Bob Gill is the Head of Branch at John Lewis & Partners, Leicester.
He tells Pukaar about the highlights of his job and his pride at running one of Leicester’s best loved stores, as well as his love for the city and his mission to help it thrive.
It’s hard not to think of Leicester without thinking about John Lewis – the large, warm and brightly lit store which sits at the top of the Highcross, and sells everything from gifts, to high-end designer clothes and household appliances.
Bob Gill has been the Head of Branch there since December 2021, a role he embraces and speaks about with great enthusiasm. He has worked in retail management all his life, including at Marks and Spencer and Leicester’s former Debenhams store.
He has also spent time abroad, working for companies in the Caribbean and the Middle East.
“I just love the buzz of retail, and the positive energy here in John Lewis is fantastic”, he told Pukaar.
“We have over 200 partners who work for us in the store, and I love seeing customers in here everyday”, he revealed.
“In fact, I spend a lot of my time on the sales line, just chatting to them”.
As well as overseeing the store and developing its strategy and vision, Bob is passionate about great customer service, something which is relatively simple he says.
“Retail’s not a science, it’s basic; treat customers how you’d want to be treated”, he explained.
“It’s not about ‘sell sell sell’. Sometimes it’s just about talking to them, listening and offering advice.
“It’s all about understanding the needs of the customer. We are all customers, so what would we expect and what would we like to see? We just need to make sure that we offer that to our customers”.
Bob praises the atmosphere and the attitude of staff at the store, which has been in Leicester now for 14 years.
It offers not only products but also a host of services, including personal styling, technical support, and a home design service, where customers can get advice on how to dress their living space.
“The whole building is architecturally quite wonderful, but it’s not the building that makes a store, it’s the people – the partners which bring it to life”, Bob said.
“They’re the ones who promote the John Lewis values, and promote everyday customers values in terms of going out there and helping to make their lives easier”.
Bob’s vision for John Lewis’ over the next few years is to continue its success, and to enhance its reputation as a ‘destination store’ within the city, which will satisfy its loyal customer base.
However, the store’s mission and its drive for success is also part of a much bigger picture in Leicester, explains Bob, who has lived here for the past 20 years.
“Obviously if I can do things here, a lot of customers will come into the city for John Lewis. But it’s not all about John Lewis”, he said.
“There’s a bigger halo effect that other retailers and other leisure facilities can benefit from.
After coming into our store, they may want to go outside and have an evening meal, or they may want to visit the nearby cinema. If we can help attract that customer, it’s good for the city. It’s about the collective good for all of us”, he added.
“We all have a responsibility to shout about Leicester. It has so many unique and fantastic things about it; our culture, our art, our sport… the diversity, and it’s only getting better”.
More recently, John Lewis has been helping smaller businesses, artists and creatives within the community, by inviting them in store and giving them a platform to promote their goods and services.
Earlier this year, Leicester artist Siyuan Ran was invited to paint a live tiger mural in-store, and designer Maria Schools was given the chance to promote her ethnical and sustainable ‘Dorcas Dress Project’, with a launch supported by John Lewis’ personal styling team.
“As a big store we have an opportunity to help smaller businesses in the community, which all play their part in making sure that we have a vibrant city centre”, said Bob.
“It’s about local marketing – establishing and maintaining links with local entrepreneurs and artists and helping people along the way, by giving them a stage to promote themselves.
“We want to be an ambassador for Leicester – a destination store which brings people into the city to benefit everyone”.
To find out more, visit: www.johnlewis.com/our-shops/leicester
By Louise Steel