PARIS — Does sipping a cup of hot chocolate increase the likelihood of buying a 20,000 euro ring dripping with diamonds?
Mauboussin, the 180-year-old French jeweler whose newly opened boutique here boasts a chocolate bar, appears to think so.
Located on the high-traffic Champs-Elysées, the 2,340-square-foot shop was designed by Japanese artist Aki Kuroda, who is known for his colorful, spare canvases of silhouetted forms.
White leather spliced in a geometric "galaxy" pattern covers the floor, plastic versions of Kuroda's signature flowers decorate the white lacquered walls and jewels are displayed in wood boxes perched on curved pedestals harkening to a woman's body.
All the while, shoppers can sample various chocolate confections while perusing the baubles, which cost 650 euros, or $964 at current exchange, to 4 million euros, or $5.9 million.
"We wanted something completely different," explained managing director Alain Némarq. "We gave Kuroda carte blanche."
The shop, which Némarq said was emblematic of his desire to grow the business, is Mauboussin's second in Paris after its flagship on Place Vendôme, opened in 1955. Mauboussin also operates a corner in the Printemps department store here.
Next year, the firm plans to open a five-floor boutique at 714 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, which would be its first in America. Some 60 percent of Mauboussin's sales come from France, while Asia and Russia chip in most of the rest.
Owned by French entrepreneur Dominique Frémont, Mauboussin had sales last year of 25 million euros, or $37.1 million. Némarq said the Champs-Elysées shop should generate as much as 10 million euros, or $14.8 million, in first-year sales.
The store is a unique conceptual experience. Némarq explained Kuroda stuck to a strict color code to signify different emotions related to jewelry. The white walls and floors, for example, stand for purity, while flourishes of blue, red, yellow and black are meant to conjure, respectively, serenity, passion, energy and spirituality.
Némarq said the chocolate bar was another gambit to broaden the stimuli involved in the shopping experience. "A shop should be a temple of emotions," he said. "Chocolate is another type of gourmet indulgence. We wanted to indulge both the spirit and the body."
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