This month we chat to Lisa Williams, head of John Lewis Birmingham about business in the City
Please introduce yourself
I’m Lisa Williams, head of branch at John Lewis Birmingham – the 45th opening for the company. My role is to lead and manage the branch team, ensuring excellent customer service and healthy growth. The team is made up of 570 John Lewis partners plus the staff on concessions resulting in up to 680 heads working in the store – not all at the same time obviously! I’m a Brummie by birth, but I’ve been away for 30 years working in other John Lewis stores – Peterborough, High Wycombe, Bristol to name a few, so it’s an absolute joy to come home.
What does your company do?
Retail clearly, but we’re also looking to engage the community so we’re working with local charities and we offer an accessible meeting space for local businesses and organisations in the form of the Community Hub space we’ve created.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
It’s an excellent place to do business. The city is well-liked and well-connected – three major motorways and the busiest station outside London which we’re lucky enough to sit on top of. There are lots of skills here too with wonderful pockets of creativity such as the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
The city could be easier to get around, but in fairness this is already happening with the reintroduction of the trams. I’d take it a step further and join up the networks in different ways.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
We’ve had an almost universally warm welcome from the people who wanted to work for John Lewis – of which there were many – to our customers, brands that were eager to get on board and the existing retail sector. We’re not competing against other retail brands in the city, but strengthening it. We all offer something different and that’s fantastic for Birmingham and for the customer. They’re starting to see the city invested in and it’s great for everyone.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
Its location is number one for obvious reasons, but also the people and their attitude make doing business here effective and enjoyable. It’s also a beautiful city which helps.
What should our priorities be as a city?
To join forces, carry on the resurgence and promote Birmingham outside the city even more than we do already.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
I’d take the partnership approach and engage the people of Birmingham splitting the sum two or three ways on really worthwhile projects. I’d look at housing in particular and make it possible and genuinely affordable for people to live in the city centre which serves to anchor business.