David Jones is closing 35 of his smaller dining rooms affiliated with BP that have only opened in the past two years

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Department store David Jones struggled to shut down 35 of its dining halls that opened less than two years ago

  • David Jones is closing 35 of their mini dining rooms connected to BP gas stations
  • The group said the ‘pilot’ scheme that began in 2019 was discontinued
  • Industry experts said the company’s larger food halls are also in danger of being closed
  • Luxury department store turned to food in response to the rise of online shopping

Combative department store David Jones has taken another blow as they prepare to close another 35 of their stores after opening less than two years ago.

The chic fashion retailer teamed up with BP to open miniature versions of their dining rooms connected to gas stations in Sydney and Melbourne.

While customers didn’t seem to like the unusual combination, David Jones said on Friday that the ‘pilot project’ was being discontinued completely.

BP will close all 35 mini food halls (shown) connected to BP service stations

The stores sold luxury foods (see photo) but didn't have the same customer service as a DJ store

The stores sold luxury foods (see photo) but didn’t have the same customer service as a DJ store

“All 35 existing David Jones-BP two-brand locations will transition to a new BP convenience offering,” the company said in a statement.

David Jones said the move was part of a ‘strategic review of the food industry to focus solely on tailor-made experiences in our dining room’ [Sydney CBD] Elizabeth Street and Bondi Junction locations’.

Two standalone David Jones dining halls in Melbourne – in South Yarra and Malvern – had already closed earlier this year and the dining hall attached to the Melbourne CBD store was closed for renovation until 2022.

Industry insiders who say the move could be a signal that department stores will abandon their foray into the food industry altogether.

“It was a great strategy, but putting it in gas stations detracted from the experience,” said QUT marketing expert, associate professor Gary Mortimer. news.com.au.

‘The DJ staff didn’t sell it. It was the BP guy behind the counter so the experience was different than in a dining room. ‘

The mini food halls even offered fresh fruit and vegetables that could be bought at the gas stations

The mini food halls even offered fresh fruit and vegetables that could be bought at the gas stations

The company as a whole is making money – they reported a 33 percent increase in profit in February to $ 56 million for the last half of 2020 – thanks to increasing their online store offerings coupled with rent reduction and JobKeeper support.

While the food side of the business continues to grapple with Roy Bagattini, the CEO of parent company Woolworths Holdings, who admitted they were losing in 2020 and the company was trying to make them profitable by 2022.

The BP partnership was part of that plan from Woolworths Holdings – a South Africa-based company with no affiliation to the supermarket chain – with 10 gas station locations announced in 2019, followed by an expansion to 35 in 2020.

While experts said the products were quality customers themselves, they were confused with the BP link

While experts said the products were quality customers themselves, they were confused with the BP link

The move to food by DJs was spurred by the rise of online shopping and international fast fashion outlets such as H&M and Uniqlo which expanded in Australia, significantly reducing their customer base.

Gourmet dining halls were considered a way to maintain the stores’ luxurious brand while still giving customers a reason to visit in person.

“That may not be feasible and they may at some point decide to leave the food category entirely,” said Prof. Mortimer.

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