High-end Australian department store chain David Jones is sold for undislcosed sum
Australia’s most upscale department store business, David Jones, is being sold by South African owner Woolworths for an undisclosed price after being bought for A$2.1 billion (€1.3bn/£1.1bn/US$1.4bn) in 2014. The new purchase price is believed to be significantly short of that figure. The deal will complete by March next year.
The business is a major retailer of European and American fashion and beauty brands including Alexander McQueen, Versace, Balmain, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, Sandro, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Stella McCartney, Chloé, Isabel Marant and many more.
The deal agreed by Woolworths with new owner Anchorage Partners was revealed on Monday, with the latter set to take on 43 stores (some stores had already been closed by Woolworths as it worked on a turnaround) and invest new money into the business.
It’s been reported that the Bourke Street David Jones flagship property in Melbourne isn’t included in the sale and with its own valuation of A$250 million is likely to be sold next year. But David Jones is likely to continue as its tenant.
CEO Scott Fyfe will stay on and has the backing of the new owner for his revival plans (known as Vision 2025+) with the company to continue focusing on both physical and online sales.
Woolworths Holdings continues to own the Country Road group of retail chains in Australia but is quitting the country’s specific department store market as it accepts it won’t see a return on the cash it has pumped into David Jones. The company has been forced to write down its investment in the business with the turnaround taking longer than it had hoped.
But despite David Jones’s troubles in recent years, the business was still in demand with Anchorage having battled Teoh Capital (which came in with a late bid) for the prize. It’s believed to have turned a profit in 2021, its first since 2018.
So what of the new owner? Anchorage is a specialist investor in “businesses operating below their full potential or undergoing a significant transformation”.
And David Jones certainly fits into that brief. It has faced plenty of challenges in this century as the Australian market reeled from the impact of online shopping and the arrival of international chains. And the pandemic added to its woes.
Local analysts also pointed to internal missteps such as the costly expansion of the David Jones foods operation.
But Anchorage sees huge potential in the business. A spokesperson for it described the deal a “landmark transaction”and added that “David Jones has a storied history, immense brand value and unparalleled assets — including an attractive retail footprint, a loyal customer base, and dedicated employees”.
Scott Fyfe added: “David Jones has been through a significant transformation, driven by our Vision 2025+ strategy, and I look forward to working with the Anchorage team to further enhance the leadership position of David Jones in Australia as the nation’s leading omnichannel retailer and one of its most loved and long-standing brands.”
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