Today I’m bringing you the last of my John Lewis & Partners’ posts for 2019, I’ve loved working with them again this year. Of all of the brands on the high street, they have to be the most dynamic in their determination to find a new approach to bricks and mortar retail. As I’ve mentioned before, they have a whole department dedicated to retail innovation which makes them exciting to work with because they’re always revealing another ‘well I never!’ moment. One of the many things they’re focusing on is how to be more sustainable and I’ll be picking up on this today.
Just after our summer holiday, I was invited down to London for a special preview of all the ideas that they’d put together for Christmas this year. I spent a happy morning with the team that I work with there and I also had a long chat with Dan Cooper who is head of everything Christmas at John Lewis & Partners.
I’ve been dying to tell you about it for ages but I didn’t think you’d appreciate it when you were still in t-shirts and sandals so I’ve held off until now. So, where do I start? Well, it takes 18 months for a new product concept to be developed, tested and launched at John Lewis & Partners so most of the things that you’ll see in this post were initially thought of at the end of 2017. It shows how far ahead they are that even before the currently renewed focus on the environment, they were already looking at sustainability.
A more sustainable approach to Christmas
They’re beginning the journey by concentrating on the items that create the most waste at Christmas and they’re the ones that are only used once before they’re thrown away; wrapping paper, cards and Christmas trees.
To date they’ve removed two thirds of the glitter from the single use items that they stock and by 2020 there will be none. This year they’ve launched wrapping paper made from limestone that is ground into a powder and then processed. Limestone is a sustainable raw material and this process uses less water and energy than the production of traditional paper. The end result handles beautifully for wrapping.
When they told me about it I expected it to be expensive but it costs £5 for a three metre roll.
Another giftwrap alternative is the introduction of fabric gift bags. We’ll see more of these next year but they’re inspired by the discovery that unlike wrapping paper, people already reuse paper gift bags. Being made from fabric these have an even longer lifespan so they should do the rounds of friends and family for years.
A dilemma because in my view, nothing smells more like Christmas than a freshly cut tree however Dan explained that using an artificial tree for ten years makes it a more environmentally friendly choice than cutting down and disposing of ten fresh trees. It’s an issue of longevity so if you’re going to buy an artificial one, make it a good one. You can see the full collection from JL&P here.
However if you still prefer a fresh tree, they can deliver them directly from sustainable farms in Scotland. They’re selling quickly but there are still some left here – isn’t this Noble Fir a beauty?
Collectable Christmas decorations
Decorations are less of an immediate priority for sustainability because people already tend to keep them for years. However, John Lewis & Partners are increasingly sourcing collectable pieces from skilled European glassmakers. Their focus here is on building longevity into their ranges. They’re not encouraging you to start afresh each year, instead the collections at John Lewis & Partners are buildable.
You’ll notice that their themes are slightly different every year but there’s always a thread that runs through them. For example last year’s woodland theme has evolved into this year’s campfire and the foxes and squirrels that you bought in 2018 sit happily alongside 2019’s tents and lanterns.
All of the ranges are selling quickly but one of my favourite themes this year is Garden Retreat which has all kinds of garden related baubles in it.
I also love the rainbow coloured ABC theme which is geared towards children with a special bauble for every letter of the alphabet.
You can find the complete collection of tree decorations here.
More Sustainable, Low Voltage Christmas Lights
Another area where JL&P are aiming to be more sustainable is with Christmas lights. Their new ranges are all low voltage, using 90% less power than traditional incandescent lights. There are lots of outdoor lights available…
… and these waterfall lights have good reviews. You simply hang them from the top of the tree and arrange them vertically through the branches – so much easier than twisting them round horizontally.
Moving on to gifts and the mood at JL&P this year is about helping you to give presents that have a little extra thought behind them. A new department at the Oxford Street store is The Chocolatory which is run by KitKat. For £14 you can create your own eight finger KitKat. You simply specify the chocolate that you’d like, choose three toppings from a list and it’s then made for you by hand like this. You can go off shopping and they’ll text you when it’s ready to collect.
Here’s the one that they made for me – as you can see the box is personalised…
… I went for dark chocolate topped with rose petals, cocoa nibs and hazelnuts and it’s been sitting on my desk since the beginning of September so now I can eat it at last!
Of course you could go one step further and have it covered in edible gold leaf.
If you can’t go into the Oxford Street store, you can still have your box personalised in the Trafford Centre store and you can find the stores that do limited edition KitKats here. Alternatively some can be ordered online here.
The customised Quality Street tins are back again…
… innovations this year include an exclusive JL&P flavour – crispy truffle bite which I’ve tasted and it has my approval. And there are Instagram opportunities aplenty – I should add that I tasted a normal size, I didn’t stick my teeth into this.
If you already have a tin from last year, the sustainable option is to take it in for a refill for just £10 and, as always, My John Lewis customers can choose the flavours they like and leave out the ones they don’t… which may be where the first Christmas quarrel begins. Lots more stores are taking part this year, you can find them all here.
Find the right tonic for your gin
There’s more ‘shoppertainment’ at the enhanced Fever Tree Stations where you use the interactive digital flavour finder (you can just see it below) to identify your favourite flavour ingredients. You can then taste the recommended pairings and create crackers containing the ones you like best to take home. Ten JL&P stores have Fever Tree Tasting Stations this year, you can find them here.
Alternatively if you’re already a G&T pro, you can choose your crackers online here.
So as you can see, John Lewis & Partners are being clever about providing experiences in store that you just can’t get online. It makes the journey into town worth it and you can expect to see lots more exciting in-store activities being unveiled next year.
Other gifts ideas I’ve spotted
As I was going through the site this week a few little extras caught my eye that I hadn’t spotted before so I thought I’d share them with you.
Well filled crackers
Crackers are such a big part of a traditional Christmas Dinner and yet it can be galling when you see unwanted contents being swept into the bin with the rest of the after-dinner debris. You wouldn’t throw anything away from these beauty crackers though. You could buy a box of these to set at the places of people who would appreciate them on Christmas Day…
… and some ‘fill your own’ ones with a thoughtful little something for everyone else.
It’s always nice to take something a little different along when you’re going to a friend’s. These cocktail truffles would be fun after dinner…
Made in the UK
… and as I mentioned last week, JL&P’s own brand food and drink is really impressive this year. Everything apart from the Prosecco has been made in the UK and all of the packaging has been designed in-house.
Just reading through the flavour combinations that they’ve put together makes your tastebuds tingle – I like the idea of lemon and turmeric shortbread…
Living and lasting gifts
Another thing I spotted when I was in Leeds is a growing (couldn’t resist that) houseplant collection. As you know, houseplants have been making a comeback after the years of minimalist noughties interiors and this botanical grouping struck me as being particularly good value. It’s labelled as a new home bundle but it would be a good sustainable Christmas gift too. They’re all supposed to be easy care so I have to say I’m quite tempted by them, they come with the lovely pots included.
Gifts that make memories
And lastly on the gift-buying front, it can be more sustainable to give memory making opportunities. Did you know that JL&P offer a range of gift experiences? Last year I bought afternoon teas for my siblings and they really enjoyed choosing where to have them. They also texted me photos while they were doing it which gave me a vicarious share in their pleasure, even though I was sitting at my desk.
And should you have a teen embarking on a new romance I can recommend this high street dining gift. It enables them to take their new beau (or belle) out for a meal that doesn’t feel too intimate but is a treat all the same. It’s a gift that goes down really well.
You can see all of the John Lewis & Partners gift experiences here.
Five Family Board Games
Of course for most of us, especially this year, Christmas is about much more than just gifts. What I’m most looking forward to is a few hours of fun with my boys. We won’t have many because they’re going to be either working or performing for a lot of the time we have off. In fact the only full day that we’ll all have together is Christmas Day, other times will have to be snatched in between shifts and performances. However when we can, we’ll be sitting down with a game or two – hopefully not Monopoly! Here are the newest games that have good reviews in the board gaming community.
This year’s hot game is Peaky Blinders. Reviews say that it’s a bit complicated at first so you have to spend a bit of time reading the rules carefully. When you get going though it’s fun, it’s quite strategic, a lot of bluffing is involved and you can create a network of both friends and enemies. As the pace gathers, it’s quite cathartically exciting, particularly if you’re a fan of the TV show. Most suitable for adults and older teens.
2. Selfish (Zombie edition)
I’ve bought this one because like so many other teens, the middle son has a lifelong Zombie fascination. Of course I may also have been influenced by the promise that it only lasts for twenty minutes. The idea is that you are the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. You have to use your remaining supplies selfishly to overcome various obstacles (and zombies) because there is only one space in the rescue helicopter…
Reviews say it is easy to master and, because it’s a card game, it’s also good for travel. Age range – older children upwards.
This sounds like a great version of a trivia game for the whole family. Why? Because you give an answer that lies within a range so even if you don’t know exactly, you can have a good guess. So for example a question might be ‘what’s the biggest lottery win ever?’ and you write your range ‘from £x to £x’ on your board. It sounds like a good idea for a family where knowledge games can become very competitive and egos can be bruised (she says knowingly). Age range – older children upwards.
And I’m going to finish with our family’s two top favourites.
4. Ticket to Ride
We can all play this happily for hours, even though the middle son always wins. You’re given journey cards and you have to build your railway between your two allocated cities before somebody else steals your track. It’s such a satisfying game and it’s good for improving their geographical knowledge by stealth. It’s relatively easy to learn and suitable for older children (aged about 10) and upwards.
Another simple but exciting game. Everyone starts with a cup and five dice, you shake them simultaneously, leaving them concealed beneath the cup. One person has to guess the dominance of the spots around the table – for example ‘ten sixes’. The player next to them either raises the stake – ‘eleven sixes’ or says ‘dudo’ (I doubt it). When dudo is called, all dice are revealed and whoever was wrong loses a dice. It carries on like this until someone is out. A game can last for anything from five minutes to half an hour, depending on how skilled you are at it and we sometimes play it back to back for ages, especially on holiday. Ages – about 10 and upwards.
New Click & Collect Options
Did you know that John Lewis & Partners has extended Click & Collect beyond their stores and Waitrose? You can now order for next day delivery to 50 Co-op stores and… drum roll for anybody who lives around here… our local luxury supermarket chain BOOTHS! You can return items there too (as long as you collected the original parcel from the same store). Full details here – the best way to find your nearest collection point is to enter your postcode in the Click & Collect option at checkout.
A thank you
So that brings me to the end of this year’s partnership with John Lewis & Partners. I’d like to say thank you to the team there for supporting Midlifechic and for placing such store in our community. They work with very few bloggers and so it’s an honour to know that they value us here. And they’ve asked me to say thank you to you too for all of your comments over the year and of course your loyalty to the brand. What a great match we make.
We have a lovely weekend ahead – you may have noticed that I’ve posted early today because Mr MC is holding his President’s Christmas lunch so we’re heading off to get everything ready. Once his speech is over, we’ll be able to relax and enjoy it, even though I’ll be humouring the friends and colleagues who have invented a title for me – FLOLASCUM (First Lady of Lancashire and South Cumbria). I wonder if it will become less amusing over the course of the two year stint…
Tomorrow is very exciting because we’re going to watch the middle son in his first Pantomime role, he’s playing the Genie in Aladdin (altogether now – “oh yes he is!”). It’s a very long run so we’ll be going twice – with friends tomorrow and then family on Boxing Day. We’re all going to stop off for something to eat on the way home tomorrow night and then on Sunday we have an afternoon drinks party to go to. It shouldn’t go on too late so hopefully next Monday will feel better than this one did. Oh and we must get round to putting some Christmas trees up at some point too – have you done yours yet? Enjoy your weekend… I’ll be back on Tuesday, as always.
Disclosure: ‘Wrapping up Christmas – a more sustainable approach’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as they always do, they gave me full control of the content.
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