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Can you use your smartphone sat-nav on the car passenger seat or in the cup holder – and does it have to be hands-free? Should I have inherited some of my husband’s state pension after his death? John Lewis is sending its staff to drama school in a bid to boost their confidence. Recruits at the High Street department chain’s new Oxford shop will learn vocal techniques, stage presence and confidence in order to impress customers. The theatrically trained staff will ‘meet and greet’ shoppers at the doors, and will give advice and help direct customers to the right areas of the store.

Others will act as a concierges, helping customers. It is thought that if the experiment is successful, the firm could roll it out across the country as it unveils revamped shops. The move is the brainchild of recently appointed boss Paula Nickolds, 44, as the 152-year-old chain prepares to open in Oxford later this year, its 49th location. Peter Cross, customer experience director at the department store, said: ‘Retail and the role of shops has changed significantly.

Retailers have talked about the power of ‘retail theatre’ for many years. He said the Oxford store ‘will recognise the power of our partners as the key players on the stage of this new shop, so their training will include the tools and techniques of the theatre to ensure every customer interaction is as magical as possible’. John Lewis has also introduced opticians, travel agents, spas and extra restaurants in some of its stores. Now Nickolds has announced further moves to woo customers. John Lewis will overhaul its furniture department to attract ‘generation rent’. Its first Christmas advert was in 2007.

Albert Museum in London to produce high-end designer goods. Launching the ranges, Nickolds told how ‘the lipstick effect’ of women making spontaneous purchases has propped up sales at the department store, despite a consumer slowdown. She spoke of her tough first few months at the helm as she was faced with shoppers whose budgets had been squeezed and didn’t want to splash out on expensive items. But she said sales in categories where shoppers would make spontaneous purchases had risen, with beauty and womenswear climbing 7 per cent and 4.