DFS declines comment on speculation of downtown store in Venice

ITALY/HONG KONG. DFS Group today declined to comment on media speculation that it is in advanced negotiations to secure a lease on the famous Palazzo Fontego dei Tedeschi in Venice.

Respected US fashion and retail trade media Women’s Wear Daily reported that the Benetton family’s real estate holding, Edizione Property, had confirmed Monday it is in advanced negotiations with an “undisclosed retailer” to rent the 18th century palazzo.

Quoting “market sources”, it said that DFS, owned by LVMH and Bob Miller, “could be in pole position”.

Contacted by The Moodie Report this week, DFS said that it “declined to comment on the speculation from another publication”.

However, Venice seems a logical site for DFS to extend its European footprint, The Moodie Report believes. The luxury travel retailer is targeting key tourism locations in the region, particularly those popular with Chinese tourists.

According to Euromonitor International, annual Chinese visitors to Venice will surge from 166,000 in 2011 to 253,000 in 2016 (+52.5%), by which time they will be the fourth-biggest visitor group by nationality (in 2011 they were seventh).

Built in 1228 and reconstructed in the early 16th century after a fire, the Palazzo Fontego dei Tedeschi (sited on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge) is one of Venice’s most revered buildings
How The Moodie Report last week reported DFS Group’s thrust into Europe

Those include Paris where, as revealed DFS is consulting on the redevelopment of the historic La Samaritaine department store by its owner LVMH.

Speaking at the unveiling of the T Galleria by DFS concept in Hong Kong last week, DFS Chairman & CEO Philippe Schaus confirmed the company’s downtown ambitions in Europe, without specifying locations.

“A lot of Asian travellers go to North America and Europe, in fact more to Europe than North America because it’s much easier to go to North Europe in terms of the visa programmes,” he said.

“And Europe also has such a diversity [of attractions]. So we are looking at the different options to open”¦ maybe a couple of stores in Europe.”

Speaking to reporters after the event, including The Moodie Report, DFS Chief Operating Officer Michael Schriver suggested that the second location the company is working on would be in a large tourism destination in Europe such as Switzerland, France, Italy or the UK.

Italy is a very strong bet given the burgeoning Chinese influence within its tourist base.

According to wealth analyst The Hurun Report’s China Luxury Travel White Paper 2013, Italy is the sixth most popular outbound destination among China’s wealthy citizens, with more than 20% of them naming it as their first choice overseas destination this year.

A survey by Venice’s City Department for Tourism in 2012 noted: “The number of Chinese and Russians overnighting in Venice keeps on growing (the main difference between these two emerging markets is that Chinese still prefer relatively short stays, whereas Russians tend to equal the average stay of 2.2 nights).”

Euromonitor International noted in a recent survey: “The forecast period [2011-2016] is expected to see a strong increase in tourism from the BRIC countries. Russia, Brazil and China, in particular, are expected to be among the main inbound countries in terms of arrivals to Venice. 

“Russian arrivals increased by more than +50% between 2010 and 2011, while arrivals from Brazil and China increased by more than +40%. In the coming years, there is expected to be an increase in direct flights to and from Asia from [Venice] Marco Polo Airport, in particular to China.”

As reported, DFS is also involved (in a consultancy role) with another historic European building, La Samaritaine department store in Paris
The T Galleria concept by DFS, already unveiled in Waikiki (above) and Hong Kong, represents the face of the retailer’s downtown stores of the future
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