UK department store chain John Lewis has announced its first physical foray into the European retail market, with seven stores planned for the Netherlands over the next two years.

John Lewis has announced it will have a physical presence in Europe by opening shop-in-shops within seven branches of Dutch department store, de Bijenkorf. Starting with openings in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague flagships in spring 2016, the UK business will then enter Eindhoven and Utrecht by the end of next year, and in Amstelveen and Maastricht in 2017. 

Having sold and shipped its goods in Europe for a number of years, via its online operations, John Lewis's new strategy is the first significant sign that it sees its next stage of growth coming from outside the UK.

It comes after John Lewis opened 14 shop-in-shops across Singapore and the Philippines earlier this year, following the launch of a similar format in South Korea in 2014.

Andy Street, managing director at John Lewis, called de Bijenkorf "the perfect partner to enable us to bring John Lewis to a new customer base and country".

"Our existing shop-in-shops in Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea have been well received and are trading well," he added.

"Whilst we remain committed to our UK physical expansion we hope to announce more international collaborations in 2016."

The John Lewis departments will be between 300 sq ft and 500 sq ft, with the retailer's in-house store design team responsible for designing the look and feel of the retail space.