By  on December 29, 2000

PARIS -- Taxicabs flanked with mysterious advertisements for "104 Champs-Elysees" were cruising around town recently.

France's largest perfumery chain Parfumeries Marionnaud hoped the ads would titillate and lure beauty junkies into its latest concept store, a 6,600-square-foot, two-level extravaganza that just opened for the holiday shopping season on Paris's most renowned boulevard.

It is the second of such Marionnaud mega stores. The first was inaugurated in late September in downtown Marseilles. That door, at 16,600 square feet, is by far the chain's largest.

Both the perfumeries here and in the south of France were designed in a minimalist style that's the antithesis of what is typically associated with Marionnaud perfumeries. These are largely considered the quintessential traditional perfumeries, with amenities such as assisted service and a homey feel.

"We wanted to do something more modern -- a perfumery of the 21st century," said Marcel Frydman, president of the company. As a result, the new doors have stark, white, multilevel interiors, high-tech video screens and color-coded product departments. But he added that due to the hefty cost involved in creating such locations, it is impossible to open such mega stores everywhere. The company will save them for only "the most prestigious" spots.

Like the Champs-Elysees. The new store there is a lesson in streamlined modernity. Shots of Paris from the Seine can be seen on four screens as soon as customers enter directly from the street into the women's and men's fragrances area that spans the width of the floor. At the rear, a gentle ramp leads up to a mezzanine featuring skin care, accessories and new products. In the latter, makeup mirrors also boast miniature screens that show advertising clips for brands.

To the rear of the mezzanine is a small room currently featuring the work of artist Jean-Daniel Lorieux, with a series depicting the likes of models Laetitia Casta and Karen Mulder in oils based on photo originals. That space now houses Christmas gift packages, but is destined to become an Internet and animation space.

The route to the second floor is via an escalator and covered-glass walkway that provides a panoramic view of the entry and fragrance areas. This level is home to mass market products, parapharmacy items and makeup. This floor is also fitted with the opaque screens and rainbow lighting, but has an overall softer feel, largely due to the smaller spaces allotted to each department compared to those on the first floor.

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