The snow lay deep and crisp and even....

22nd December 2009

Civil Liberty correspondent

John Lewis shows some Christmas cheer
John Lewis shows some Christmas cheer
Big business is often on the receiving end of well deserved criticism from civil libertarians concerned about the way mega corporations use their power, influence and wealth to promote policies such as open-door immigration, help stifle free speech, plunder the world's finite resources and take instead of give.

But a tale from a wintry Buckinghamshire warms the heart with a pre-Christmas story of how one of the UK's largest retailers demonstrated a very human side when extreme weather got a grip of the High Street.

More than 100 customers, staff and children spent the night in the High Wycombe branch of John Lewis after being stranded by snow, it was revealed today.

The 54 staff, about 30 adult customers and 20 children were provided with food and a bed in the bed department the store, after heavy snow gridlocked local roads yesterday.

Toy Story

Deborah Strazza, managing director of the store, said customers and staff had become stranded after heavy snow began falling in mid-afternoon.

The mother of two, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, was stranded herself, and stayed overnight in the store.

She said: “There was no way that I was going to throw customers out into that, or my own partners, and we just had to make use of what we had got.

“Basically we made up the beds and they all snuggled down in the bed department.

“It was so sweet, the kids absolutely loved it. They thought they were in Toy Story.

“The customers were really, really grateful and they could not thank us enough.”

Maybe it is the corporate structure of John Lewis which is important here. Unlike Tesco, Sainsbury's, Debenhams and M&S, which are Stock Market quoted companies with shareholders scattered across the globe with international investors pulling the strings, John Lewis is a Partnership owned by its employees (called Partners).

According to the JLP website"....the (John Lewis) Partnership is a visionary and successful way of doing business, boldly putting the happiness of Partners at the centre of everything it does. It's the embodiment of an ideal, the outcome of nearly a century of endeavour to create a different sort of company, owned by Partners dedicated to serving customers with flair and fairness."

All 69,000 permanent staff are Partners who own 29 John Lewis shops (28 department stores and one John Lewis at home), 222 Waitrose supermarkets (, an online and catalogue business, (, a direct services company, Greenbee (, a production unit and a farm with a turnover of nearly £6.9 billion last year. Partners share in the benefits and profits of a business that puts them first."

So it's a unique way of doing business; engaging employees to benefit from the partnership's commercial success and a democratic system which allows every Partner a voice. It's a corporate structure which civil libertarians happily champion.

Well done John Lewis for showing us that not all big businesses have to be greedy, monopolistic and uncaring to succeed.


<< Back to news page