As part of my small catalogue of doomed-to-failure New Year resolutions, I included acquiring a dishwasher. Yes, I am now about to join the 20th Century.
To be fair, there is a perfectly good reason why I held off for so long. As long term readers of this column may have deduced, I have a penchant for antiques and this extends to my tableware. I have a collection of Cornishware, that cheerfully blue and white striped stuff that must have filled every kitchen, pantry and larder from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. It was everywhere. Woolworths sold it.
I began buying it in the 1980’s when it wasn’t very fashionable. Then a whole wave of nostalgia enveloped it and prices went mental in the early 90’s before crashing to earth in the age of minimalism and stainless steel.
Nowadays, you can pick up a dinner plate for a couple of pounds on ebay, or a caddy with ‘Sultanas’ on it for twenty pounds or so. Quite affordable.
But my aversion to the charms of a dishwater dates back to Cornishware’s glory days, to a time when I couldn’t risk my precious tea plates having their decades old glaze stripped ruthlessly by Diamond Finish tablets. Now that the values are almost Ikea-esque, and I’m told that the tablets are much more tableware friendly, I’ve taken the plunge.
So in that hinterland between Christmas and New Year I braved south London’s Purley Way to visit John Lewis’s ‘At Home’ store, and their neighbour, Curry’s.
What a contrast. As you might expect, John Lewis was the quiet murmur of the middle class at play; much oohing and ahhing over the Clearance Kath Kidston. The friendly chap on dishwashers talked me through the options, and didn’t make me feel like the Victorian I plainly appeared to be with my archaic questions. He looked up all the options on line, and we narrowed it down to two. Interestingly, there was way more choice on line than in store, so having him there to navigate the website with me was most helpful.
Curry’s was grim. There was more selection than John Lewis, but the teenager who sauntered over to ‘help’ had about as much knowledge as a badger. When I asked why there was a £200 difference between two seemingly identical models, his reply was ‘it’s the brands, innit.’
It isn’t hard to see why John Lewis have posted stellar Christmas trading figures. Combining and integrating their online business so successfully with their stores has been clever. Maintaining their brand values across both has been genius.