The big reveal: Inside David Jones’ new womenswear floor

David Jones continues to reveal the refurbished floors of its heritage Elizabeth Street flagship store in Sydney as part of its $200 million redevelopment. Last Friday morning, the designer womenswear level was finally open to the public, featuring newly redesigned concession spaces for 65 new brands and a glamorous personal styling suite.

The 3500sqm third floor houses chic in-store concepts from highly coveted Australian brands such as Aje, Carla Zampatti, Bianca Spender, Camilla, Toni Maticevski and Zimmerman, as well as international labels such as Dries Van Noten, Stella McCartney, Proenza Schouler and Balmain.

Meanwhile, David Jones customers can now book in a complimentary appointment at the new and luxurious personal styling suite, where they can enjoy a champagne on arrival while a stylist shows them a curated range of pieces to suit their needs. 

The department store recently unveiled its beauty level earlier this month at Elizabeth Street. The women’s classic collections and intimates on level 4 is scheduled to open on August 30 and the entire refurbished 12-floor store will be completed by mid next year.

The designer touch

From Camilla’s signature exotic shopfit to the sleek golden fixtures at Aje, it was clear that during the floor’s refurbishment, the designers had collaborated with David Jones’ concession designers to put their unique stamp on their new store-in-stores to closely reflect their brand’s DNA.

“Anytime we design a shopfit, I want to immerse people in our world and what it represents,” designer Camilla Franks told Inside Retail Weekly

“Unfortunately, I can’t have shamanic healers or Oprah popping out of a box – next time, maybe! – but it’s got nods to my world. There’s teepee-inspired racking, which is a nod to my Bondi Beach house, there’s the Moroccan-style railing and you’ve got my travel treasures from around the world. That’s how I get inspired. I wanted it to be an artisan’s realm and bring people into my world and what it represents.”

Aje co-founder Edwina Forest also enjoyed the process of collaborating with David Jones to create the brand’s concession store.

“It feels like a beautiful representation of what our own stores generally look like and embody, so we’ve tried to bring that world into David Jones,” she told IRW.

“I think for us, it’s really about creating an environment that’s warm, with beautiful luxury touchpoints that are tonal and textural. While we love the space to be a feature, it’s the clothes and accessories that we want to stand out, so it forms almost a textural backdrop for the collection itself.”

Both Aje and Camilla have recently focused on expanding their brands overseas. Aje is just about to open their first international store in New Zealand and is currently eyeing China as its next market, while Camilla has opened stores in Orange County and Miami in the US. In fact, Franks herself has just returned from Mykonos and Ibiza where she was scouting potential locations for future Camilla stores.

“I think a lot of Australian brands are doing well overseas. We’ve got a unique aesthetic and I think it reflects our lifestyle. We’re relaxed, we’re beside the beach, our prints and silhouettes reflect that and not many people are doing that well internationally,” said Franks.

A highly curated offer

While David Jones’ online store is “highly successful”, physical retail gives customers the opportunity to fully experience products, said David Jones’ general manager for womenswear and accessories, Bridget Veals.

“You don’t want shopping to be hard work. You want it to be an added experience,” she told IRW. “You want to come into the store and walk away with your shopping bag because you’ve tried the clothes on, you know it works, you’ve got it in your hand and you don’t have to wait to see what the colour or fabric were really like or how it fitted.”

Another benefit of shoppers entering department stores is the ability for them to access a wide range of curated brands under one roof, added Veals.

“We’ve had many brands that weren’t on the shoe floor and now they’re calling and saying they need to be there, because it’s the first place our customers shop for shoes,” she said. 

“She believes [the range is] all there for her – it’s the right curation and she can see it all. I think we give customers real confidence when they’re in the store that someone has made that pre-selection for them and they can see how the top goes with the pant or skirt. That’s the difference. You can really outfit yourself in a store.” 

Fighting back

It’s no secret that department stores locally and internationally have struggled in recent years. In fact, a few weeks ago, David Jones’ parent company, South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings, reduced the department store’s value to around $965 million. Meanwhile, in July, its total sales fell 0.8 per cent in FY19.

However, the retail giant is currently undergoing a digital expansion and grew its online sales 46.8 per cent in FY19, while also focusing on reducing costs and store space as well as launching its David Jones Rewards loyalty program.

“These initiatives align us closely with the changing needs and preferences of our customers,” a Woolworths Holdings spokesperson said in a statement. 

According to retail expert Pippa Kulmar, the key in the growth for traditional department stores is investing just as much time in their digital experience as the physical in order to compete with other retailers.

“Experience only works if you also have delivery down pat. The yin and yang of retail at the moment is the marriage of store experience with seamless delivery. The stakes for each keep getting higher. Thanks to travel and stories from overseas, the experience we now expect is extremely high and we now expect seamless next-day delivery,” Kulmar told IRW

“The market has become more saturated with competitors and the customer has become way more sophisticated in terms of their expectations. Getting customers back to either store requires a huge effort – not just in terms of providing a special experience but a seamless online experience that truly differentiates them from others. Not an easy task!

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