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David Jones returns to “the grand old dame of luxury retail”

David Jones has lifted the curtain on the latest refurbishment at its Elizabeth Street store in Sydney – a new ground-floor luxury beauty and accessories department.

According to CEO Ian Moir, the 3500sqm space heralds a return to the glamorous days when David Jones was seen as “the grand old dame of luxury retail”, combining the old with the new.

The floor features store-in-store concepts from some of the biggest international luxury brands in the world, including Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Guerlain, Gucci and more. The level also houses three beauty treatment rooms for La Prairie, La Mer and Rationale.

“I think we’ve created something really special and we’ve created it right in the epicentre of luxury retail in Sydney. But with this old building, we can create something others can’t. We are proud of it and I think our customers will be very proud of it,” Moir said during a media call on Tuesday.

“It’s a beautiful, elegant store, it’s a wonderful experience. I think people will feel what they used to feel when coming to David Jones – a sense of joy and wonder, it’s exciting and engaging.”

One of the highlights of the floor is the impressive Gucci space. 

“Gucci is probably the most hotly anticipated beauty brand of the moment. It launched globally in May and has sold over a million lipsticks already, so we’re excited to offer this to Sydneysiders,” Rachel Duffy Packer, David Jones’ general manager of beauty, said.

“It will be the first of its kind in Australia,” she said, pointing to the craftsmanship of the space and the handpainted panels. According to Duffy Packer, the concept is one of only 50 from Gucci around the world.

While department stores globally have been struggling to remain relevant and compete with online retailers, Moir is confident that customers will enjoy the new offering at the Elizabeth Street store. 

“Every great brand in the world is represented in one store, it’s a carefully edited choice that’s been made based on the understanding of who our customer is and what the market is, so it makes shopping a great experience that will resonate unbelievably well, not just with local customers, but those from overseas, particularly the Asian tourist,” he said.

The layout of the store has undergone a transformation, moving from the “traditional beauty boxes” to a more open and approachable luxury environment, explained Duffy Packer.

“We feel that reflects how the customer shops, so they can meander through the brands. The customer is becoming increasingly less loyal to one brand and likes to shop across multiple brands,” she said.

The beauty sector has boomed in recent years, as can be seen in nearby Pitt Street Mall, where a raft of new stores and refurbishments have taken place.

Just around the corner from David Jones’ Elizabeth Street store is global beauty giant Sephora. Myer also refurbished its beauty level earlier this year, while Innisfree recently opened a new store and Aesop launched its largest store in the world in the mall in September. Meanwhile, Mecca is located at The Strand, a short walk away.

“I think the beauty of a department store is we have the space and the environment to create a full expression of many of these brands,” noted Duffy Packer.

“The customer can come and be fully immersed in the brand. As we do with all our David Jones stores, we have beauty service rooms that set us apart from the specialty environments, so we can give not only product but the great service alongside it.”

The refurbishment of the Elizabeth Street store has been criticised for disrupting the sales performance of the business, yet Moir claimed that even though foot traffic is down by a third, every level is “performing above expectations”. The store accounts for more than 15 per cent of the entire David Jones business.

“It’s a difficult customer experience at the moment, but when it opens up, it’ll be totally different, we’ll have foot traffic back again and I hope and pray that this store will perform way above its expectations,” he said.

Scheduled for completion in 2020, the $400 million transformation first kicked off in August 2017 and has since gone over budget, although that’s hardly surprising, said Moir.

“It’s difficult, you’re dealing with a heritage building. It ain’t easy and this is on steroids, so it’s no surprise that we hit a few issues,” he said.

“Also sometimes you know what? We just have to do it, we have to create it for the right customer experience. We’re over budget by about $20 million and at the end of the day, it’s no great surprise at a project of this scale.”

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