DFS’ Guam Gambit

DFS Group’s Galleria concept has enjoyed continued success on Guam and Saipan.

January, 2001

UMON, Guam —When DFS Group Ltd. unveiled its new, expanded $50 million Galleria store in Tumon Bay, Guam, the event included a celebrity-studded grand opening for a Planet Hollywood restaurant, located inside the Galleria. Throngs of shoppers waited for hours to catch glimpses of their favorite film stars from Japan, the Philippines and Hollywood.

That was May 1997. Today, the 110,000-square-foot Tumon Bay Galleria continues to be the star of Guam’s retail industry. That despite stiff competition from national and regional retail giants, such as Kmart, Cost-U-Less, Liberty House and Ross Dress for Less, which opened Oct. 6. DFS officials won’t disclose sales revenue or the number of shoppers that walk through the store daily but say business at the Galleria showed improvement well before Guam’s tourism industry began to rebound last June. Guam hosted 1.16 million tourists in 1999 and is banking on more by the end of this year.

That projection, however, still is a far cry from 1997, when visitor arrivals hit an all-time high of 1.38 million. The island in 1994 for the first time received 1 million tourists in one full year. While tourist arrivals are on an upswing, the economy of this U.S. territory remains shaky.

So how does the Galleria stay afloat despite Guam’s depressed economy? One major draw is its “retailtainment” concept, a hybrid experience of entertainment and traditional shopping that sets the Galleria apart from other stores. “Retailtainment is the ability to combine retailing and a shopping experience with entertainment to make it a highly enjoyable, interactive experience that is beyond just shopping,” says DFS Guam President Scott Bowman.

Local and tourist shoppers have embraced that concept fully. After all, where else on Guam can they roam, sample beef jerky and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, and practice their swings on an interactive golf machine — all under the same roof? Not only does the Galleria house Planet Hollywood, it also has a Disney and Warner Bros. Studio store.

“The Galleria has enhanced Guam as a shopping destination,” Bowman says. “With the concept lies a breadth of assortments that are available, whether that be cosmetics that otherwise would not be in the marketplace, or other categories of businesses that are exclusive.” It certainly doesn’t hurt, too, that the Galleria is strategically located in Pleasure Island, a high-traffic area of Tumon encompassing the interactive arcade Guam GameWorks, Sam Choy’s restaurant, the tunnel aquarium UnderWater World, and SandCastle Entertainment Center, featuring Las Vegas-style shows. (See Hawaii Business, Nov. 2000) The Outrigger Guam Resort joined the Pleasure Island facility in June 1999.

DFS Group Ltd. is a retail veteran in the Mariana Islands. Its first Guam store opened in 1972 and today, there are nine DFS locations at major resorts and at the Guam International Airport, where it is the official retailer. Saipan — the largest island in the separate Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — is home to a Galleria that opened in 1993 on Beach Road. That store underwent a $27 million facelift and reopened Feb. 19, 1999. There are eight DFS stores on Saipan, including the Galleria.

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Cathy Cruz