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How We Shop, Live And Look In 2016

2016 has been a tumultuous year for us Londoners, with Brexit, the passing of music icons Prince and David Bowie, and the crazy-making weather. All these things—and the royal offspring—had an effect on what we bought this year, according to John Lewis’ annual retail report detailing how we shopped and lived in 2016.


We went bold. “Brave, not beige,” is how John Lewis termed our attitude toward homes, clothes and living. We weren’t afraid of grabbing attention: sales of bold, abstract printed dresses soared 168%. For homes, clashing prints reigned: multi-coloured hummingbird wallpaper increased 94% and patterned china saw an increase of 52%. Power-pink flamingos appeared all over the home on emblazoned cups, cushions and fairylights. Searches for "flamingo" increased 200% on Gold pineapples were a quirky favourite. John Lewis sold 70 a day at the height of their popularity.

This was also the year that home technology finally became mainstream. Searches for smart home products on were up 670% and the retailer saw an 81% increase in sales of smart home products, like lighting that changes colour to suit your music and a thermostat that learns your temperature preferences.


Londoners took solace in small pleasures—Pokemon hunting goosed the sale of phone chargers over 200% in July. Looking after beehives and adult colouring books also saw significant increases. Over the summer, Britons discovered the joys of exercise and Fitbit saw a 131% spike in popularity following Rio 2016.

If mindfulness, fitness and tech didn’t help, booze was an old reliable friend. Pro-EU voters drank away their sorrows with Sipsmith gin, the sale of which increased 103% the week after Brexit.  

We also proved we love the Royals. In January, Prince George started pre-school. Photos of him wearing a quilted, hooded navy jacket nearly immediately created a 447% sales uplift in similar jackets. 


John Lewis found that when we go shopping, we are on four types of missions:

Mission 1. I need it urgently.

This shopper does not care about enjoying the shopping experience. She wants what she wants now; some of the buying can be distressed or just done in a crunch for time. John Lewis saw a lot of this kind of activity at St. Pancras, a commuter hub, where top sellers were hosiery, phone chargers, headphones and neckties. These shoppers often shop by cellphone because they’re on the go.  

Mission 2: Entertain and inspire me 

These are the shoppers who want the experience of shopping—so they sometimes make it a social occasion with friends and family. They're not shopping for essentials but gravitate toward special experiences such as tastings, spa visits, and testing out new tech and gaming products. John Lewis says customers are increasingly using social media when embarking on these missions to find inspiration and source ideas. 

Mission 3: Advise me 

These shoppers have consulted social media and online reviews but so much information can be overwhelming. They want personalized advice. John Lewis says it has seen this kind of shopper particularly in its investment purchases at John Lewis Partners.

Mission 4: I buy on a whim 

37% of John Lewis' customers are just browsing. Whilst on the shop floor, they may spot some items that are missing from their lives and pick them up on a whim. 

They are not as likely to have done any research, with 67% of everyday items purchased in a shop. They are also not in a rush but enjoy browsing a broad range of options. This kind of shopping behaviour is usually seen when buying products with a lower price point.