The TappooCity department store near the port of Suva has only been operating since last December but is already exceeding performance expectations. Tappoo Group executive director Harnish Tappoo gives Andrew Pentol an overview of operations.

Last December, was a landmark month in the history of Fijian company Tappoo Group, which opened its flagship TappooCity department store near the port of Suva.

The six-story complex in the heart of Suva City consists of three levels of department stores, one comprising speciality shops and international brand name food outlets and two comprising offices. The total retail area of 60,000sq ft (5,574sqm) is connected through lifts and escalators for easy access. The extensive range of goods on offer includes fine fragrances and cosmetics, liquor and wines, branded consumer goods and electronics, fashion and accessories, leather goods, chinaware, handicrafts, souvenirs and destination artefacts and writing instruments. In addition to the three retail floors and other speciality outlets the complex includes a pharmacy, commercial bank and, on the soon-to-be-opened fourth floor, an international food court offering a diverse range of cuisines and additional function rooms. The group’s team of buyers is regularly pursing new markets and ensuring the range is up-to-date and providing value for money. The official opening of TappooCity is scheduled for later this year, when the level four speciality shops and food outlets and offices on levels five and six are open.

Executive director Harnish Tappoo says: “The TappooCity department store, being our group’s flagship stores, has been a truly sensory experience to shoppers since it opened in December 2009. It has been doing exceptionally well and has in fact exceeded our expectations. The steady growth in its customer base is testimony of this. People obviously appreciate a world-class shopping experience from 9am to 9pm, seven days a week.”

Improved Service

The extension of shop trading hours introduced by the Fijian government on December 29 2009 has not only enabled better service to visitors, but has also attracted locals who enjoy shopping in the evening and on Sundays. Tappoo says: “The relaxation of shop trading hours was timely and perfectly in line with TappooCity’s consumer focus objective, which is to offer extended hours of daily operation for customers’ convenience. People now have the liberty to enjoy a world-class shopping experience at their leisure and TappooCity now enjoys foot traffic in the evening and on Sundays. Our Sunday specials are immensely popular and much anticipated to by customers.”

Located next to harbour, TappooCity is benefiting from increased number of cruiseship visits to Suva this year and the large number of groups making special trips to the store from hotels. “Besides offering breathtaking panoramic views of the harbour, TappooCity receives a fair share of tourists from cruiseships,” he says. ‘We also organise transport for the convenience of tourists to and from the port. In addition to the tourist orientation evident at TappooCity in the form of Fiji Market destination merchandise, cultural activities such as live bands and traditional warrior dances are also organised to keep tourist entertained.”

Not only can tourist enjoy live performance and warrior dances, those making aggregate purchases of over FJ$500 can also make the most of a VAT refund scheme introduced on February 1 2010. This gives them immediate VAT refunds on submission of a form with dockets to counters at Nadi International Airport or Suva port. “The tourist VAT refund scheme is a great government initiative and has been well received by industry and tourist alike. It is effectively promoting Fiji as a competitive shopping destination for tourist and we have seen a very positive impact, particularly in high-value products like jewellery and cameras,” says Tappoo

He adds that the department store consists of a “huge portfolio” of internationally renowned brands. “Most of these brands are exclusive to us,” he says, “and the hot brands have been Nike, Beachculture and Jeanswest. Nike has done very well because we have been given more space to work with. The new fitout, Nike’s latest, has been very well received. Beachculture and Jeanswest have also performed well because they are new brands to Fiji being launched for the first time through Tappoo.”

Competitive prices have contributed to a bright start in terms of trading at TappooCity. “Duty-free status on perfumes, watches, cameras and other products has enabled our products to be very competitive,” says Tappoo, “and in some cases even cheaper than in Australia and New Zealand after currency exchange. This, together with an unparalleled range offering and of course our friendly customers service, has taken demand for these product categories to another level.”

Consumers can also benefit from the groups’ customer loyalty program. Tappoo explains: “Our Tappoo Frequent Shopper (TFS) customer loyalty programme is the first and the largest programme of its kind in Fiji with a membership of over 60,000. Customers earn points on every dollar they spend in our stores, which is redeemable for products from our outlets. Since the opening of TappooCity, the number of TFS members has continued to grow.”

In addition, a strong emphasis is being placed on staff training to further encourage consumers to purchase and perhaps tip the balance at the point of sale. “Customer satisfaction is our top priority and as such the need for staff training and development cannot be over-emphasised in our organization,” stressed Tappoo. “Our human resource department ensures staff go through a comprehensive induction programme and ongoing training to be able to effectively reflect the company’s vision, mission and strategic objectives, which revolve around customer satisfaction. There are incentives and number of other benefits and rewards for our staff.”

When asked to name the store’s highest spending nationalities, Tappoo gives little away. “We have something for everyone and therefore, interestingly enough, our customer base is spread evenly over a wide cross-section of the community. This is recognition of the fact that Tappoo has conducted business with integrity for 64 years in Fiji and the family name and logo resonate the reputation of the group.”

Unique Design
The TappooCity department store not only offers a good shopping environment for consumers, it also has sufficient space for shows and events. Tappoo explains: “The unique design and layout of TappooCity means there is adequate space to hold events. From time to time we have mini-fashion shows and special evenings for our top TFS members and once the food court becomes operational on level four, there will be dedicated areas for events including function rooms.”

The company not only prides itself on its extensive product offer but also on its “effective” marketing strategy. “Our marketing strategy is certainly effective in communicating and delivering value to customers and managing customer relationships in ways that benefit them and us as a company. The steady growth in our TFS membership is testimony of this.”

Clearly satisfied with the performance in the TappooCity department store, the company is focusing on the expansion of its duty-free store in the departure transit lounge at Nadi International Airport, where it also operates an arrival store, airside café, two speciality airside stores (a Beach Culture Surfwear shop and a Fiji Market destination outlet), an arrival cafe, and two landslide outlets (a news agency and a Bon Voyage gift and news store). The shops offer a wide range of traditional duty-free product categories including liquor, tobacco, fragrances, cosmetics, jewellery, watches, electronics, confectionery, sunglasses, sporting goods and Fiji destination merchandise. Tappoo says: “Designed by reputable Singapore-based firm Kingsmen, the [departure transit lounge] store will resemble top duty-free stores at Singapore Changi, Sydney and Auckland International airports.”

More general challenges include the world economy and the political situation in Fiji. “If they both continue to remain stable, then we remain very positive,” he says.

As the official TappooCity opening draws closer and the remainder of the building becomes operational, the company can look forward to offering consumers more options and maximizing its commercial potential with a dedicated area for events and function. These elements will only add to a shopping offer that appears to deliver value for the consumer in a modern and premium environment.

Magazine: Travel Retail International
Issue: October/November 2010
Page: 17,18

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