PARIS — They may not be knocking down the doors of French fast-fashion chains and department stores, but French mass retail chains are creeping into city outskirts and trying desperately to spruce up in the face of the dominating fast-fashion competition. A tour of four of France’s top mass retail chains in Paris and its eastern outskirts revealed for some a sincere interest in hot trends, while others still have ample room for improvement in their quest for style. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange.

Carrefour: Bercy, Charenton le Pont.
Ambience: France’s Wal-Mart.
Target customer: Fashion for all, from bouncing babies and budding teenagers all the way up.
Special attraction: Sales people on roller skates zip around the store — with a daunting 129,167 square feet — which boasts a 16,145-square-foot apparel department and gargantuan lingerie and beauty sections.
Price check: Cherokee cargo pants run about $33 and pleated plaid minis are $25.
Fashion verdict: Carrefour will not back down in the face of competition from its fast-fashion neighbors, which have made their way within feet of its doors. Carrefour’s Dior-esque minis and red sleeveless sweaters with buckles top the apparel section and its cargo pants, corduroy jackets and off-the-shoulder bohemian tops may just keep the one-stop shoppers loyal.


Auchan: Avenue du Général de Gaulle, Bagnolet.
Ambience: More hardware than women’s wear.
Target customer: Kitchen appliance shoppers who happened on the apparel aisle.
Special attraction: Plus sizes and the Mary-Kate and Ashley brand in select Auchan stores.
Price check: Faded navy corduroys sell for $52.90.
Fashion verdict: With the arrival of Mary-Kate and Ashley fashion and lifestyle lines, Auchan is trying to keep up with fashion-crazed French teens. Moms, however, may feel a little left out in the cold, as the selection is small and a bit on the pricy side for styles that aren’t so recent.
Leclerc: Avenue Jean Lolive, Pantin.
Ambience: Somewhere between a Bedouin bazaar and a local yard sale.
Target customer: Bargain shoppers.
Price check: Coats sell for about $61, acrylic sweaters for $19 and satin cargo pants for $29.
Fashion verdict: Bargain shopping can be challenging. If you put your mind to it, you may just manage to work up a last-minute Halloween costume. However, the total absence of fitting rooms, the disarray of the merchandise and unkempt apparel such as the brand “Chic Choc” will shock more than be chic.


Monoprix: Avenue Opéra, Paris.
Ambience: A Parisian hangout.
Target customer: Urban professionals.
Special attraction: There is a Monoprix in almost every neighborhood and it’s open until 10 p.m. — a rarity in France, let alone the rest of Europe.
Price check: Plaid miniskirts are around $31 and merino wool sweaters sell for $43.
Fashion verdict: Whether she admits it or not, every Parisian woman has at least one item from Monoprix in her wardrobe. Monoprix not only interprets hot trends, including miniskirts and off-the-shoulder tops, to attract a more fashion-finicky audience, but it also invests in quality, offering an array of cashmere and merino wool sweaters for a higher-income customer.

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