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PARIS — French department store chain BHV today unveiled a brand-new shoe space at its Paris flagship, the first sign of a two-year revamp aimed at bringing the dusty store more in tune with its hip neighborhood.
The 6,500-square-foot shoe department on the first floor, which opens officially on Nov. 2, houses 40 brands including Repetto, Ugg, Minelli, André, Mellow Yellow, Cosmo Paris, Marc by Marc Jacobs and See by Chloé.
Laurence Heiz, managing director of BHV, said the introduction of shoes, previously absent from the store, is part of a strategy of doubling the space dedicated to women’s fashion at BHV, which is a Paris institution thanks to its basement floor dedicated to hardware.
“It doesn’t mean that our existing customers are going to feel uncomfortable. They will simply find a different offer,” she said, noting that since its soft opening less than a week ago, the department had sold 800 pairs of shoes.
The store renovations, expected to last until the first quarter of 2014 and to cost 35 million euros, or $45.4 million at current exchange, will entail a transformation of the ground and first floors to give customers the feeling they are strolling through the adjacent Marais neighborhood, home to scores of fashion boutiques.
The shoe department provided a glimpse of things to come. It features alleys designed to resemble paving stones, cast-iron pillars, loft-style steel girders and wooden floors, all set off by pink and red furniture accents, including scarlet display units shaped like stairs.
“The store was rather static. The idea is to bring it alive,” said Heiz, adding that the name of the store will be changed to BHV Marais in September 2013 to reflect its new orientation.
Fashion, which accounts for 30 percent of sales, should grow to represent around half its revenues, she forecasted. Some product categories, such as CDs, DVDs, computers and software, have been discontinued to free up space.
Brands will be given greater prominence and will have the option of personalizing selling spaces designed to look like individual store windows. Some 485,000 square feet of selling space will be transformed next year, with the next step the opening of a revamped beauty space on the ground floor in February 2013.
The second floor will be dedicated to arts and crafts, while the third floor will be turned over to food, with a cooking school, a grocery and a restaurant alongside more traditional kitchen supplies. Children’s products will occupy the fifth floor, with bedding on the sixth.
The aim is to reflect the tastes of locals, who account for more than 90 percent of BHV’s customers, Heiz said.
“Our clients today want fashion and modernity, what is creative rather than institutionalized, and they need for the objects they choose to reflect their personality,” she said. “The store will embody the spirit of the Marais.”