John Lewis at 150: Bonds or John Lewis, it has been at the heart of a city for generations

PUBLISHED: 10:00 05 May 2014 | UPDATED: 10:48 05 May 2014

Norwich - Buildings - B

Bonds Store at All Saints Green, Norwich.

Dated  possibly 1920's or 1930's

Photograph C10721

Norwich - Buildings - B Bonds Store at All Saints Green, Norwich. Dated possibly 1920's or 1930's Photograph C10721


It has been at the heart of the city-centre retail experience for generations of Norwich shoppers.

For many, the huge John Lewis store on Ber Street will always be Bonds, as it was known up to 2001. But whatever the name, the store remains a byword for quality and service.

And this weekend, hundreds of customers raised a glass of elderflower punch to toast John Lewis as the national group celebrated its 150th anniversary.

• John Lewis at 150: History of Bonds of Norwich in a time line

• John Lewis at 150: Questions and answers about the shop which became a national institution

• John Lewis at 150: Nostalgic photo gallery shows transition of pre-war Bonds to the modern John Lewis, via a Nazi bombing raid

Staff at the Norwich store dressed in vintage clothing and offered shoppers cupcakes and drinks, while a samba band serenaded passersby outside and smooth jazz played near the coffee shop. Spot the Dog even made a special appearance.

Norwich operations director Jonathan Oakes, who remembers getting his school uniform at Bonds, said: “It’s our birthday weekend and what we wanted to do was celebrate with our customers the fact that it’s our 150th birthday.

“We have brought a bit of history back to the shop, with a modern twist.

“We have had a really positive reaction. I think the costumes in particular are really hitting the mark. Customers are wishing us happy birthday and taking photos.”

John Lewis bought Bonds in 1982, and the store changed to its current name in 2001.

Mr Oakes said: “Whilst it’s very much in the history of the city, I think the change to John Lewis has brought some benefits. I think we have been able to bring new products. When you have got a big buying team trekking the world looking for new and innovative products, that’s something we can being to Norwich.”

He said store’s structure, where all staff are partners who collectively own John Lewis, was a vital part of its success.

“I don’t think you can underestimate how important the co-owners are. Everyone has an absolute interest in the success of the business, whether its service or sales. We are all in it together,” he said.

The Norwich store has about 550 staff, all of whom have been given a copy of the company’s 150th anniversary book, A Very British Revolution.

What are your memories of Bonds and John Lewis? Email

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