From the source: Robert Calzadilla, managing director, DFS Group

Robert CalzadillaBIO: Robert Calzadilla joined DFS in 2007 as a merchandising assistant in San Francisco, before being appointed to product sales manager for spirits, wines and tobacco at DFS Singapore Changi Airport. In 2008, he became assistant general manager (GM), Abu Dhabi International Airport and in 2010 he relocated to Hong Kong as assistant GM, T Galleria Hong Kong, Canton Road. Most recently he was the vice president for Australia and New Zealand and in 2017, he expanded his role and was appointed managing director for Oceania, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international business from California State University, Fresno and is fluent in Spanish and German. He is based in Singapore.

COMPANY PROFILE: DFS Group is a leading luxury travel retailer. Established in Hong Kong in 1960, DFS offers a curated selection of products from over 700 brands through 420 boutiques on four continents. Its network consists of duty free stores located in 11 major global airports and 20 downtown galleria locations, as well as affiliate and resort locations. DFS is privately-held and majority owned by the world’s largest luxury conglomerate Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), alongside DFS co-founder and shareholder Robert Miller. DFS employs over 9,000 people and in 2017, nearly 160 million travelers visited its stores. The company is headquartered in Hong Kong and has offices in Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Vietnam.

Inside Retail Weekly: You’ve just launched the renovated T Galleria [downtown store concept] in Sydney’s CBD. What are some of the main new features?

Robert Calzadilla: We pride ourselves on delighting and surprising our customers with beautiful products presented within luxurious and inviting environments. The refurbishment of T Galleria store in Sydney began in August 2016 with our acclaimed store design team working with Australian design company PMDL, which was also responsible for the design of our galleria stores at Studio City in Macau and Angkor in Cambodia.

The galleria in Sydney brings a whole new experience to visitors from all around the world, offering them a fresh, one-of-a kind duty free retail space in one of Sydney’s most vibrant and historic areas.

With such a wide assortment of brands and products to choose from, we anticipate that many new customers will be eager to explore this beautiful city’s latest destination for luxurious shopping.

IRW: The company has been around since 1968 and is now in 20 locations across the globe – what is DFS Group’s main value proposition? 

RC: We serve the discerning traveling customer who understands and appreciates luxurious products and experiences, and who is also looking for adventure and excitement at every step of their journey – including their retail pastime. We provide the very best of the most well-known international brands, along with the highest-quality local brands, in an attractive environment and accompanied by the very best customer service.

This approach is consistent across all of our stores around the world, whether customers are enjoying the convenience of our airport stores or spending more time browsing in our downtown T Galleria stores.

Our duty free stores are currently located in 11 major global airports and 20 downtown galleria locations, as well as affiliate and resort locations. In Australia, we operate two downtown locations – one in Cairns, and our flagship store here in Sydney.

DFSIRW: Retailers often talk about how tough the current market is, how is it being in the travel and luxury space in the present economic climate?

RC: Broadly, the retail environment overall is picking up and there is clearly a return of confidence in markets around the world. For the luxury consumer, while economic conditions come and go, their desire and appreciation for high-quality, authentic products remains constant, as does their wish to feel rewarded and valued with great customer service.

We offer a carefully curated selection of exceptional products from over 700 of the most desired brands through 420 boutiques on four continents. We also stand by strong quality and authenticity guarantees and exceptional service, so the luxury aficionado remains a loyal customer, in Australia and elsewhere.

IRW: What are the challenges within travel luxury – what factors affect consumer spending?

RC: Within the luxury travel retail industry, we have to cater for the travelling customer, so our focus is on making the customer experience exciting and memorable. We focus on creative in-store activations, promotions and exclusives with our brand partners to ensure our customers get the very best out of their experience when visiting any DFS store around the world, including here in Australia.

IRW: How has the Australian market received the DFS proposition?

RC: As more people travel, shopping patterns also change. While our core customer in Sydney is the overseas visitor to Australia, we also welcome many Australian residents who are able to shop with us at duty paid prices, or at duty free prices once they have confirmed their travel plans up to two months before departure.

Australia really is a cornucopia of amazing food and wine, and international customers are always seeking out these products to take home. There are several customer favorites including products like Ovvio organic certified tea, Yalumba wine and of course, the ever-popular Tim Tams.

In terms of serving our Australian customers, again we aim to continually introduce newer brands to them, such as Moncler Italian ski wear, which has its only brand-dedicated space here with us in Sydney. We also pride ourselves on offering items that are only available at DFS, such as the Bulgari Serpenti Passion Red collection of watches which are exclusive to DFS, the Michael Kors x DFS collection and Tiffany & Co.’s Keys.

IRW: Could we see more locations in Australia?

RC: Our company goes where the traveling customer goes. We are proud to have operated our store here in Sydney for nearly 30 years and we don’t see any sign of a slowdown in visitor numbers, in fact it’s quite the opposite. So we intend to remain fully committed to our business in Australia and explore new opportunities here.


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