Upmarket department store chain David Jones has thrown open the doors to its next generation site at GPT Group's Wollongong Central, featuring a new David Jones Food concept, which will be rolled out across the country.
Customers started queuing at 2am to be first in the store, which has a mix of local and international brands across fashion, beauty, accessories, home and kids. It includes 25 new brands, many of which are exclusive to David Jones in the Illawarra.
Cosmetic giant Mecca Maxima also cut the ribbon on its new store, which is part of GPT's $200 million upgrade of the centre. Overall there are 10 new specialty retailers including T2 and Review. This is in addition to the $200 million West Keira expansion which opened in 2014 and the entry of the fast fashion house, H&M last year.
David Jones took over the space from rival Myer in October 2016, creating a store that is half the size of a traditional big box department store which showcases items that can be bought online or through a "click and collect" service.
Myer closed the store as part of its property "rationalisation" program. The chain, which is under pressure to perform from its largest shareholder, Solomon Lew, has also shut down its Brookside and Orange store, and handed back space at malls in regional NSW and Queensland.
Myer will also not be renewing leases at Colonnades, Belconnen and Hornsby.
The chain is investing $100 million over three years in the national rollout of its premium food offering, which started earlier this month with the opening of a flagship food hall at its Bondi Junction store in Sydney's east and the launch of its premium David Jones Food brand. The move reflects the changing habits of shoppers who want retail experiences over and above buying a product.
The next David Jones Food food hall will open in March at Malvern Central, in Melbourne's inner suburbs, with an emphasis on convenience.
As part of the food concept, David Jones is also looking for sites for several standalone food convenience stores.
Under celebrity chef Neil Perry, David Jones Food features a cheese and deli counter, seafood and a bakery, fresh local and global produce with a focus on David Jones' new premium label product. It will also have a curated plant and floral selection; and a food-to-go offer comprised of hot food options, sandwiches and sushi.
There will also be an all-day, 60-seat casual restaurant, 'The Kitchen' developed with Mr Perry.
David Jones chief executive David Thomas said with the opening of this store, "we are proud to bring a world class retail experience to the Illawarra region".
"Our new offering at Wollongong Central delivers an unparalleled mix of fashion, accessories and home, as well as our exciting new food concept to our loyal customers," Mr Thomas said.
Reflecting the change in the retail sector other services at the store, which are also being rolled-out across the David Jones stable, are personal shopping in the VIP styling suite, and by-appointment beauty services. A dedicated David Jones Concierge has also been introduced, to assist with a range of services.
GPT's senior development manager Mohan Rengaswamy said David Jones' first new, smaller format food concept in Australia, "is a major vote of confidence in the renewal of Wollongong's CBD into one of NSW's key retail, food, tourism and cultural hubs".