To many British people, John Lewis is a bastion of reliability, often prefixed with the words “good old”, within whose fragrant floors we go about the business of feathering our nests. Le Creuset pots, Easy Care sheets, Arthur Price cutlery, Egyptian Cotton towels – we’ve bought them all in John Lewis. It’s where some of us have had our wedding lists and others have taken our school uniform lists, safe in the knowledge that its stain repellant skirts and scuff-resistant shoes will go the distance.
What we haven’t ever bought at John Lewis, however, is a new face. For while the redoubtable store may sell many things, it has never sold Botox. Until now. In what is surely a sign of the times – though a sign of what, exactly, is more nebulous – the 158-year-old store is set to offer a slew of aesthetic treatments in-store, including high-tech facials, Coolsculpting body treatments and dermal fillers such as Botox, all administered by the Cavendish Clinic, which has more than a decade’s experience in the field.
As a midlife woman, there is something peculiarly dystopian about being given the opportunity to shop for home improvements in one department and facial improvements in another. On the one hand, it’s convenient. On the other, it’s bizarre. Perhaps it feels more bizarre because I have never had Botox, a treatment which friend after friend has assured me is no more seismic a procedure than a new haircut. Without exception, after their initial misgivings, everyone I know who’s had it once has simply gone on to accommodate it into their regular beauty routines. For regular users – and there isn’t usually any other kind – injectables are just one more ingredient in the ever-rising souffle of body maintenance that we accumulate as we age.
Regular users are unlikely to deviate from their own tried and tested practitioners, but for those who are too afraid, uncertain or unconfident to venture into the scary world of injectables, John Lewis’s offer is a game-changer. Without doubt, people who might have felt too worried to trust their precious faces to a stranger, or too afraid to venture to an intimidating beauty salon, will be assuaged by this offer from a trusted brand who used to describe itself as Never Knowingly Undersold.
Customers could well interpret this as meaning that they’ll be Never Knowingly Overtreated – a valid concern for any novice who has been put off by photos of the cat-like features of American socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein. Those with unshakeable faith in John Lewis will have unshakeable faith in its ability to deliver injectables as reliably as it delivers their washing machine.
Indeed, John Lewis is emphasising said reliability in its sales pitch. “Our priority is to offer the service alongside other aesthetic and beauty treatments in a safe, trusted and medically skilled environment that is familiar to customers,” says Jason Wilary-Attew, the store’s head of beauty. “Our aim is to help reduce the number of people using unqualified practitioners. In line with the ASA [Advertising Standards Authority], we do not proactively promote the service via marketing and advertising, and it is only available through Cavendish Clinic at John Lewis to people aged 25 and over. For these customers, it starts with a full consultation with a Cavendish doctor and includes a ‘cooling off period’ for anyone new to injectables following the consultation before any treatment goes ahead.”
According to Wilary-Attew, the move is a direct result of research which found that customers were overwhelmingly in favour of being able to access advanced beauty treatments in-store. “Our research showed that anti–wrinkle injections, fat freezing and body sculpting were the services customers were most interested in. In the last two years, we’ve seen an at-home beauty tech boom and launched our first ever beauty tech department with LED light masks and facial toning devices. Our collaboration with Cavendish Clinic is an acceleration of these services.”
Beauty tech is one thing: fat freezing and body sculpting is undoubtedly another. In February, the model Linda Evangelista made headlines after admitting she’d been “brutally disfigured” by Coolsculpting five years previously. If a supermodel can make the mistake of going to a bad practitioner, there is scant hope for the rest of us. It’s this sort of horror story that will play into John Lewis’s hands. No beauty treatment comes without risks, of course, but in the hallowed halls of John Lewis, many customers will feel persuaded that the risk is minimal. John Lewis has given Botox a seal of approval, whisking it into the mainstream and making it as accessible as a five-pack of knickers, nor any less embarrassing to buy. Nor should it be.