A powerful and poignant evening

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DFS’s 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday night was one of the great industry social events of recent times, and proved to be both a showcase of the excellent retailing skills of the world’s leading luxury travel retailer, and a poignant, emotional evening in the group’s proud history.

Guests began by enjoying a tour of the newly renovated DFS Galleria Sun Plaza on Hong Kong’s Canton Road, where the second floor, dedicated to its Fashion World, was completed just days ago. More open areas, much-improved customer flow, an emphasis on environmentally friendly lighting and building materials, plus of course, a powerful array of market-leading brands combine to make this one of the key Gallerias for the company – one that relies strongly on the PRC independent (rather than tour-conducted) customer.

It was at Sun Plaza that we had the pleasure of meeting DFS Co-Founder Robert Miller, one of the trade’s great iconic figures [He is pictured above toasting the anniversary, with the image in the background of his younger self 50 years ago, toasting the opening of the new Kai Tak Airport operation].

A half-century on from when he and ‘Chuck’ Feeney opened their first office in Hong Kong, he still has a commanding presence when he walks into a room – and he combines a keen intellect with a warm and friendly smile. He told us how proud he was of the milestone that DFS has achieved. And we were touched to hear him say how the book DFS commissioned us to write about its history had brought a tear to his eye.

Later, when we moved to the old Kai Tak Airport – and a dome specially erected by DFS for the night – it was spine-tingling to hear the welcome that Miller received from the crowd when he walked on stage for a brief welcome speech. Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean also struck exactly the right note when he cited Miller’s name many times during a bravura performance that electrified the crowd.

As a company, DFS also struck many of the right chords on the night, with its choice of unique venue for the late night party, the addition of Wyclef Jean (below) to underline its commitment to the rebuilding of Haiti, plus neat touches such as the classy showcasing of great moments in its history on video screens around the location.

It also invited back many great names that contributed to its rich history, from Jean Gentzbourger – a key figure during the early years – to former executives such as John Monteiro, Jim Hurley, Julian Levy and others – as well as long-standing executives that continue to play vital roles, such as Joe Lyons, plus partners, brand owners and other travel retailers from around the world.

It underlines the fact that DFS, one of the great corporate stories, is also a great human story too.


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