has been popping into John Lewis at the beginning of November to prepare for this post and we arrived last weekend just as everything was being put out. It meant I was too early to do my usual outfit try-on but there was inspiration in the new displays that were going up. I’m sure you’ll immediately spot how well the style pros have used contrasting textures here now that you’re used to looking out for them. And you’ll see how lurex, metallics, leather textures and velvet are looking much more up to date than sequins.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Right to left:

Coloured faux fur is another texture that’s really coming to the fore this year adding an extra dimension to outfits. Like velvet, for the last few seasons it’s felt a bit frumpy but now the world of fashion has turned and both fur and velvet are back. If you look at the second outfit along it’s amazing what a difference that little blue fur tippet scarf makes to the outfit isn’t it? It could be a great gift idea – you can find larger fur scarves here.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Left to right

I popped into the personal stylists’ lair to see what they’d picked out for their ‘girls night out’ outfits… mini-skirts are holding their ground against the midi…

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Faux fur jacket; black velvet mini-dress; boots; bag

… although one of the key trends for this season is the long 90s style denim skirt with a slit front, it’s like a mini-midi hybrid…

Christmas party outfit ideas

Faux leather blazer; silver tee; denim skirt; bag

… and silver boots again with a plain biker jacket to bring down the shine of the outfit.

Christmas party outfits

Leather jacket; beret; lurex pleated skirt; silver boots; bag available in store; (bag on table)

Easy accessory updates

If you have a big one-off event you can hire an outfit from John Lewis – details here. If you’re just looking to update your outfits in a small way though I have to say that the accessories department in JL is on good form. I was pleased to find both a gold and a bronze version of the bag I loved so much this summer…

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Jumper (currently 20% off – grrr!); jeans; gold bag

… along with lots of other well priced options. These are all John Lewis own brand so great value.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

John Lewis own label evening bag collection

Christmas 23 – what’s new at John Lewis? Statement baubles

Let’s carry on with our walk around the store – with my silver boots on I was absolutely in the right mood to hit the decorations.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Jumper (currently 20% off); jeans; silver boots (gifted AW23)

And actually did you know that John Lewis sell more Christmas decorations today, (10th November) than at any other time in the build up to Christmas? As always there are six different themes and enough colour schemes to suit anyone’s decor. If you’re just looking to add one or two to your existing collection they’ve pulled out their key statement baubles here.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

And another interesting fact that JL’s Christmas customer research uncovered is that a third of their customers now have two trees. One tends to be deep inside the house and that’s the one that holds the mish mash of baubles and children’s art projects that have been collected and treasured over the years. The other is a tasteful show tree, usually placed in a window or hall where guests will see it. I confess we’ve always had two but it’s more because as a designer who spends so much time planning beautiful retail schemes, our mismatching family tree makes Mal shudder so the themed one is just for him!

What’s new at John Lewis? Pets at Christmas

Now here’s something else that I thought was interesting from the customer data – last year JL customers spent less on family and friends and exponentially more on their pets! And so there’s now much more gifting for furry friends – the pet department in the Newcastle store was sizeable

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

– this was just a few of the outfits on offer, there were more – pyjamas, raincoats, cold weather coats, all kinds of things. I could see that this version of a dog towelling robe could be really useful though.

Midlifechic John Lewis shopping

Dog dry robe

And the thing is that they aren’t just good gifts for pets, they’re a great present idea for the person who loves their furry friends too. You can certainly spend an entertaining half hour looking through it all – you can find the full collection of pet gifts here.

One last thing while we’re on the topic of pets and Christmas. Santa is, of course, appearing in stores and you can make an appointment to visit him with your children/grandchildren if you’re very, very quick – details here. However, he’s also doing a Santa Paws experience this year where your four legged friend can have a photo taken with him and get a gift too. Book here!

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Santa Paws experience

Festive Workshops & Pop-Ups

The festive workshops with small makers were such a success at John Lewis last year that they’ve added even more now – there are different things going on in various stores. You can personalise your own Christmas jumper, knit your own stocking, make a wreath, paint a bauble, enjoy a cocktail making workshop but again spaces are going fast so book quickly here

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis.

Personalised jumper making

Another way that JL is supporting small businesses is by inviting them in with their pop-up stores, giving them an opportunity to benefit from John Lewis footfall. You’ll find completely different local companies in each store.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Advent calendars

Sometimes it’s the times around Christmas that are more fun than the big day itself isn’t it? I have a particular love of Twixmas, that lazy time between Christmas and New Year when you lose track of which day it is. The JL customer research found that 60% of customers actually prefer Christmas Eve and Boxing Day to Christmas Day itself – and there is something extra special about the day of anticipation and the day when the pressure’s off! It’s thought that the rise in popularity of adult advent calendars is all part of this concept of enjoying the whole season as much as you can – so I’ve pulled out a few you might not have spotted.

Best beauty calendar

For the last few years the John Lewis Beauty calendar has been one of the best when you look at the value of the contents compared to the cost – £195 for £921 worth of products. This year, ten customers will also find a £500 gift voucher inside and five more will unlock a ‘money can’t buy’ experience – they’re pretty fabulous. It feels rather Willy Wonka and there are still some beauty advent calendars left (as I try to resist ordering one).

Best beauty advent calendar Christmas 23

John Lewis beauty calendar with special prizes (10% off this weekend)

Best food and drink calendar

I love the idea of this cocktail calendar, it would give me pleasure right through to the summer months because I only fancy a cocktail now and again. There’s a really good variety of premium cocktails inside. In a similar vein there’s a fizz calendar too and a wine one which is good value.

Cocktail advent calendar Christmas 23

Cocktail advent calendar

Best chocolate calendar

I have one friend who buys her tins of family chocolates in advance and then finds herself eating them all in the run up to Christmas so I’m thinking of her with this new Quality Street advent calendar.

Quality Street advent calendar Christmas 23

Quality Street advent calendar

There are lots of others from Lego to pork scratchings – you can find them all here.

Christmas 23 – what’s new at John Lewis? Games

Games are probably the biggest part of Christmas for us. We have old favourites but now that the boys are adults there’s great pleasure in adding a new one each year too – that’s letting our traditions grow I guess. This is my absolute favourite this year and it strikes me that it would be particularly good for playing with mixed generations. It’s just a pack of cards but they’re filled with conversation prompters such as ‘if you had ten years left to live what changes would you make?’ or ‘ if you could move anywhere in the world with all the people you love, where would you choose?’ It’s a great way of getting to know the people you love even better, especially after a glass of wine – and it would be good to play as a couple too.

Best Christmas games 23

A little more conversation game

Get a Hint involves drawing, humming or miming something to your partner, the faster they guess what it is, the quicker you move round the board. You need a bigger group for this one so that you can split off into teams and apparently it’s a bit tricky for children to play so better for an adult group.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

Get a Hint

For a mixed age group The Egg Game would be a scream. There are a number of challenges that require you not to drop the egg such as ‘roll the egg a metre up the wall using only one hand’. You can use the plastic one or up the ante with a real one.

Christmas 23 - what's new at John Lewis

The egg game

What’s new at John Lewis? Black Friday on now!

And one last thing for you to know before I finish – Black Friday. To calm the frenzy, John Lewis are running it all month long. There’s a dedicated Black Friday hub on the website here and offers will continue to be added throughout the month as more are launched. At the moment the key deals are electrical including the Ninja Air Fryer – both large and small and good reductions on Miele products. There’s also 20% off selected fragrance gift sets and new fashion offers have just gone live as I type including 20% off the John Lewis range. You can find them all here.

So I hope that’s helped you to start thinking about Christmas 23. ‘What’s new at John Lewis?’ is always one of my favourite posts because it’s a store that isn’t just about gifts. As you may have noticed, I prefer all the elements that add up to making Christmas feel special to anything I might find under the tree. The retail spotlights have finished until next year now because I’m moving on to the gift idea posts next week but I’ll still be back on Tuesday with an outfit try-on. With the cost of living crisis in mind, it will be a tight edit as far as gifts are concerned this year. This Christmas is going to be more about people than things for us – and I’m really starting to look forward to it.

Disclosure: ‘Christmas 23 – what’s new at John Lewis this year?’ was commissioned by John Lewis but as always, I had full control over what I chose to feature.

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    Disclosure: as with the majority of blogs, products featured on Midlifechic sometimes (but not always) include affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase, you are helping to support the site because a small referral commission may be paid. This contributes towards hosting fees, software costs, site maintenance and other plug-ins. Midlifechic could not exist without these small payments, so every contribution makes a big difference.