Wealth and style have never been in short supply in Monaco, Biarritz, St. Barth’s and Paris — the places where Alain Celhay has planted his retail flag.
For the first decade of his retail career, the Bayonne, France, native launched boutiques in the resorts of Biarritz and Monte Carlo. Celhay operated Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger boutiques in St. Barth’s. In addition, Espace Mirage Monte Carlo and Espace Mirage Monaco, unveiled in the Nineties, sell designer ready-to-wear and jeans.
Possibly Celhay’s most high-profile venture has been Montaigne Market, which he and co-founder Liliane Jossua launched in Paris in 2005. The 4,000-square-foot store was an anomaly on Avenue Montaigne, then still the dominion of single-brand boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior, Jimmy Choo and Giorgio Armani. Montaigne Market’s sleek interior with white walls, lacquer, steel and leather was designed by architect Johannes Zingerle.
That look informs McMarket, Celhay’s fourth and latest endeavor in Monaco. Large bay windows and chrome and glass accents give the store, which exclusively carries brands such as Balmain, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Fendi, L’Wren Scott, Thomas Wylde and Givenchy in Monaco, a contemporary feel.
WWD: Why did you decide to open McMarket in Monaco? Alain Celhay: Our company now operates four stores in Monaco. All these stores are in the metropolitan shopping centers. In 2008, they had a global turnover of 12 million euros. The strategy is to focus on luxury and maintain stores, for the moment, in Paris, Biarritz and Monaco. WWD: What retailers do you compete with in Monaco? A.C.: Our strength is to present an original selection and a display that allows us to highlight a product mix. With this new store, our primary goal is to offer our clients a place in the local market, where our competitors are one-label stores that carry complete collections, much like those on Avenue Montaigne in Paris — more choices.
WWD: Who is your customer? How does she differ from your Parisian customer? A.C.: The clientele in Monaco is no different than that found at our other retail shops. Many of our clients shop according to their travels and the events that punctuate their lives, like the Grand Prix in Monaco, fashion week in Paris, spas in Biarritz and New Year’s in St. Barth’s. They buy evening gowns more often in Monaco, where they have the occasion to wear them. Our clients have the potential to spend large sums of money and buy early in the season. For instance, today we have already sold Loro Piana and Fendi furs, and it is only June.
WWD: Has your customer changed her shopping habits since the recession? A.C.: Our clients are more careful in their purchases and are conscious of value for money. That is only natural since good values are back in full force without the sequins and the bling bling on the Alaïa, [Christian] Louboutin, Fendi, Givenchy, Balmain and Celine hit parades for summer 2010.
WWD: What is the criteria for choosing designers for the store? A.C.: I want my buyers to have complete freedom in their choices and budgets. I struggle on a daily basis with many of our suppliers to get away from the financial policy of better labels having higher and higher prices. We want to be guided by creativity and freshness. Fashion is not always an exact science. Our purchases are oriented to the times and the evolution of our clients’ tastes. That is one of the keys to our success.
WWD: Can you estimate McMarket’s sales volume for the first year? A.C.: It is hard to give an estimate due to the economic crisis, but using 2008 as a basis, with 8 million euros at Espace Mirage in Monte Carlo, we can reasonably expect a turnover of 10 million euros, the same as in our Paris shop. We are not trying to make a large turnover at any cost. Our goal is to give our clients the comfort of a megashop, like Louis Vuitton or Gucci — with the energy of this kind of dynamic multibrand environment. Today, multibrand shops like ours are much more fun than single-designer shops…but we get along very well because we are more complementary than competitive. They have the depth of a collection while we have selected items and the product mixes.
WWD: Do you plan to open more McMarket stores? A.C.: Maybe in New York, if the opportunity arises.
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