By  on June 10, 2005

PARIS — La Samaritaine, the Paris department store owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, on Thursday said it could close for up to five years for renovations to meet Paris fire safety standards.

The century-old landmark store said it would shut June 15 for an initial 15 days to evaluate the scope of the work and measure how it should proceed.

A spokeswoman for LVMH said security experts have recommended two scenarios: Either the store should shutter for five years all at once, or in increments over a more than 10-year period, which would leave sections of the store open.

The spokeswoman said the store's 750 workers would continue to be paid.

The store, located between the Rue de Rivoli and the Seine, failed a city security inspection on Feb. 17. Authorities said its metallic structure and flooring system were not resistant to fire.

"The experts' conclusions show that it is no longer possible to assure the security of our clients and personnel," said Philippe de Beauvoir, the store's president. "I must make, urgently, a very difficult decision."

LVMH acquired the store in 2000. In the last five years, it has invested some 50 million euros, or about $60 million at current exchange, to revamp its image, while taking it more upscale. The luxury group also runs the high-end department store Le Bon Marche on the Left Bank.

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