LONDON — There’s a changing of the guard at British department store John Lewis, which has been undergoing a change since May 2021.
The latest hire, Heena Mohammed, is the company’s new head of beauty, a former Net-a-porter employee with 16 years of experience at the online luxury retailer between ready-to-wear and beauty. Her last role with the company was as senior merchandiser before leaving for John Lewis last April.
“Obviously it’s very different from doing digital strategy and then doing in-store strategy. But John Lewis is all about the customers and so he’s building that trust and sort of layering everything around that customer proposition,” Mohammed told WWD in her first interview since joining the company.
At Net-a-porter, Mohammed’s primary responsibility was to take beauty from his childhood and build upon it and launch brands. She was the first to bring Pat McGrath to the UK market after meeting her at The Ritz in Paris and introducing new brands to the platform, such as Rose Inc. by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Mohammed has been tasked with being the bridge between the online and in-store experiences. Hiring him is an indication of John Lewis’ strategy to go upscale and chase after his middle-class clients.
The company closed eight of its stores in 2020, including one at Birmingham’s Grand Central which cost £35m to build and survived just five years.
“My vision is basically to give customers that kind of 360-degree experience,” said Mohammed, listing the brands John Lewis offers, from Chanel and The Ordinary to Sunday Riley.
Internal footfall numbers reveal that younger audiences visit stores more often. Mohammed mentioned shopping there with his teenage daughter and their friends.
“I want to build on this upcoming fresher, niche, younger brand,” Mohammed said of his ambitions. He’s targeting brands that provide makeup infused with skincare, re-naming Rose Inc.
There is a strong appetite for sustainable products with multiple fragrance brands launching refillable stations. Mohammed suggests that refillable moisturizers are where the beauty market is heading and is eager to pitch the idea to John Lewis.
Beauty at John Lewis is an add-on that shouldn’t be underestimated: his customers enter the shops to buy technical appliances and interiors and then come across the beauty. “They know that if they buy a product today and it doesn’t work, we will fix it. It’s the trust they have in us,” Mohammed said.
For 2023, the top activations at John Lewis Beauty are improving gift boxes and contests, with the retailer recently partnering with Prada on its new fragrance Paradoxe. Both programs are available to customers who have joined the brand’s online initiative. Mohammed wants to focus more on offering products that speak to customers of all ages.