AUSTRALIANS have become sick of our dull and understaffed department stores, but David Jones’s glitzy new makeover of its Sydney flagship shows it desperately wants that to change.
On Thursday evening it unveiled a luxurious new shoe floor on Level 7 of the Elizabeth St store in Sydney’s CBD, as part of a massive $200 million overhaul of the tired premises designed to get jaded customers to spend less at online competitors.
Dubbed “shoe heaven”, the huge space is jam packed with “mini stores” from leading luxury designers including Chanel, Gucci, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin.
But for those of us without a trust fund or black Amex, old favourites like Nine West, Wittner, Tony Bianco and Steve Madden are also represented.
There’s even a small stand for the ugly-but-comfortable ergonomic brands Ecco and Hush Puppies.
General manager of womenswear and accessories Bridget Veals said David Jones wants to emulate beautiful European department stores such as Le Bon Marche in Paris or Selfridges in London.
“I’m fortunate enough to visit the best shoe departments around the world and we were definitely not to the same standard and it was time for Australia to have an international standard shoe floor,” Ms Veals told news.com.au, while decked out in $1000 new season Balenciaga pumps.
“I think of all the shoe floors I’ve been to around the world, this would certainly be top three.”
Asked if the expensive refurbishment would appeal to the average Australian woman on a budget, Ms Veals said: “She can definitely come in here. That consumer can still buy Midas, she can still buy Wittner, they’re all represented. We have (sneaker brands) Lacoste and Superga. Our prices go from $99 to those with a few more zeros. We want to be exclusive but inclusive.”
The space will open to the public on Friday morning.
The project has been three years in the making and is part of the department store’s very expensive attempt to revamp its signature store.
David Jones’ new owner, South African retailer Woolworths Holdings, will spend $200 million renovating all 12 floors of the Elizabeth Street premises, converting four floors currently used for storage and administration into retail space.
In a few month’s time, a Champagne bar will open on the mezzanine overlooking the shoe floor.
Across the rest of the store will be bars and cafes, two floors of beauty and luxury accessories, two floors of menswear, three floors of womenswear, a larger food hall, a homewares destination and a “children’s world” on the top floor.
David Jones CEO David Thomas has previously admitted his business needs to bring out the big guns to impress tired consumers who have turned to online shopping and niche retailers
“A lot of people ask, is the department store dying? We like to think of the department store as becoming more relevant but the way we need to run it is changing,” Mr Thomas told news.com.au in June.
He said David Jones’ lofty goal was to, “shape the style of this nation by bringing the best of local and international talent into one place”.
While Myer has been struggling — it lost half a billion dollars in six months — David Jones isn’t doing too badly.
Its comparable sales were down 3.3 per cent while its profit sunk 38 per cent to $66 million.