With a 160-year history, Australian retailer David Jones is one of the oldest department stores in the world. So when it set out to create its new prototype in the southern city of Adelaide, Australia, the merchant was definitely looking forward, not back.

David Jones called on Dallas-based Robert Young Associates (RYA) to help fashion a contemporary store that would invite shoppers in and encourage them to stay. Already considered Australia's premier department store chain, David Jones spent nearly four years overhauling its brand strategy and introducing 150 new labels to its stores. The Adelaide prototype needed to showcase the new merchandise in an up-to-date shopping environment, says Tom Herndon, CEO of Robert Young Associates.

“David Jones' goal is to attract the best brands in the world into their stores, and they want to offer the widest selection in Australia,” explains Herndon. “To do this, they needed to create a store that's as contemporary as any in the world.”

With a consumer base of only 18 million people, department stores down under must appeal to a wider range of shoppers than their American and European counterparts. This requires a broader mix of merchandise, explains Herndon. Within those parameters, he adds, “David Jones' goal was to edit its merchandise mix and present it in an elegant way, within a very open, airy environment.”

That was not an easy task given the store's long, narrow footprint. Located in Rundle Mall, Adelaide's open-air pedestrian shopping center, the five-level, 280,000-sq.-ft store is situated between a pair of existing narrow buildings and stretches between two streets. An existing structural column grid was another physical challenge, Herndon adds.

Designers opened the space with a five-story atrium. An abundant amount of sunshine now radiates into the center. This feature also acts as the store's focal point. Windows at either end of the building add more natural warmth. RYA brightened the illumination levels even further with an efficient system of color-corrected fluorescent and MR16 accent lights. A series of sweeping ceiling soffits featuring rectangular light slots that add a sparkling effect, raise perceived ceiling heights, and suggest a circulation path through the store. Most of the store's custom fixturing is internally lit as well.

To soften the angular footprint, RYA designed curving fixtures, floor treatments and ceiling lines. A carefully edited palette of color and materials is neutral but warm. Vendor presence is physically strong yet visually subtle, which is integrated carefully into the overall store design.

With its Adelaide store open since August 2000, David Jones is moving on to the renovation of its Sydney flagship, as well as city-center stores in Melbourne and Brisbane. Many of the design elements created for Adelaide — merchandise presentation, lighting, and materials — will be translated into the other stores. But in true Aussie style, the new projects will reflect the individualism of their hometowns with colors, textures and other elements chosen to suit the local mood.

Contact: Donna Coker, marketing coordinator, Robert Young Associates, 214.220.9050, (F) 214.220.9047, or www.rya.com.

Pat Matson Knapp is a Cincinnati-based writer.