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Sep 16, 2014
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DFS starts with Venice in plan to conquer Europe

Sep 16, 2014

Announced several months ago, DFS Group (Duty Free Shoppers) has now confirmed plans for a store in Venice.

The LVMH-owned duty free retailer convened the international press on Monday in the city to unveil its ambitious project, which marks its entry into the European market. 

It’s a milestone for the Hong Kong-based group, whose main presence is in Asia, although it also has stores in North America, the Middle East and in the Pacific region.

DFS will open a store in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

DFS has set its sights on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the second largest building in Venice after the Ducal Palace. Built centrally at the foot of the Rialto Bridge in the early 13th century (1228), it was intended to accommodate the “Tedeschi" (the Italian word for Germans), merchants that traded products from the East and the Mediterranean, passing through Venice, the nerve at the time of trade between the East and West, on their way to northern Europe. 

The current building, which was rebuilt after a fire, dates from 1508. Covering 85,000 ft2, it is spread over 5 floors centered on a vast courtyard covered by a glass roof.

The façade, featuring sober and very innovative architecture for the time, includes numerous windows overlooking the Grand Canal. 

After a year and a half of research and negotiations, DFS has reached an agreement with Edizione, the Benetton family’s holding company, which acquired the historic building in 2008 for 35 million euros. 

The retail company specialized in travel-oriented shopping will pay rent to Benetton, through “a long-term lease", the terms of which have not been disclosed, beginning on January 1, 2016 with the aim of opening the store in summer 2016. It will be the responsibility of Edizione to complete the extensive renovations on the building by then.

The interior of the future Venetian T Galleria (DFS)

"In early 2016, we will cordon off the unfurnished building and the English architect Jamie Fobert will work on the interior design. This is a very large investment for us of tens of millions of euros, but it's also an incredible opportunity. To be able to set up shop in a palace that is a symbol for Venice, which is historically linked to commerce, and at one of the busiest points in the city…we couldn’t dream up a better situation," said Philippe Schaus, CEO of DFS. 

"To start out in Europe, we wanted to be somewhere around the line between Paris and Rome. The choice was then limited to Italy, particularly to Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice, which finally persuaded us, because it’s the biggest tourist destination. As a matter of fact, there’s no true luxury department store in the city. Moreover, in certain sectors like health, beauty or watches, the retail supply is not complete. Finally, there are very few quality shops in Venice," said the CEO. 

In Venice, the world leader in the sale of luxury goods to travelers (fashion-accessories, beauty-fragrance, food-gifts, jewelry-watches, wine-spirits) will thereby focus on a formula for selling high-end, whatever that may be in terms of products or services. 

In particular, it aims to develop a new shopping concept that is "as much commercial as cultural." Supported by local institutions, it plans to develop, for the first time in its history, a program of cultural events to offer customers "a new experience".

Philippe Schaus, CEO of DFS Group

The focus will also be on Italian craftsmanship and “authentically local” products. The range of fashion brands will include “an Italian dominance”. Jewelry brands, wines, gourmet foods and gifts souvenir will be typically Venetian. 

The idea is to restore Venetian artisans to their former glory as they face a souvenir trade that is now mostly made in China. 

The retailer T Galleria, DFS’s non-duty free chain of downtown stores, will create 300 jobs for the City of Bridges, and will retain the name of the building "Fondaco dei Tedeschi” to mark its particularity and its relationship with the city.

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