Major Hawaii celebrations for DFS

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Written by Doug Newhouse
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 18:37

DFS Group's Robert Miller, Ed Brennan (right), David Charles (left) and even Hawaii's Governor all helped celebrate 50 years in Hawaii at DFS' Waikiki Galleria last night.


The world’s biggest travel retailer also generously took the opportunity to donate $50,000 in individual amounts of $10,000 to five local charity organisations/institutions, while senior executives made a number of short comments with an eye on the past - including comments from DFS co-founder Robert Miller on the well documented early days.


Miller talked about how he became involved in the business and there were brief presentations from several executives, including an introduction from DFS Group Hawaii Division Managing Director David Charles, who said ‘DFS has become the great company it has become and not because of what we have done alone but because of what everyone else has helped us to do’.


Charles said that the retailer does not forget that it wouldn’t be here today but for ‘the enormous support’ DFS has received from the community over the years and he thanked everyone. He also paid tribute to Robert Miller for instilling seven strong values in the business from the start, including honouring the staff - the subject of some particular focus this week.





Charles added: “Last night we had the opportunity to take our whole organisation and say thank you to the people of DFS - 770 current employees, plus all of our retirees - who have made us great. Tonight we continue that theme in honour of our people and honouring the people of Waikiki - the people who have made us great…”


He said the values instilled in DFS were an ongoing credit to Miller who created the company - a comment that prompted a crescendo of applause from those present.


Left: Hawaii Governor, Neil Abercrombie.


Further comments were also offered by DFS Chairman and CEO Ed Brennan, who has served DFS for 13 years after starting in Hawaii, as well as from Robert Miller and LVMH Managing Director Toni Belloni. Significantly, also in attendance was DFS Group’s President of Merchandising and Marketing Philippe Schaus, along with Michael Schriver, President Store Operations and Business Development and Harold Brooks, President of Global Merchandising.


Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie also got in on the act with a big ‘Aloha’, paying tribute to DFS’ huge contribution to the State’s coffers over five decades. He said: “I am in a very privileged position this evening because I am looking around the room and except for Mr Miller and some of the other folks here who are not rookies in this, I dare say that probably I have the opportunity to say to you that I am more familiar with this site - at least if not the configuration of the store - than anybody else here.


“My first association with Duty Free Shoppers came in 1974 when I was first elected to the legislature. I became aware of my responsibilities and my obligations to work and especially with the Airports Division of the Department of Transportation through our legislative franchise opportunities to try to decide what the relationship would be between the State of Hawaii and the franchise with regard to everything associated with Duty Free Shoppers.


“I am pleased to say that while it may be the 50th anniversary formally for Duty Free Shoppers, I can assure that in terms of the State of Hawaii. I think that we can say probably without much of an argument from anybody that this is the single most successful private/public partnership of its kind anywhere in the history of the State.”


Right: DFS co-founder Robert Miller.


He said that over the years DFS has created a good atmosphere for the State’s customers - its visitors - and he also paid tribute to local individuals who had also made great contributions towards building Hawaii’s tourism industry.


He said: “I was particularly happy to listen to the recognition that Duty Free Shoppers’ management has with regard to its employees, because it is one thing to have the Guccis, the Vuittons and the Zegnas and all of the other products and fashion houses and singular corporations that represent the finest products and so on, but in the end the catalyst for all of this in terms of the happiness of the consumer and the customer are the people that represent not just Duty Free Shoppers, but represent the experience here in Hawaii.”


Abercrombie also added that he believes there will also be a lot more local Hawaiian products represented in the Waikiki Galleria in future in terms of ‘some of the finest names in fashion’ and he dropped a few names of local designers who have featured on the US national television programme known as ‘Project Runway’.



Concluding his address, Abercrombie said that on behalf of all of the people of Hawaii he wanted to celebrate the leadership of DFS Hawaii as both parties go into the sixth decade: “This partnership between the people and State of Hawaii and Duty Free Shoppers is something that I think is solid, something that has a great future and something that this administration is completely committed to.”


Ed Brennan then addressed the gathering and acknowledged his 13 years at the DFS helm, while pointing out that two years prior to this he lived in Hawaii, running the DFS Hawaii operation back in 1997.


Left: Marc by Marc Jacobs at the DFS Waikiki Galleria.


Brennan echoed Charles’ earlier thanks to all those present from many parts of the industry and particular the travel industry partners present. He said: “As we have gone through the good times and the bad times, the travel industry has always stuck with us. As we have needed to tighten our belt they have tightened their belts with us and in good times they have enjoyed those good times with us and we greatly, greatly appreciate everything that they have done for us to really reposition the company in the luxury level that we are in today.


“I also just want to take a second to compliment our team here in Hawaii and as David said, we certainly embrace the Aloha Spirit, but the leadership team that we have here is really second to none. It takes great leadership to execute in retail and retail is an incredibly difficult business when we open at nine in the morning and we close at eleven O’clock at night and we are open 365 days a year, so it is quite challenging.


“We are very, very fortunate here not only to have David here as our Managing Director leading our team, but for the many, many people - local people - that we have here in Hawaii that have come up through our system and stuck with us.


“It was very interesting last night at our event that we had to celebrate our 50th that the Governor kindly allowed us to close all of our stores in Hawaii - our airport stores and our Galleria and that is the first time that we have ever done that, so we thank you very much.”


Brennan added that at the celebration with all of the employees he asked people to raise their hands if they had been with DFS for 25 years, or had 25 years or more service and he said almost half of the hands went up in response. He said: “That is truly remarkable for a retail business that has constant turnover, so a great credit to our team here and a great credit to DFS.”


LVMH Managing Director Toni Belloni then took to the microphone, bringing his greetings to the proceedings from LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault and the many sister companies with a retail presence of their own in Hawaii, such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Bulgari, Sephora and others.


He said: “We are strongly supporting the development of DFS in Hawaii. It was actually the first store that I visited and I know that they took me to the right place, because every time I come back it is a wonderful place to come back obviously, I really know and see how the spirit of DFS comes alive in the people, in the store, in a way I have seen nowhere else.


Right: Marie Chantal at the DFS Waikiki Galleria.


“Last night we had lots of people who have been associated with the company for many, many years and it was really a fantastic experience to share the evening with them.”


He thanked all those present for the spirit of partnership, including all of the people and business partners in Hawaii, before handing over to DFS co-founder Robert Miller who also thanked the Governor for his earlier kind words.


He said he has been a partner with LVMH since 1997 and it has been ‘a wonderful association’, with the company ‘benefiting dramatically from there.’ Miller recalled that he first came to Hawaii back in 1960 when he spent a few of days with his friend, Peter Fithian who held a concession at Honolulu Airport at that time.


Recalling those days, he said the airport terminal building in those was a world war two facility and it wasn’t until 1962 that the then new terminal building was constructed. Miller said: “Peter took me on a tour of the airport and mentioned to me that he thought or he had heard that there was a possibility that when the new terminal was completed in 1962 that there would be another concession added to the bid process and that would be a duty free store and he asked me if I would be interested, or something like that and I said yes, indeed.”


Miller said that later in 1962 a cable arrived in Hong Kong from Fithian advising him that the terminal was completed and whole bid process was going to take place and the concession documents for the duty free operation had been released. Miller then flew to Honolulu and submitted a bid for the five-year contract with Fithian’s help.


He said that $178,000 was enough to secure the business for five years as the winning bidder in those days, with the rest ‘really history’.


Left: Toni Belloni, MD of LVMH.


“It has been an incredible journey with these fifty years and when I was last night seeing the employees and retirees and there must have been over a thousand people last night…. some of them with 25 to 30 years of service and really the company has grown and prospered because of the fantastic people that we have. I would never be here without all of that help behind us so it has been wonderful.”


In honour and as a tribute to his friend, Miller then presented Peter Fithian with a permanent scholarship in his name to give to the University of Hawaii School of Travel & Industry Management.


David Charles then wrapped up proceedings with the announcement that in the spirit of the celebrations, DFS is making gifts of $10,000 each to five charities - one for each decade of DFS’ operations in Hawaii - to organisations which the retailer has been involved in throughout its 50-year existence.


These include Aloha United Way, the Asset School, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Waikiki Community Center and the Washington Place Foundation


In a prepared press statement, DFS said these non-profit organisations would all benefit from these donations. The retailer also confirmed details of the scholarship announced earlier by Robert Miller.


The statement said: “In addition, DFS, in the name of Peter Fithian, is endowing a $50,000 scholarship at the School of Travel Industry Management (TIM) at the University of Hawaii. Fithian, founder and owner of Greeters of Hawaii, was instrumental in helping establish the first DFS (then Duty Free Shoppers) store at Honolulu International Airport in 1962.


“We are so pleased to be able to honour Peter in this way and we thank him for all he has helped us with in Hawaii over the years,” said Miller.”


Adding his comments, David Charles said: “DFS has been extraordinarily fortunate to have grown with Hawaii over the years, and we are honoured to be a member of this community. We are proud to be part of one of the most important travel destinations in the world and want to continue to do our part to ensure the health and well-being of this State.

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