Spotlight: John Lewis of Hungerford
At OX we love small, local businesses who display a true passion for attention to detail, artistry and pride in what they do.
Each month, we shine our Spotlight on a small-to-medium scale enterprise who we think embody these values and celebrate the best of Oxfordshire’s small business. For April, we’ve spoken to John Lewis of Hungerford’s Marriane Batham.
Hi Marianne, what was it that attracted you to the kitchen industry?
I studied spacial design at university and I was always fairly creative and artistic. I just happened to stumble across the kitchen design industry, and I've never thought about leaving since. It never gets boring and no brief is ever the same, even when you have the same size of space. I love going to see the finished projects as well.
How did John Lewis of Hungerford become such an illustrious brand?
It's still quite a small company. We started up 45 years ago, and Mr John Lewis used to make all of the kitchens by hand in what is now our Hungerford showroom. We've since expanded – our head office is now in Wantage, we now do bedrooms as well, and we've opened many more showrooms. Mr John Lewis is actually still quite involved in the company, and it feels very much like a family.
How have you seen your industry change over the years?
Now, we tend to do more contemporary kitchens. A few years ago we launched our 'Pure' range, which is handleless. The nice thing about this range is that they look like German kitchens but they have the handmade quality. In Oxford at least, we tend not to get many customers asking for traditional kitchens – they're either handleless or shaker at the moment. In terms of how things are put together, at the moment we're seeing a lot of tall banks of units with large islands.
How has Oxfordshire treated you as a business environment?
It's great. We have some incredibly busy periods. The Oxford showroom has been open for around nine years and it's still one of the top performing branches in the country.
How has the structure of the business changed over the years?
We've got 15 showrooms now. Most of them have either a manager and an admin assistant or two designers. Fulham is the busiest – that showroom has three designers and two admin people.
What, in your opinion, makes a good small business?
Passion. Whether you're a salesperson or a designer, you need to be passionate about your product. You need to be enthusiastic about your company and not just think about the numbers. Customers will always pick up on that.
Finally, what makes John Lewis of Hungerford the best?
We genuinely want to give people and families their dream kitchens; we get visibly excited when we visit the finished products. On a more specific level, our paint finishes are amazing – we give a 10 year guarantee - and we can do more in terms of installation than almost any other company. A lot of other companies will simply deliver the kitchen and fit what they're supplying, but we will take out the old kitchen, sort out the gas, plumbing and electricity, supply flooring, and some of our fitters can even knock walls down. It's a completely comprehensive service.