DFS recently unveiled its latest T Galleria store in Singapore, alongside the global roll-out of its revitalised global rewards programme – Loyal T.
The polished red facade of DFS Galleria on Singapore’s Scotts Road is now but a distant memory. In its place is a shiny, sleek and pristine white frontage featuring striking visual displays, as well a dazzling backlight by night. It also sports a new name – T Galleria – a brand that has now come to symbolise ultra-luxury. [This very comprehensive new store opening report updates the previous news story filed on May 28-Ed]
The dramatic transformation of the 100,000sq ft DFS Galleria Singapore into T Galleria took three painstaking years to complete, encompassing not only a complete facelift, but a comprehensive overhaul of the store’s brand offerings as well.
T Galleria, which is described by the DFS Group as the ‘ultimate evolution of the original retail concept it pioneered’, arrived quietly on the travel retail scene in August 2012, with the opening of Hysan Place in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. The store proved to be an invaluable test bed, giving DFS the impetus to extend the concept to other stores. The brand was officially unveiled in Hawaii 13 months later before it was rolled out to the rest of Hong Kong in October 2013.
BUSY OPENINGS SCHEDULE
Macau was the next destination to be graced by T Galleria in December 2013. DFS intends to continue rolling out T Galleria progressively across existing DFS Galleria stores over the remainder of the year. Next on the list is Okinawa in April, followed by Guam and Saipan in the summer, and finally Sydney in the autumn. DFS anticipates that all of its Gallerias will be rebranded by the end of this year.
To commemorate the opening of T Galleria Singapore on 27 March, DFS invited a 33-strong contingent of journalists to an exclusive media preview at the store, including representatives from China and Indonesia, who make up a significant proportion of DFS’s customer base. Senior DFS executives led by Chairman and CEO Philippe Schaus were also present, and in the evening, they hosted an evening cocktail for over 400 guests, including business partners, VIP customers and local celebrities.
In his welcome address at the press conference, Schaus charted the evolution of DFS’s downtown stores, from mere showrooms for their airport stores in their fledgling days, to the prime one-stop destinations for premium luxury that they are today. He emphasised that this shift necessitated a dramatic change in its brand identity, but one which remained faithful to its core business ethos of serving travellers.
“T stands for travellers, and our new T Galleria is made for all who travel. Beyond the fact that Singapore is a global travel hub with over 14 million visitors a year, it is also a multicultural city. There is a true sense of journey, in discovering districts that showcase the wide influence of different cultures in its architecture, cuisine and global outlook. T Galleria is a reflection of the Singapore state of mind,” he said.
“In that sense, T Galleria is more than a shopping destination as we reset the already high bar for shopping experiences. It is a gateway to heightened levels of luxury where our privileged clientele enjoy elevated levels of personal and bespoke services designed with the customer in mind.”
DFS Chairman and CEO Philippe Schaus and Harold Brooks, President, Global Merchandising address the gathering in Singapore.
Schaus told TRBusiness that the rebranding exercise to transform DFS Galleria into T Galleria was a gamble that is beginning to pay dividends. “I was pushing the rebranding through while being highly aware of the risks it entailed. Personally, it felt like open-heart surgery. Since Hawaii, we have realised that the concept actually works very well and T Galleria has become part of the (industry’s) vocabulary.” He then revealed that the T Galleria store in Hong Kong’s Sun Plaza has actually seen a double-digit increase in traffic since its rebranding last year.
Schaus explained that the success of T Galleria thus far can be accredited to what he defined as the concept’s four ‘heroes’ – its distinct brand identity; intelligent store designs; a comprehensive product mix that is constantly being reviewed; and its people.
Building on its commitment to innovation and customer service excellence, DFS has also introduced its new – aptly named – Loyal T global rewards programme. The scheme covers over 700 brands in 26 airport and Galleria stores across 10 countries in three continents, making it the world’s most extensive programme of its kind.
DFS describes Loyal T as an evolution of the company’s pre-existing rewards programme, the Platinum Services Club (PSC), which was first launched in Guam in 2005, and rolled out globally in 2006. Designed to offer premium customers unique, luxurious experiences, the PSC was expanded with fully serviced exclusive lounges in 2008, followed by a pilot Loyal T Beauty Programme in Hong Kong last year.
Sybylle Scherer, President, Consumer Marketing and Branding, DFS Group.
“What we always strive to do is to listen to what our customers tell us what is important to them. So we are not imposing a programme on them, but we are listening to them very carefully. So we are constantly evolving our (rewards) programme,” said Sybylle Scherer, President, Consumer Marketing and Branding.
Loyal T benefits include concierge services, as well as multi-lingual personal shoppers, with the latter playing a key role in fostering customer relationships. T Galleria Singapore has five personal shoppers, all of whom have been trained extensively by DFS and the respective brand houses, arming them with the expertise to recommend a tailored collection of brands and products based on individual members’ needs across the store’s four lifestyle categories.
Unlike its predecessor which featured three tiers of membership, Loyal T boasts four tiers, offering exclusive benefits at each level and offering flexibility to move up the tiers during the 24-month qualifying period. Operated in a similar vein to frequent flyer programmes, customers can accumulate points through their spending at both downtown and airport stores.
Shoppers qualify for the entry-level tier when they make a single purchase worth US$4,999. Members of the two highest tiers – Prestige Diamond and Prestige Ruby – receive one-of-a-kind benefits such as invitations to exclusive events such as DFS impeccable Masters Collection series showcasing the finest wines and spirits; watches and fragrances; transportation services to and from downtown hotels and DFS downtown stores; as well as access to the Prestige Lounge, a sumptuous, comfortable space to rest and unwind.
Scherer concluded: “The heart of the programme is really about the special services, which are centred on our customers and their needs. Loyal T offers customers a premise that will connect our airport and our downtown businesses – it is truly holistic now.”
After the press preview, members of the press were given an exclusive tour of the T Galleria Singapore and its four floors of boutiques and concession stands covering watches and jewellery, fashion and accessories, beauty and fragrances as well as wine and spirits, before it opened to the public. Spanning an impressive 100,000 square feet, the refurbished T Galleria store features 300 brands carefully selected by DFS’s global merchandising team. Like its other T Galleria stores worldwide, the one in Singapore will offer the DFS 100% Worldwide Guarantee: once travellers return home, DFS will exchange, repair, or accept the return of all purchased merchandise.
“More than a shopping destination, T Galleria Singapore is a lifestyle hub where customers enjoy personal and bespoke services such as Concierge, multi-lingual sales associates and award-winning customer service that extends and enhances the experience of the destination,” says DFS.
The tour began on the second floor, where journalists were ushered into the Prestige Lounge, an area normally open only to top-tier members of DFS’s extensive loyalty programme.
Warm lighting, contemporary furnishings in earthy tones set against beige and brown walls imbue the 2,500 square foot space with an understated elegance. Guests to this exclusive zone have access to a single private room, a small business centre and two semi-private lounge areas. There is also a kitchen, and a beauty room, where private events and viewings are held. According to DFS, the Prestige Lounge in Singapore receives approximately 8,000 member visits a year.
Watches and jewellery from 37 brands can be found on the second and third floors, including Aigner, Anne Klein, Baume & Mercier, Bell & Ross, Burberry, Cartier, Certina, Chopard, Coach, Corum, Disel, Emporio Armani, Foli Folie, Gucci, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, MIcheal Kors, MIdo, Montblanc, OMEGA, TAG Heuer and Tissot Bvlgari, Omega, Piaget, Mido, Gucci, Chopard, Tag Heuer and Tiffany & Co. A limited selection of wines and spirits is sold in a small concession on the second storey, which has a pre-ordering service for travellers departing from Changi International Airport.
The third and fourth floors house a number of standalone fashion boutiques, including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Loewe, Tod’s, Salvotore Ferragamo, Givenchy, Celine, Coach, Burberry, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Bally, Ralph Lauren and Bottega Veneta.
Journalists were whisked to the ground floor for the last leg of the tour to view the store’s refreshed 15,000 square foot Beauty & Fragrances department, with its 6.5 metre high ceiling and street-facing display windows and interiors. It is apparent that DFS had wanted the hall to exude glamour and grandeur when it decided on the new look for this floor, which will also double up as a backdrop for dramatic themed events in the near future. The hall boasts a line-up of 22 top beauty brands, including two exclusive to T Galleria Singapore – Giorgio Armani Beauty and Helena Rubenstein. A number of travel retail exclusives are stocked here, giving T Galleria a distinct advantage over its domestic rivals.
Situated within the Beauty and Fragrance Hall is the Beauty Concierge – a one stop shop that addresses customers’ beauty needs, touted to be the first of its kind in Singapore. Services on offer include personalised one-on-one skin consultations, hand massages, facial treatments and makeover sessions. Well-trained beauty specialists, who maintain what DFS terms as a ‘brand neutral’ stance, are on hand to dispense advice on the best make-up and skincare products customers can use to suit their particular skin type, irrespective of the brand.
Harold Brooks, President, Global Merchandising underscored DFS’s efforts to develop an attractive brand and product preposition at T Galleria Singapore. He said: “We are quite fortunate we have a team of merchants who travel worldwide looking for the newest and the most exciting and authentic brands in the world today. Every brand you see in the T Galleria (Singapore) store today is one which we have personally selected for each of the customers that walk though the store. We spend a lot of time understanding who our customer is, where they shop and what is important to them. We look at our assortment by location and brand and curate that assortment to ensure that we are satisfying their needs.”
According to Brooks, beauty remains the core business for DFS’s downtown stores. “When you walk through our beauty department and see our range of products and our travel exclusives it is evident that it is something DFS excels in. However, if you look today at our fashion assortment and our fashion line-up it rivals any of the shopping malls here today. I would say you to that all our businesses are somewhat equal in size, they are represented differently on a bi-location basis, but they are all doing – well let’s say for a retailer business is never good enough – but overall we have been doing perfectly fine.”
THE ‘PEOPLE’ FACTOR
However, no matter how fantastic the products are, a store cannot compete effectively without competent and knowledgeable staff, a point Managing Director of DFS Singapore Francois Rosset raised as he explained how he was going to achieve his mission to turn T Galleria Singapore into a natural shopping destination for luxury shoppers in Singapore.
“First of all, we need to communicate our new branding as a purveyor of luxury, and change preconceptions of the DFS brand as just a duty free store especially among repeat travellers. Integral to this is by having our sales experts engage actively with our customers. That is what is unique to DFS.
“We want our customers to experience the best and most desirable brands of the world. But at the same time, we need our staff members to remain genuine and authentic by ensuring that they remain brand neutral and experts across all lifestyle categories – that is a cornerstone of the whole DFS shopping experience. That is what sets us apart. In addition, the feedback from our operational staff is critical and it helps us to adapt or fine-tune our brand and product mix, which in turn helps us to meet the needs of our customers better,” he said.