David Jones boosts European luxe brands with Harrods-style revamp

The transformation plans unveiled this week by upscale department store operator David Jones could provide a major boost for a raft of European brands in Australia. The company is expanding its luxury offer in certain destination stores and is modelling its revamp on key tourist magnets such as Harrods, Galeries Lafayette and Saks Fifth Avenue.


David Jones


DJs is spending A$200 million on refurbishing its Elizabeth Street store in Sydney and will widen the offer from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Givenchy, Loewe, JW Anderson and Mansur Gavriel, with concessions and exclusives.

David Jones CEO David Thomas wants to make the store a tourist must-visit in the same way as certain luxury department stores in London, Paris and New York are. And in doing so, he also wants to boost its appeal for local shoppers.

The proximity of Australia to Asia could be crucial here. The country already sees 1.35 million Chinese visitors annually and they spend over A$10.4 billion there. 

After Sydney, the luxury upgrade will also be rolled out to David Jones’ Melbourne stores.

As well as boosting the overall designer label offer, the company will also focus on shoes with its biggest footwear department planned for the Elizabeth Street store. The company sees a major opportunity in shoes and will focus on the personal service that physical stores can offer compared to the service shoppers get when they buy footwear online.

In fact, personal service will be a focus overall with the CEO saying that the number one complaint customers have is of not finding people to help them. And it won't just be about employing the 3,000 extra staff it’s planning to take on, but about employing specialists. Those working in the footwear department, for instance, will be shoe specialists.

Across the fashion offer generally, the company won't only be focusing on The best-known international brands, but will also make Australian brands central to the strategy and will add new labels in the months ahead.

But while adding new labels will be a relatively straightforward task in the coming months, transforming the Elizabeth Street store and other locations will take the company into the next decade. The Sydney store, for instance, is being expanded from eight levels to 12, and that's not something that can be achieved in a short timescale.

However, change is certainly needed at the business. David Thomas arrived in May after a bruising period for the firm that faces multiple challenges as foreign rivals open stores, online growth dents interest in department stores and cautious consumers shun its shops. 

Yet a number of European and US department stores have shrugged off the changes that are happening in modern retail by a more intense luxury focus. It will be interesting to see how David Jones fares.

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