The John Lewis Partnership in a Nutshell

Photo:The first known image of John Lewis on Oxford Street, 1885

The first known image of John Lewis on Oxford Street, 1885

Photo:John Spedan Lewis in 1904

John Spedan Lewis in 1904

Photo:Jessops at the time of acquisition in 1933

Jessops at the time of acquisition in 1933

Photo:John Lewis At Home Croydon under construction, 2009

John Lewis At Home Croydon under construction, 2009

By Jonathan Blatchford

Three divisions

The Partnership currently brings together three divisions, Waitrose, John Lewis and Partnership Services.  The first comprises the food shops of the Partnership, the second the department stores and the third, Partnership Services, controls the services which run the operation behind the scenes. 


The Partnership as a co-owned business traces its creation to 1929 when its inspirational owner John Spedan Lewis transferred all his shares in John Lewis and Co Ltd into a trust.

Family beginnings

Before that John Lewis was a family run business.  Set up by John Lewis, Spedan’s father, in 1864 the first shop on Oxford Street was a drapery business which prospered and enabled the purchase of a second shop, Peter Jones in 1905. Spedan Lewis and his brother Oswald joined their father at Oxford Street but Oswald decided to try a different career and sold his shares to his brother.  


When Mr John Lewis died in 1928 Spedan became the sole owner and was able to introduce his ideas of profit sharing across the two shops.  In the years that followed he increased the size of the business by adding firstly the Leckford Estate, which became his family home, and then purchasing Jessops of Nottingham, Lance and Lance of Weston Super Mare and Tyrrell and Green of Southampton. Waitrose also joined the Partnership in 1937.

More growth took place in 1940 with the acquisition of the 15 department stores of the Selfridge Provincial Group and despite the damage to many shops during the Second World War the Partnership continued trading and hfurther increased in size. 


The Partnership now employs over 90,000 Partners who are able to share in the profits of the business at the end of each financial year through the continuing legacy of John Spedan Lewis and his unique business structure.

This page was added by Jonathan Blatchford on 15/09/2014.