Alexis Carey

Its core customer is well-to-do, older and literally at risk of dying out. But struggling retail giant David Jones has come up with a bold new plan.

AILING retail juggernaut David Jones is hoping to reverse its fortunes by zeroing in on an unexpected new group of customers.

At a top-secret media conference on Wednesday morning, the department store revealed a “world first” partnership with Disney designed to lure in young families — and capture the next generation of loyal DJs shoppers.

The new move will see the entire top floor of the flagship Elizabeth Street store in Sydney’s CBD transformed into a “magical, one-of-a-kind destination”.

The revamped children’s floor, which is set to be unveiled in late November, will feature different “worlds” for kids and their parents, including a 100-acre Winnie the Pooh-themed woodland complete with a giant honey tree and nursery design service for new parents.

There will also be a Marvel section with a New York-inspired cityscape featuring a loft storytelling area with books, games and puzzles, while a Star Wars area will offer clothing along with “play, interactivity and technology”.

The floor will also include a Disney Princess section with fairy lights, castles, carousels and a Magic Mirror while there will also be a new High Street clothing section, a dedicated events space and a pram parking zone — although unfortunately for frazzled parents, there won’t be a creche option.

David Jones CEO David Thomas remained tight-lipped about how long the “very unique, very special partnership” would last, but said it would result in a “new and very magical space and experience” which both bricks-and-mortar and online competitors would struggle to match.

The level will also offer exclusive products unavailable anywhere else in the world — although Mr Thomas stopped short of revealing what those products would be.

He said the new level was designed to capture a different demographic — young families — who already flocked to the store’s elaborate window displays every Christmas.

Consultant Brian Walker from Retail Doctor Group said the announcement was a savvy move in theory — but that David Jones would need to proceed with caution to pull it off.

“It makes a lot of sense in terms of this experiential fit-out with desired products, and this positioning around the theatre of retail — but the answer will be in how they do it,” he said.

“If they take an area and just brand it, put products in and call it Disney, it’s really not going to do much — they need to create excitement and create magic.”

Mr Walker said surprisingly, previous Disney stores in Australia had failed to capture the imaginative element of the brand — something David Jones will have to avoid at all costs.

“They are on the right track. It could be an appealing, differentiated offer,” Mr Walker said.

“People with mid to high-disposable incomes are David Jones’ heartland customers and for them, the challenge will be how to widen that channel.

“We wait with anticipation to see how they will create the magic that is Disney.”

He said the focus on kids and toys was particularly timely given the demise of Toys’R’Us and the current popularity of Marvel.

But he warned David Jones to also embrace online shopping and social media strategies.

“The younger generations are digital natives who look for omnichannel experiences as customers, so if it starts and stops within its four walls, it could be limited in its success,” he said.

The announcement follows David Jones’ recent 180th birthday celebrations and the announcement of the Elizabeth Street store’s $200 million, complete refurbishment, which will be completed by early 2020.

It has also recently announced new luxury designer partnerships with Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci.

First published on on July 18, 2018.