And now the wait is over for shoppers, as the doors opened to the public this morning.
But while the $20 million-plus upgrade and refit has completely changed the look and style of the department store, nods to its predecessor Kirkcaldie & Staines can still be found.
Top-hatted Kirks doorman Neville Wellbourn is still on hand to greet shoppers, and many sales assistants will be familiar faces for former Kirks-lovers.
At the opening event, David Jones chair Ian Moir spoke of the journey of getting the store to where it is today.
It has taken David Jones 178 years to branch into the international market, and when the time came, New Zealand was a no-brainer, he said.
“It was natural to come to New Zealand and we can’t think of a better place than Wellington.”
The fact Wellington’s heritage department Kirkcaldie & Staines was experiencing losses year after year and facing an uncertain future was an unexpected opportunity for David Jones.
“Kirkcaldie & Staines really is a grand old dame of Wellington. We couldn’t believe our luck when we got the opportunity to come here and take the baton over, spend a bit of money and make sure Kirkcaldie & Staines becomes David Jones becomes what it always was and really should be. And that’s the best department store in New Zealand.”
It was the first trip to Wellington for David Jones ambassador, model Jessica Gomes, but she said the new store is the perfect addition to the brand.
“It’s amazing that Wellington can now enjoy those international designers… This is a destination,” she said.
The new international brands were almost too exciting for Prime Minister John Key who opened his speech with his surprise at speaking amongst them.
“I think this is the first time I’ve given a speech between Stella McCartney handbags and Chanel perfumes,” he said.
Local songstress Ladyhawke rounded off the star-studded evening by entertaining the crowds with an acoustic set.
The store covers 7000 square metres and is owned by South African company Woolworths Holdings, which also owns Country Road and Witchery.
It paid $428,000 to take over Kirkcaldie & Stains’ lease and buy the rights to use its name.
Retail NZ yesterday welcomed David Jones into New Zealand, saying its store opening is good news for both shoppers and retailers.
“The fact that David Jones has chosen Wellington for the site of its first international store is a real vote of confidence in the future of the New Zealand retail market, and that of Wellington in particular,” Retail NZ’s general manager for public affairs, Greg Harford, says. “David Jones is the latest in a a steady stream of international stores to be opening up in New Zealand, bringing new brands and new offerings to consumers.”
Harford says the fact that international retailers are still opening stores in New Zealand shows there’s a bright future for retailing. He acknowledged the importance of online retailing, but says most retailers need to also have a bricks and mortar presence to build a strong brand in the minds of customers.
“Internationally, even global ecommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba are investing into bricks and mortars – so we’re seeing increasing convergence of the digital and physical shopping worlds.”
Harford also mentioned the effect on GST of bricks and mortar stores: “New Zealand retailers remain competitively disadvantaged by Government inaction to level the playing field with international retailers like Amazon in relation to GST, but if firms are selling goods inside New Zealand from a physical store, they will be collecting GST on sales.”
He believes that the arrival of David Jones will have a positive effect on nearby retail stores, saying it can be expected to draw larger numbers of shoppers into downtown Wellington and will add to the vibrancy of the CBD.