DJ’s Elizabeth St store to have entire floor of shoes
David Jones chief executive David Thomas admits retail can be a brutal game but he is banking on cashed-up locals backing his grand plans for the chain’s $200 million redevelopment of its flagship Elizabeth St store.
As the reconstruction proceeds, the retailer has struck exclusive partnerships with luxury global brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci to reinvent the 12-level store, which will sell food and wine, beauty products and accessories, and up-market fashion.
He is fending off the online shopping behemoth with a simple strategy: “How we fight back is by getting the customer experience right.”
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International tourists are not expected to be big supporters of the Elizabeth St store, given the veteran retailer reckons just 12% of sales last year were to global holiday-makers.
Rather it’s the locals who are expected to support the store, which reports phenomenal sales of its Christian Louboutin shoes, for example. One of the prized redesigns is a level seven “Shoe Heaven” with specialist sales staff hired from around the world, with Thomas admitting that “shoes don’t sell themselves”.
“We are backing footwear in a big way because it is under-represented in Australia … and is difficult to buy online.”
Parts of the mezzanine level eight will feature champagne bars and dining overlooking Shoe Heaven, allowing socialising, food and product in the one line-up.
The Elizabeth St store will comprise 12 floors serviced by eight lifts — double the capacity at present — and include two levels of menswear with a whiskey bar and a barber shop.
Three floors of womenswear will be punctuated by hairdressing salons, blow-dry bars and pop-up stores.
Thomas admits that “there’s been a lot of debate about department stores dying. Retail across the world has been massively disrupted”.
But he says the physical experience of creating a true flagship store is fundamental to David Jones and to fending off the internet.
“We have to bring the best of the world together in the one place,” he says.
“And there is no part of this store which will be untouched by the renovation.
“There will be a total new mix of brands … as well as new personal shopping and new bars throughout the stores.”
A previously vacant basement plus the corporate office level will be used as retail floors under the new strategy. David Jones says the flagship store has been modelled on the world’s greatest department stores, including Harrods in London and Galleries Lafayette in Paris.
The redevelopment continues apace with David Jones planning to remain open throughout. Shoe Heaven is expected to open by September and the whole redevelopment of the building, part of which is heritage-listed, will be completed next year.
Thomas reckons he will start to see a return on the $200m investment from 2020.
“Think of New York, London and Paris, they are cities anchored by great department stores. It is part of the fabric.”
This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.