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A Retail Partnership Taking BTR To The Next Level


John Lewis & Partners is one of the UK’s most well-known retailers, known for selling everything from make-up and clothes to furniture and technology. Not many people would associate the brand with the UK’s rental sector, however.

Last year, John Lewis & Partners took a giant leap into the UK’s growing build-to-rent market by partnering with Tipi, Quintain’s lifestyle-focussed BTR management company, to design the interiors of and furnish its Landsby apartments in Wembley Park in collaboration with interior designers Fossey Arora.

Why? Attracted by what it sees as a new way of living, John Lewis & Partners has identified an opportunity to offer a new level of convenience for renters that adds yet another dimension to the rental market. As the BTR market grows, such partnerships with retailers are likely to become more common. 

Choice steps up a notch

Quintain’s £3B transformation of the Wembley Park area will be the largest BTR scheme in the UK, comprising 7,500 homes — 5,000 for rent through Tipi — and 500K SF of retail and leisure space. The Landsby development, which opened in September, totals 295 apartments across three blocks. It is the third site opened by Tipi and the first where the company has collaborated with John Lewis & Partners to offer a selection of furnished and unfurnished apartments.

Though a partnership between a retailer and a developer is a new concept for John Lewis & Partners, it felt like a clear route into new territory, said John Lewis & Partners Operations Manager Charlene Griffiths, who is leading the partnership with Tipi. 

“John Lewis for Business was already established in furnishing show homes, which led us to recognise the appeal of property as a market for us,” Griffiths said. “A customer might see a product in the show home they liked, then buy it for themselves, for example. 

“Furnishing BTR properties on scale was a natural step. We saw that the BTR market was growing and the excitement around it, and realised we could add value.”

The service that John Lewis & Partners is creating does not stop at furnishing the interior of Tipi’s apartments. Residents are offered different packages to help them kit out their apartment, from a gift card to let them pick their own products right through to installing everything down to linen and cutlery.

The whole point is to increase both choice and convenience, Griffiths said.

“Some residents want to turn up and have everything there, such as corporate or overseas lets. For others, it could be their first home so they might want to select products themselves. We are looking at how we can service each customer individually.”

The furnishing collections are curated entirely for Tipi and some furniture is bespoke.

“The breadth of our furnishing range allows greater choice than other suppliers might be able to achieve,” Griffiths said. “We can help Tipi to achieve a coherent look by supplying furniture in keeping with the overall design chosen for the building.”


Evolving Business

Although offering choice to residents is the whole point of John Lewis & Partners’ collaboration with Tipi, it is also an area where both companies need to learn how the model will work.

“If we offer too much choice, that will be a challenge operationally, both for us and Tipi,” Griffiths said. “For example, a resident might want a seventh-floor apartment but with a sofa from a fourth-floor apartment.”

What John Lewis offers will also evolve as the UK’s BTR sector grows and changes. A report from London First, Everything You Need To Know About Build To Rent In London, suggests that the proportion of Londoners renting privately is set to reach 40%, up from 27% in 2017. So far 15,000 BTR homes have been built, just over 19,000 homes are under construction and more than 38,000 homes are going through planning, according to the British Property Federation.

Tipi’s BTR offering, like many, is as much a service as a rental business. Utility bills and broadband are included in the rent and properties offer reception areas, coworking spaces, bars, gyms and spaces for residents to use or rent exclusively, as well as events to get people talking to each other.

“BTR is a lifestyle choice for many types of people,” Griffiths said. “People enjoy the benefits and flexibility of living in these apartments.”

John Lewis & Partners is working on three more buildings with Tipi that will be launched this year and next, spurred on by its belief in Tipi’s model.

“The designs for the next buildings are going to be even more collaborative, looking at the style of each individual building and who Tipi is trying to target,” Griffiths said.

As BTR continues to gain traction not just in London, but in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, this offering will evolve. As the market grows, it will become clearer which sort of resident is after the choices that are on offer.  

This feature was produced by Bisnow Branded Content in collaboration with John Lewis for Business. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.