By  on March 21, 2007

PARIS — Galeries Lafayette is the latest department store chain to set its sights on the booming Gulf Emirate city of Dubai.

The French retailer said on Tuesday that it has signed a deal that would make it the anchor tenant of the future Dubai Mall, a 3.4 million-square-foot complex — billed as the world's largest shopping and entertainment destination — scheduled to open by late 2008. The Galeries Lafayette store will be 192,000 square feet, but there were no details on its design or special features.

The development puts Galeries Lafayette in the footsteps of Saks Fifth Avenue and Harvey Nichols, which both opened stores in the fast-developing city. It also signals a major strategy shift for the French retailer, which seemed to reign in international expansion after a failed venture in New York.

Galeries said it wants to expand in Asia, where it is "studying" various projects, including ventures in Shanghai and Macao. A spokeswoman said the chain wanted to leverage its "French art de vivre" in those emerging markets.

"This doesn't mean we're going to open 150 new stores overseas," added the spokeswoman. "But there will be growth."

Galeries opened in Manhattan in 1991 but closed three years later because it never gained a foothold with customers there. Berlin opened next in 1996. Though sales were sluggish at first, that store is profitable today, the spokeswoman said.

Galeries said the Dubai store was a partnership with Lebanon's Gard Investments and Emaar Properties, the developer of the Dubai Mall.

Gard Investments already partnered with Galeries Lafayette to open two BHV home improvement stores and five Monoprix supermarkets in the Mideast.

Last year Galeries Lafayette, which runs 63 department stores, reported sales of 2.4 billion euros, or $3.18 billion at current exchange.

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