28 June 2023
GO! Southampton the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), has announced its latest board member who comes from a leading high street brand.
Seb Blevings, Branch Manager at John Lewis & Partners located in the heart of the city’s leading shopping destination Westquay, hopes to bring his wealth of experience and John Lewis’ community-led values to the table in his new position as GO! Southampton’s Board Director.
Since joining John Lewis’ Southampton branch in 2020, Seb cites his passion for community spirit as one of his key motivators for change within the business.
“John Lewis has always been a values-led organisation, which fits in perfectly with my own business approach,” Seb explained. “I am interested in making the store a more culturally entertaining place to be with community at its heart. Of course, it is important to nurture the retail side of it, but we are more than just sales.”
Despite working for such a large national brand, the flexibility given to Seb by John Lewis has allowed him to contribute to Southampton on a more personal level, replicating something he introduced in his previous role, by opening a new wig department specialising in hair loss due to cancer treatment and alopecia.
Seb said: “We contacted an NHS-approved specialist supplier after hearing that they were struggling to find a location after a competitor retailer went into administration. After a successful trial, we knew that Southampton would be the perfect place to host the store.”
He continued: “This is just one of many schemes that we are introducing to John Lewis Southampton. We also have a specialist team who offer a bra fitting service for those who have gone through a mastectomy operation. We find that our customers really appreciate the high standard of service we provide in our “home from home” surroundings.”
Investing in people makes up a large portion of Seb’s strategy. John Lewis has not only pledged to work with those who have gone through the care system – giving them interview opportunities as well as coaching and mentoring – but they have also done a significant amount of volunteering with local food banks, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Seb has ensured that the store creates safe spaces for community meet-ups – such as “mum and baby” groups – and often lets out the space on its fifth-floor restaurant – “The Place to Eat”.
“I want to change the perception of retailers,” said Seb. “You feel that as a company it is important to work alongside other businesses and competitors instead of being its own entity in a bubble and we really feel like we want to be part of the retail family.
“By joining the board at GO! Southampton, I am hopeful I will bring in some of these community-led values to enhance the BID’s offering. And make a positive difference.”
Seb will join an 18-strong board which, along with the rest of the GO! Southampton team, continuously strives to improve the city centre by delivering relevant services, providing a voice for businesses, and influencing strategy with a shared vision to deliver projects and improvements enabling the city of Southampton to reach its full potential.
Stephen Manion, Executive Director of GO! Southampton said: “Seb brings with him a wealth of experience in retail and as a customer-facing brand and community values, he will make a great addition to the BID.
“I’ve no doubt he will bring new energy and will act as an important link to the rest of the country and share the ways in which John Lewis sees its position on British High streets from a national brand perspective. We’re looking forward to working alongside him!”