John Lewis Innovation Challenge

In April 2016 schools around the UK were invited to get involved in the John Lewis Challenge. John Lewis were looking for teams of 9-11 year old’s to think without limits and share their innovative ideas for utilising a community hub. The Community Hub would be a designated space within the heart of some John Lewis shops used for short and long-term customer-enriching experiences, events and exhibitions, serving both community (including charity) and commercial purposes. Combining the two as much as possible, the sky’s the limit for how the space can be utilised.

CREATE Education were very excited to be supporting the John Lewis innovation challenge that underpinned our core values of collaboration to seed innovation and creativity among young people. 

St Andrew’s and St Mark’s CofE Junior School were thrilled to win 1st and 4th place and as a result also won the Ultimaker 2Go which CREATE Education supplied for the challenge. They invited 15 pupils in Years 5 and 6 to take part in after-school sessions. For an hour a week over the course of a term, they had 3 students teams developing their solution to the ‘back to school’ shopping experience at John Lewis. They ran a few initial ‘lessons’ using the John Lewis resources, from which the children created a mood board and generated ideas. The children took the project on independently from there.

Their Idea

We want to turn shopping into a thrilling day out. We plan on adding a chill out room, where noisy kids and moaning parents can relax.

For years, people have questioned the back-to-school shopping experience; how could we improve this at John Lewis?

Many people argue that shopping should be an experience people crave; this will make people spend more money. Conversely, we also need to consider the dangers of having a store that is too exciting as we need to ensure customers spend money quickly. Additionally, our idea needs to be sensational and safe with a profit.

 The Team

The public find shopping a boring and painstaking activity; we are interested in challenging this. In order to transform the back to school shopping experience we have designed a relaxing chill out room, a spacious changing facility, a colourful stationery room and artistic main room, where our clothes will be

With our innovative design, shopping will no longer be a chore, it will be an experience, where you can relax, hang out with your friends and buy everything you need for school in a logical way. An amazing chill out room with only £2 entry is where we are expecting to make the most profit.


John Lewis and the Ultimaker Schools challenge from Marmalade Toast on Vimeo.

The Project Report

Team name: The Reinventors

School: St Andrew’s and St Mark’s CofE Junior School

Innovation Challenge Question

How can the back to school shopping experience be made better?

Does your idea have a name? No – our idea is too fantastic to condense!

How will your idea work? Each room is designed to appeal to children, making them want to go back-to-school shopping! Complete with a beach-themed chill-out room, this shop works on the philosophy that an entertained and happy customer is a customer that is willing to part with their money!

What did you learn from doing the Innovation Challenge?  We learnt to co-operate and work harmoniously (albeit a little loudly!) together. It was fun and interesting to overcome challenges and act on everybody’s ideas to create an innovative idea.


How did you start to generate ideas? We brainstormed ideas and came to the conclusion, based on personal experience, that back-to-school shopping needs to be more fun!

How did you research your chosen area of interest? On Pinterest, and other protected internet sites, we researched shop window displays – with some fantastic results!


What thoughts and themed did you discuss? We were considering a castle theme but eventually, after much debating, we settled on a summer theme because back-to-school shopping will take place at the end of the summer.

How did you decide on just one idea? We held an organised and democratic vote and the summer theme came top – just! It was very close.

What are some of the pros and cons of this idea?


  • Will increase popularity of John Lewis.
  • We have devised a reasonably priced trading system to stop people coming to John Lewis just for the play area – if you spend £2, you get an hour.
  • John Lewis will be at the forefront of modern shopping.


  • Expense – but we expect to make a profit.
  • Children will be almost unsupervised – we could have childminders/robots/CCTV.
  • John Lewis will need to hire more staff – but this will tackle the unemployment crisis.

How far in the future are you imagining? Roughly 5 – 10 years


How have you decided to present your idea and why? An easy-to-read report in an eye-catching newsletter format, paired with professional-looking photographs, makes for a convincing entry.

How do you think you have worked as team? By accepting and incorporating each other’s ideas and compromising – we are all very pleased with the finished result!