MAKE-UP mogul Napoleon Perdis is a steadfast believer in the might and majesty of the department store model, it just needs a facelift to better serve the needs of younger and smarter shoppers, and to work at creating the kind of in-store events that the internet can't match.
Mr Perdis, who has made it big in America, argues that leading department stores such as David Jones and Myer need to let go of their strict formats and become "malls" where brands are given the floor space and permission to show off their artistry and design.
"There is a place for department stores but they need to think of themselves more as malls, where vendors can create experiences within that mall model," Mr Perdis told BusinessDay.
"The minute you create boundaries around a department stores it loses creativity; it has to be a melting pot of creativity and then the merchandise will sell."
He should know. From his first Napoleon Perdis store in Oxford Street, Paddington, in 1995, the cosmetics entrepreneur has built an empire on foundations and lippy to today have 75 company-owned concept stores and eight Napoleon Perdis Makeup Academy campuses in Australia and the US.
Mr Perdis is now in Target, Ulta, Dillard's and Nordstrom in the US and is a popular fixture on America's' king home shopping network QVC.
Some of that pizazz and glitz that Mr Perdis argues Australian department stores need was on show last week when he staged a lunchtime event at David Jones Sydney store in Elizabeth Street.
"There were a couple of thousand people on the floor watching, waiting for the entrance and I gave them a whole show, there was Madame Pompadour, there was Cleopatra, a slave, a naughty couple, a romantic couple, it was sexy, it was fashion.
"Eventing needs to be created in its true form where creativity is allowed to flow like in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, when there was enormous creativity inside department stores. . . . These days they do windows and its all so 'where's the art?"'
Mr Perdis was lured to David Jones from Myer by former DJs boss Mark McInnes and now sells in that department store and has a range in Target and Big W.
He says department stores need to engage better with increasingly smart and savvy shoppers.
"There are two types of consumer; there is experienced and experiment. The experienced consumer knows there is more out there and will try new things; the experiment consumer will try new things just for the sake of trying them and may not remain loyal but will at least start creating a wave around branding."
Mr Perdis applauded David Jones' boss Paul Zahra for his plans to reinvigorate the store, invest in staff and go online.
"There is still a place for retail distribution, she [the consumer] still wants to go in [to a department store] and experiment and have it applied on herself. She can do some replenishment online; but to look at newness et cetera, you can't do it all online. The department stores that will be left out will be the ones that don't put the infrastructure in now and start pushing their marketing teams to better communicate.
"They have been caught up in a sales war and that doesn't do anything; it brings in a customer who may not necessarily be able to afford to come back to you."