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DJs consolidates

THE expansion and redevelopment of the David Jones Claremont store is the retail chain’s last for the near future.

According to David Jones general manager WA and SA John Samartzis, David Jones intends to concentrate on consolidating its position in the marketplace after a successful rebirth into the WA market.

“At this point in time it is about continuing to grow and consolidating ourselves,” Mr Samartzis said.

“We are happy with how things are going. The next piece of work is the redevelopment of Claremont.

“There is a proposal for the redevelopment of the Claremont shopping precinct and in that is a new David Jones store. The last information I had was that work could start as early as October, but most probably it will be early next year.”

The $140 million redevelopment of the Claremont Shopping Centre by Hawaiian Management Group will expand the department store’s capacity.

“We will virtually double the size,” Mr Samartzis said.

Based in South Australia, Mr Samartzis was in WA last week to speak to the CA Business Forum about David Jones’ rebirth into WA. He told WA Business News the WA stores and their customers now enjoyed the benefits of a national operation.

Advertising, while initially produced for WA audiences with the help of locally based advertising and media firms, was now managed by David Jones’ head office, which is located in Sydney.

However, the department store is keen to work with local produce suppliers. 

“All the fresh food is local and, wherever it is possible, we source local grocery items,” Mr Samartzis said. 

“The buyers are from Sydney but they are here every month and there is a very strong local influence in all of the stores.” He said “getting it right” in terms of rebadging the Aherns brand was crucial to the department stores’ future.

“WA was always part of the growth strategy to ensure that we had a national department store chain,” Mr Samartzis said.

“We did a lot of research on whether we should go in.”

That research, conducted more than four years ago, showed that WA was not big enough for three department stores and taking over the Aherns operations was a strong option.

“We found a company like Aherns and it had a lot of similarities in terms of culture and history,” Mr Samartzis said.

“The timing was right with Aherns. They had to make a choice on their future and we saw an opportunity to align with them. It was a friendly buy-out.”

The three-year process of changing Aherns into David Jones came off the back of a few retail lessons, Mr Samartzis said, citing that learned from the transition of South Australian retailer John Martins to David Jones.

“It was a much loved family name [Aherns] and we had learnt from the experience of the John Martins stores in South Australia. We came in five years ago and expanded. We owned John Martins and through consolidations we changed the brand to David Jones at a couple of stores,” he said.

The company was careful not to put the David Jones name on any of the stores until that name could be supported internally, Mr Samartzis said.

“We were very careful not to rebrand to David Jones until we could support the brand with the ambience, service, and product,” he told WA Business News.

“The market research indicated we shouldn’t become David Jones in name only. We changed every process and most point of sale systems.

“Then we went about and produced David Jones iconic elements at suburban stores.

“The execution in SA wasn’t – I don’t think – as well done as it was in WA

“We learnt a lot by putting just the name on the shop. The value proposition has to be absolutely right.”

And while the eastern states Foodchain business is currently under review, David Jones’ in-store food courts, particularly the Hay Street store, have been good additions.

“The Foodchains have not met our financial expectations. They are under review but the food halls are doing well,” Mr Samartzis said.

“The Hay Street food hall has been patronised beyond our expectations.”

He said he was still keen to follow through initial plans that linked the David Jones Hay Street store to St George’s Terrace via an underground tunnel.

“We look forward to having discussions with people about this. It was on the cards when we built the shop but it went quiet.”

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