When South African retailer Woolworths purchased David Jones last year, it became one of the biggest retailers in the Southern Hemisphere. Now, the department store is looking across the Tasman to expand its antipodean footprint.

David Jones announced yesterday that it intends to enter the New Zealand market for the first time, opening a store in Wellington next year. It will be the first David Jones store to open outside Australia in its 177-year history.

“This is an exciting new venture for David Jones, giving us a significant initial presence in New Zealand’s growing market with a prime location in the thriving capital, Wellington,” said David Jones CEO Iain Nairn.

The flagship store will open in Lambton Quay, Wellington on the site of department store Kirkcaldie & Stains. The plan is for David Jones to take over the lease from Kirkcaldie & Stains in February 2016. The site will reopen in mid-2016 following a facelift, which will “reflect the department store’s ‘Next Generation’ store concept with a fully modernised interior.”

The historical façade will remain the same, however the interior is set to be kitted out as a  hi-tech retail hub.

The agreement with Kirkcaldie & Stains is still subject to a number of conditions, such as Kirkcaldie & Stains shareholder approval. David Jones intends to offer employment to the majority of the current Kirkcaldie & Stains retail workforce.

“We were excited when Kirkcaldie & Stains approached us. David Jones is a recognised brand in New Zealand and we’re confident this beautiful building in this cosmopolitan city is the perfect home for our first New Zealand store. We are proud to reinvigorate the historic retail space and maintain it as the home of New Zealand’s premium department store, when we open David Jones Wellington next year.

“We’ll be bringing an edit of our range to the market to offer New Zealanders an expanded assortment of Australian, international and private label brands. We’re also looking forward to seeing more from New Zealand designers,” Nairn said.

Parent-company Woolworths is already active in New Zealand where it employs 500 staff. David Jones will be Woolworths’ 36th New Zealand store when it opens, joining Country Road, Witchery, Trenery and Mimco.

Nairn, who was CEO of Witchery Group and then Country Road Group before taking the helm at David Jones, said the success of these brands and a positive experience launching Witchery and Mimco in New Zealand had, in part, influenced the department store’s response to the opportunity.

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