'Never knowingly under-invested'. That could have been the phrase John Lewis adopted when it launched investment Isas to its customers this week.
It’s not the first High Street retailer to try and flog Isas to shoppers – the likes of Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s have already been down that road. The department store chain is clearly trying to tap into the boom in savings that was kick-started by the pandemic and lockdown.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that households saved a quarter of their disposable income between April and July last year, the highest since records began in 1987.
That is a lot of cash to be squirrelled away, which is why John Lewis has linked with digital wealth manager Nutmeg to offer an Isa, aimed at kids as well as adults.
Is it a good idea to sell investments alongside electrical goods?
My view is that anything that encourages and makes it easier for people to save is a good idea. You may think John Lewis is not the right place to be taking important investment decisions, but if it is encouraging people to start building a portfolio, then that can only be a good thing.
“Our products allow people to put money aside and to take that first step into what is often perceived as the complicated world of investments,” said Amir Goshtai, financial services director at John Lewis.
If that first step happens on the High Street, so what?
Talking of High Streets, I had a pleasant surprise while on holiday in Devon in July.
I was searching through one of those sleepy towns looking for two things, as I always do.
The first is charity shops. I love browsing stores outside London because I invariably pick up a couple of decent books by authors I love for 99p or so. That’s an absolute bargain, particularly when compared to most of my local shops in south London, which are now charging around £2.50 a book.
The second thing I always look for is pubs. That’s not so much to laze away an afternoon on a cloud of beer, but to try local draft ales.
Pubs still tend to serve a decent drop outside London, while in the capital you can only often get a fizzy craft IPA or lager – and at twice the price. So exploring a small town is always a joy for me.
There’s also the added attraction of locally run shops, which are a huge breath of fresh air after enduring the retail chains or highly-priced specialist shops you find in cities.
But it was while strolling on the High Street in Honiton in East Devon that one retail outlet made me stop and stare.
Rest assured, it wasn’t a John Lewis, or even one of its Waitrose supermarkets. It wasn’t a store at all, as the window adverts for ‘will writing’ and ‘pension help’ showed. It was a financial adviser, and a fine looking one.