John Lewis is top British firm in brand poll while M & S and Virgin slip back

Things just can’t get much better for John Lewis. Its sales jumped by 10 per cent last week on top of a yearly increase of 11 per cent to £3 billion, and now it’s the top British entry in a new survey of influential brands in the UK.

The survey is a top end one, quizzing 1000 opinion leaders in business, the media, politics and not-for-profit organisations rather than the stroller in the street, so it’s an indication of where the rest of the country will follow.

Apple and Google were the top two for the fourth consecutive year but John Lewis hit the list for the very first time with a leap into third place. The venerable retailer is clearly the height of fashion among the chattering classes, with politicians suggesting its partnership structure for bodies as diverse as the Royal Mail, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Health Service.

Of course politicians have been well acquainted with the retailer for some time, as it proved so useful in helping them to do up their second homes courtesy of the taxpayer.

The other new British entry is Innocent, another firm that has positioned itself as a repository of ethical social and environmental values, although this claim was somewhat damaged when it sold a minority stake to Coca-Cola earlier this year.

Meanwhile Marks and Spencer and Virgin both slipped down the table and BP, which was as high as 9th two years ago has disappeared completely following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

Can John Lewis maintain its almost unreal combination of commercial success and popular approval in the UK next year?

It will be difficult. As the retailer's chairman Charlie Mayfield will no doubt note, it doesn’t take long for a brand to go from hero to zero.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.