Shoppers at John Lewis and Waitrose will be able to book a slot to avoid long queues as part of bosses’ fightback after the coronavirus lockdown
It is one of two schemes being launched next week to entice customers back to its stores.
Customers at ten Waitrose and John Lewis stores will be able to book a timed slot to shop from Monday.
Shoppers who are faced with a long wait when they arrive will also be able to enter a virtual queue using their mobile phone, allowing them to wait in a cafe or their car.
At the same time John Lewis has announced an interactive sports zone featuring high end kit from Sweaty Betty, Stella McCartney sportswear and £2,000 Peloton exercise bikes to give customers a ‘live studio experience’.
The first concession opened in the Oxford Street store yesterday, and another eight will follow in stores including Southampton, High Wycombe and Horsham.
The twin announcements are the latest moves to turn the ailing retailer’s fortunes around after profits crashed from £452m in 2016 to £146m in the year to January.
Last month bosses were forced to shut eight John Lewis stores and axe 1,300 staff after boss Dame Sharon White warned sales could fall by a third this year.
She has already announced a slew of plans to re-invent the department store, including turning empty shops into ‘affordable’ private homes and expanding into horticulture and garden products.
Pedal power: Interactive sports zones feature £2,000 Peloton bikes
It is also rapidly boosting its investment in online shopping, while taking steps to maximise sales in shops.
The move to implement queuing technology comes amidst worries social distancing will obliterate sales as wet winter weather sets in.
From Monday customers will be able to book a slot to do their shopping or join a virtual queue using their mobile phone.
They will be able to send a code via text message or by scanning a QR code – a special barcode that can be read by smartphones. When it is close to their time to enter, they will receive a text message asking them to come in.
The trial comes at a crucial time for Waitrose, which is preparing for its deal with Ocado to come to an end on September 1.
Peter Cross, a director at the supermarket, said: ‘This brand new trial will let you wait for your turn in line from the comfort of your car, ensuring that everyone can continue to shop safely and seamlessly.’
The same system will be applied to individual departments in John Lewis such as children’s shoes or technology.
The app, called Qudini, also allows staff to track the number of customers in a shop, helping to ensure it does not become too crowded.
Retail expert Richard Hyman said: ‘This sounds like a good move. It’s bizarre to book a slot for your food shop, but these are bizarre times.
‘There’s no doubt that some people will be put off by queuing in the rain, and retailers need to capture those sales, particularly John Lewis. I think other shops will follow suit.’
John Lewis customers can already pre-book a slot to get shoes fitted. Waitrose has also recently rolled out a drive-through collection service in 70 supermarkets.
Social distancing and changing shopping habits are already having a drastic impact on the High Street. John Lewis expects 60 per cent of its sales to come from online, up from 40 per cent before the crisis.
The rapid changes have already pushed John Lewis to launch beauty masterclasses, personal styling sessions and personal shopping over video conferencing.
Waitrose is also aiming to expand its delivery business to 250,000 food orders each week as it prepares to cut ties from online grocer Ocado next month.
John Lewis partnership, which will release its half-year results on September 17, has 43 department stores and 364 supermarkets, and employs over 80,000 staff.