PARIS — Nike has come swooshing into the City of Light.
The American sports apparel and shoe giant inaugurated its first freestanding Nike store here Sunday, a three-level, 3,500-square-foot unit on the Left Bank, near the Boulevard Saint-Germain. A 9,000-square-foot location is set to open Wednesday on the high-traffic Champs-Elysées.
Both are franchise operations in partnership with French retailer Alain Adjadj, who operates boutiques in Paris for such firms as Hugo Boss, Plein Sud and Gianfranco Ferré. Designed by London-based firm Gensler, both stores boast sleek interiors with glass elevators and display walls inset with product photos.
“The sports market is moving fast in Paris,” said Sophie Kamoun, head of corporate communications for Nike in France. “We needed to jump in with a stronger presence to build more market share.”
Nike’s stores here are part of a Europe-wide effort to boost the brand’s profile. Within the last year, Nike stores have opened in Lisbon, Vienna and Milan, and a unit in Barcelona is scheduled to bow later this summer.
The Nike store format is special to Europe and differs from the company’s Niketown format in size and merchandising. Nike operates two Niketown stores in Europe — in London and Berlin.
The Left Bank store dedicates an entire floor to women’s apparel, a first for a Nike store in Europe. Other floors feature shoes and men’s sports apparel, with retail prices ranging from about $30 for a running T-shirt to $75 for warmup pants.
The three-level unit on the Champs-Elysées will feature technical products, such as men’s and women’s shoes, activewear and eyewear. Children’s apparel and shoes will occupy the basement.
“Women in France are buying more sports apparel,” said Kamoun. “Last year, we opened our first shop-in-shop women’s store in Paris, at Citadium, [the sports retailer] and it’s been a big hit.”
Kamoun declined to provide sales projections for the stores, but characterized them as “test units,” whose performance will determine whether Nike rolls out further in France.
“We’re interested in going into urban centers,” said Kamoun. “Presently, the sports market is mostly located outside of the cities. But we think it’s moving back into the cities.”
It would seem that other sports companies believe the same thing. Two years ago, German sports apparel and shoe firm Adidas opened its first megastore in Paris, on the Rue de Rivoli. Last year, Puma followed suit with its first retail emporium, on the Boulevard Sebastopol.
“The market has changed a lot in Europe,” said Kamoun. “Sports stores used to be only for serious athletes. Now, women come in to sports stores seeking the fashion.”