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Department store innovation: David Jones Ltd., Australia, 1876-1915

Dale Miller (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)
Bill Merrilees (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 15 August 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the historical contributions of complex innovations (both creative and tactical components) in a formative period in a major Australian department store, David Jones Ltd.


The study uses a context-specific lens to examine complex retail innovation. The study adopts a longitudinal design with the focus on a single firm, which met the inclusion criteria. Data collection was predominately from company archival materials and publicly available documents, including newspapers.


An in-depth analysis of two complex innovations demonstrates the retailer’s successful management of both marketing exploration (innovation) and marketing exploitation of that innovation. Effective marketing requires operational, tactical marketing exploitation to dovetail marketing exploration.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to one successful department store. Notwithstanding, there are expectations that the lessons extend to many other retailing organizations.

Practical implications

The practical relevance is clear, with the emphasis on retail innovation (and especially complex innovation) as a basis for both surviving and thriving in an ever-changing marketing environment.


The use of a complex innovation approach is a novel way of examining marketing history. The study concludes that both marketing exploration and marketing exploitation are essential for retail longevity.



An earlier version of this paper, Historical Ambidextrous Marketing: Antipodean Perspectives, was presented at CHARM 2013, Copenhagen. It was awarded the Stanley C. Hollander Best Paper Award. The authors gratefully acknowledge the insightful feedback and very constructive guidance from the editor, guest editor and reviewers which helped them to develop their work further. The authors dedicate this paper to the late Barbara Horton, Company Archivist at David Jones, in recognition of her immense contributions in facilitating research and her encouragement of researchers.


Miller, D. and Merrilees, B. (2016), "Department store innovation: David Jones Ltd., Australia, 1876-1915", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 396-415.



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