All systems go for Decjuba

DecjubaCotton On co-founder, Tania Austin, eyes 100 stores as she aggressively adds to her Decjuba store network.

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Tania Austin, who previously made her mark as the co-founder of Cotton On, has put her foot on the accelerator at Decjuba, the women’s clothing retailer she bought in 2008.

Since the middle of last year, Decjuba has opened, on average, a store every fortnight. And last week, Austin was excitedly opening its 50th store as part of the recent expansion of the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

And there’s plenty more to come. Three more stores will open over the next month – in Northbridge Plaza and Royal Randwick, both in Sydney, and Werribee in Victoria – and Decjuba has a very busy future work schedule.

“We have a strong store growth strategy rollout taking place and the expansion blueprint will mean that in the first six months of 2016 we will have cut the ribbon in, at least, seven new locations,” said Austin.

This follows the opening of 14 locations across Australia and New Zealand in 2015, strengthening Decjuba’s retail footprint to 48 stores. “This is such an exciting time in retail. The international players keep us on our toes and online innovation and integrating that with our instore brand experience is paramount,” said Austin.

“Yet one thing always remains the same – the customer is always central to where we take the brand and what locations we build into our portfolio.”

Talking to Inside Retail Weekly last week, Chloe Young, Decjuba’s brand manager, said Austin didn’t have a target number of how many stores she’d like to open. “She doesn’t like to cap things,” said Young. “But she has said she would be comfortable having 100 stores open within the next year.”

Young explained that Austin, a single mum with three young kids at the time, initially started off quite slowly after taking over Decjuba. “But about two years ago, as her kids got bigger, she said, ‘Okay, we are pulling out the big guns’ and began embarking on her electrifying path.”

Team-building Now a major challenge for Austin is having the stock to fill so many new stores. As part of her strategy, Austin put a small but effective team together. In the middle of last year, she recruited a store development director to focus on its expansion and oversee its store fitouts.

DecjubaThese have a deconstructed, unfinished raw concrete look and keep evolving as the company expands to meet the demands of the location. Just over a year ago, Decjuba also lured across a buying director from another big Australian fashion retailer to help its team source clothes from around the world. The company, which has its head office in Cremorne in inner Melbourne and employs about 350 people, now also wholesales to online fashion retailer, The Iconic.

“Our ethos is all about making women feel amazing,” said Young, noting that much effort went into training staff to ensure a great customer experience, one where shoppers left feeling confident and fabulous. “We try to empower women to feel good about themselves. Our customers are anywhere between 25 to 60. We try to give them wearable, achievable clothes with a slight edge. It’s all about being effortless and comfortable from drop off to dinner.

“We have fashion items and key pieces for the season, but we also have really great basics. We have some staples that carry us from season to season. We have, for example, our bengaline pants, which have been our bestselling pants for seven years. It’s all very affordable, even though it has a luxurious feel.”

Driving business online In addition to its 12 stores in New Zealand, Decjuba has an online store, which fulfils the demands of its overseas customers. Young said the company takes a very unified approach to its online and bricks and mortar operations. “They always have the same feel and even offer the same promotions. We look for consistency.”

It has also enlisted blogger and global influencer, Michaela Babushka, of FIGTNY, to celebrate this week’s opening of its 50th store and further elevate its brand and positioning worldwide. In terms of social media presence, its focus is on both Instagram and Facebook. It also has a sizeable database that it emails three times a week to foster customer loyalty.

Later this year, Decjuba plans to launch a low-priced luxury basic range called ‘Dlux’ via pop-up stores in shopping centres across Australia. “I would also not be surprised if we had a kids’ collection at some stage soon,” Young hinted. “2016, with the combination of an accelerated store expansion plan and the opportunity to recruit amazing retailers who thrive on the shop floor, is set to be our best year yet,” concluded Austin.

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