By  on October 10, 2005

PARIS — The world's largest Louis Vuitton store, christened here during the climax of Paris Fashion Week, doesn't feel that big at all.

Which is the whole point, according to Vuitton chief executive officer Yves Carcelle. "It's completely against the idea of gigantism. We want it to be an intimate promenade," he said Sunday morning, giving WWD the first walk-through of the sumptuous 20,500-square-foot boutique in a landmark building on the Champs Elysées.

Indeed, beyond the soaring atrium at the entrance — flanked by a Donald Judd-like arrangement of red trunks that signals more art is to come — and then a vast room some early visitors likened to a cathedral, are a series of human-scale rooms devoted to Vuitton's ever-expanding range of products.

"We don't want people to be stressed by the size," Carcelle said. "It's all about little rooms you discover one after the other."

Still, Vuitton's ceo trumpeted the store as a new must-visit attraction in the City of Lights and a showcase that is bound to have a global impact on the world's biggest luxury brand, already riding high at a heady time for the sector. And Vuitton's roll continued at its high-energy show Sunday night, where Marc Jacobs presented one of the standout collections of the season for the house. (For more on the collection, see page 4.)

Although Carcelle declined to talk numbers, sources estimate the unit should generate annual sales of between 75 million and 95 million euros, or $91.1 million to $115.4 million, selling everything from 120 euro ($145) key fobs to a 330,000 euro ($364,320) necklace of white and yellow diamonds. All currency conversions have been made at current exchange rates.

Carcelle brushed off any suggestion the store would be a loss-leading image vehicle for the brand. "Of course it will make money," he insisted.

One analyst, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the store would likely move into the black within three to four years "at the latest," since Vuitton already incurred most or all of the key money involved in the lease and the site, already a popular attraction, should easily win incremental traffic.

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