T Galleria by DFS: Winter fireworks is the first step in support of Queenstown’s spirit
T Galleria by DFS opened in downtown Queenstown in the former O’Connells Mall late last year with what General Manager Mario Gabriel calls “excellent timing”.
He’s shed light on the first eight months of T Galleria by DFS, its future and connection with the vibrant Queenstown community. According to him, the store’s opening came at an opportune time marked by travel return and optimism, presenting an opportunity to contribute to Queenstown’s positive energy.
DFS opening not only inspired other businesses to expand in the CBD but also helped instil confidence in others to invest in elevating the level of service to both residents and visitors, especially coming off a few years of challenging uncertainty.
Discussing the unique concept of T Galleria in Queenstown, Mario says its design stands out within the DFS family as the first resort-style Galleria in recognition of Queenstown’s uniqueness and character.
However, he’s quick to emphasize that the real source of pride is in the local DFS team and their unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences.
From the beginning, Mario has looked to establish and reinforce T Galleria’s intention of finding meaningful ways to contribute to Queenstown’s experiences as well as supporting the town’s long-term vision.
One such step is the revival of a beloved community celebration, the DFS Winter Fireworks which were on June 30, marking the start of the winter school holidays. The event celebrated Queenstown’s togetherness while supporting the ambitious goals of the Love Queenstown initiative towards regenerative tourism.
Reflecting on CBD street upgrades in Queenstown, Mario says he admires the town’s resilience and adaptability.
“Queenstown has surpassed expectations by diversifying its offerings beyond tourism, creating an ecosystem that continues to attract value businesses and residents. The town proved once again that it has what it takes to navigate less than ideal times.”
Mario says there are understandable misconceptions about the DFS T Galleria brand, but is keen to set the record straight. “We cater to so much more than duty-free shoppers and travellers,” he says. “Since opening, locals are a significant and growing portion of customers we have the privilege to serve.”
While admitting there are still lessons to learn and room to grow in meeting the expectations of visitors and locals, he says the retailer continues to expand and diversify offerings to meet these unique preferences and needs.
Asked about the inspiration behind the DFS Winter Fireworks event, Mario’s eyes light up. He says the Love Queenstown community fund, dedicated to supporting climate, conservation, and biodiversity projects, played a pivotal role.
“We were determined to create an event in support of Queenstown’s long-term vision.”
Through a set of fortunate circumstances, the decision to reinstate the fireworks was made, with Love Queenstown the ultimate beneficiary. Mario says he is extremely grateful to local residents Wayne and Betty Perkins who generously donated their Million Dollar Cruise for a VIP fireworks cruise experience, and Eichardt’s Private Hotel with experiences and silent auctions prizes.
Although the event was organised at short notice, Mario is keen to emphasise that it marks the beginning of what DFS intends to be a cherished tradition. “Being able to contribute to our community is always a privilege,” he says. Feedback from other businesses and local residents, including offers of support, has been truly humbling. He commends the numerous local businesses that have eagerly contributed items and experiences for a Love Queenstown auction, embodying the spirit of unity.
For Mario, with his diverse background in international five-star hotels, independent developments and now the world of retail, being involved in projects is what brings him the most joy. Building brands, developing experiences, and working with diverse teams is a true passion.
He loves building a new team that creates unforgettable experiences which resonate with customers and the community, regardless of the industry.
“Queenstown goes beyond its breathtaking natural beauty. It’s the place to dare and create, and the genuine warmth of its people is what truly makes it a magical place. It’s a constant contribution we all make, like being a good neighbour, host, parent or custodian of the place.”