Target versus David Jones


myer-store-westlakesThere’s been a lot of press in the last few months about the imminent launch of Marks & Spencer small store formats into Australia.

The entrance of this British icon would certainly challenge the likes of both higher end and discount department stores.

So, what are the natives up to? Last month, I found out when I checked out David Jones’ excursion into small format stores at Melbourne’s Malvern Central.

A few days later while in Adelaide, I visited the first of Target’s new store formats at West Lakes. Both stores opened in late 2013.

My conclusion is that Target is providing a better shopping experience than DJs, at a better price. Here’s why.

Target’s changes were obvious

Front of store: The first thing you notice is the bold digital sign with rotating specials panels. This provides a sense of new news.

The second is the openness of the store. You can see right in and around to the back walls from the front of the store due to the low profile merchandising units. The window displays are simple and effective, whereas David Jones had no window displays, but did have a catalogue stand of ‘look books’.


The free wi-fi sign at the front of Target’s store is reasonably prominent underneath the trading hours, while in DJs it was at the bottom of the store directory signage.

Navigation: Target is a very easy store to get around. The sense of openness is maintained through the store. There is large department navigation signage on the walls and no need for lots of hanging signs like those blue plastic banners you see in older format Kmarts that make you feel like you’re in Bunnings or Lowe’s.

Department navigation signage focuses on four main departments: His, Hers, Baby, and Home. These are colour coded (somewhat obviously, but none the less effectively) pink for Hers, Blue for His, turquoise for Baby, and cream for Home. Sub-category navigation signage uses imagery such as dinner plates for Dining and yoga pants for Activewear.


The ambience is matched to the department in subtle ways with the use of flooring and lighting. For instance, the floor is black ‘gym style’ in Activewear, tan floorboards in His, and there are girly white framed mirrors in Hers.

Pay points and fitting rooms: Aside from price checkpoints throughout the store, pay points have been installed in the major departments so you don’t have to take everything – or anything at all – to the checkout.


Pay points have a small set of merchandising, but not really an aisle. Fitting rooms for His and Hers are located near the pay points. The ladies’ change rooms are nicely fitted out – good lighting, wide walkway, nice big communal mirror. Not dingy or dirty (yes I’m frowning at you, Kmart West Lakes).


Waiting areas are provided just outside fitting rooms for those minding the bags (likely the blokes) complete with a kiosk for Target’s online shopping.

Another set of fitting rooms next to the toy department has a kids’ waiting area with large television screen playing kids movies, and colouring books provided.


Outside the ladies’ fitting rooms is an interactive digital mirror for uploading images to social media for your friends’ commentary on your outfit. I preferred the placement of these right next to the fitting rooms in Target: it made sense.

I only found one of these types of mirrors in DJs Malvern, and it was in the middle of the merchandising floor where even the most exhibitionist Gen Y might think twice about parading about in a public space.


The experience was topped off with simple, elegant, and consistent checkout and queue merchandising, which was dialled back from other Target and Big W stores (where it’s sometimes referred to as the “corridor of hell” by mums accompanied by young kids).

David Jones was less revolutionary

According to the Malvern Central website, the new David Jones store has been designed in a ‘Village’ format. This means it has “a great range of specially selected Australian and international brands with more than 170 of these brands available at no other department store”.


To their credit, the reduced floor footprint didn’t really feel smaller until you got into appliances. (Who knew the world of appliances has become red, green, and purple?!).

Store entry is, as usual, through cosmetics, with womenswear running in a circular racetrack around to the left.


Blonde wood flooring and bright lighting, including some funky chandeliers, help maintain the impression of space.

Some of the fashion concessions are branded, such as Boss, but the majority had the brand logo simply displayed in black on a white background and sitting proud on white latticework. So, while consistent, the brand signs all began to blur together after a while into a wall of white and cream.


The store was very nicely merchandised, with staff doing much merchandise primping given the store was quiet at 3.30pm on a Monday. While I was universally greeted by staff, I was only asked once if I needed help, and the sales assistant in the lingerie department was knowledgeable.

According to the Malvern Central website, the new David Jones next generation store also includes:

  • Digital charging stations: I couldn’t find one. Call me dumb, but I was actively looking and was in the store half an hour. They weren’t obvious.
  • Complimentary customer wi-fi: As mentioned, there was a small sign at the storefront directory if you happened to be looking down at your feet.


  • Interactive omni-mirror: There was only one in womenswear in the public merchandising area, not near the fitting rooms.
  • Customer dwelling areas: I couldn’t find these. I also didn’t find much in the way of seating anywhere (rightly, the floor area was dedicated to stock).
  • Dedicated area instore to collect purchases made online: Click and collect was part of the back left corner of the store housing the gift registry, returns and exchanges. You had to know where to look, as this area was hidden away and the service was only evident once you were on top of the sign.
  • Dedicated area instore to purchase online: I couldn’t find this, unless it was part of the aforementioned click and collect area.

I do understand that David Jones is trying to be classy and sophisticated in their incorporation of technology instore, but at the moment it feels like the changes might be too subtle for shoppers to notice them.

One last thing in…

While at West Lakes I poked my head into Harris Scarfe. I shouldn’t have. Oh dear. Welcome to jumble sales in the early 80s.


Given Harris Scarfe is meant to be a department store, in theory positioned somewhere between Kmart/Target and Myer, but it looked like a mess.

Even though the merchandise was reasonably tidy, there was too much stock in too small a space, too little department navigation signage, too many sale signs. And poor lighting and cheap looking flooring to boot. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. (See images.)


All in all, for being the discount option of the three stores I visited (not including Kmart), Target’s evolution is more obvious. It is doing it better and punching above its positioning in terms of shopping experience. Well done Target!

Norrelle Goldring is head of shopper insight and retail strategy at global research and retail datahouse, GfK. Norrelle can be contacted on 0437 335 686 or email



  1. Jane posted on February 11, 2014

    Good luck to Target and hope that the freshness of the new store layout lasts. The US Target stores changed their shopping format a few years ago, to get away from the supermarket feel of the old stores and go for a more Department store experience. sadly when I visited a couple of their stores around the perimeter of Los Angeles last November, the " new feel" felt very tired and the merchandise choice very poor. Consumers are extremely price conscious in Australia as we all know. If Target gets it right they will give DJs and Myer a run for their money.

    • Rick posted on February 13, 2014

      Jane- just to let you know if you didn't already, Target Australia and Target US are 2 completely different companies. Same name, similar logo/products but they have nothing to do with each other.

  2. Laurie posted on February 11, 2014

    Gee what an interesting insight into the stores. Call me old fashioned but i go to a store because of the range and the price. This did not even get a mention in this critique.

    • Norrelle posted on February 11, 2014

      Hi Laurie If you look at the traditional POP drivers of Range, Space, Visibility & Display, Price, Promotion and Persuasion, then range and price are the givens, the basics (along with a layout which makes sense and is easy to get around. In theory service should be a given but most often isn't - the Persuasion bit). What we were interested in here was the visibility piece, and what the shopping experience was over and above that which would make you return, or not return. As range and price can be replicated online (along with fast shipping) the role of physical stores is increasingly becoming experiential. I was interested in what kind of experience these new store formats are delivering to shoppers. For its range and price I think Target is batting above its weight. Norrelle

  3. Aaron posted on February 15, 2014

    Good summation. However walk into the rest of Target's 200 plus stores and Ill think you'll find the formats all different, and in some cases brand damaging. Great that they can put together a well laid out new store - however the rest of the fleet need serious work which is where the profit is derived. Marks and Spencers will start out with new stores - and sadly for Target it has to spend serious money on its stores to combat that issue.

    • Matt posted on November 17, 2015

      As a Target employee I couldn't agree more! The business NEEDS to inject money into stores so it isn't a mish-mash of 4 different brand evolutions in one store.

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