PARIS — Continuing its European rollout, Gap Inc. plans to open its first Banana Republic unit in France in December: a 16,000-square-foot flagship at 22 Avenue des Champs-Elysées here.
“It’s such an important street for us to make our first launch in Paris,” said Sonia Syngal, senior vice president and managing director of Gap Inc. Europe, asserting that Banana’s “accessible luxury” positioning would stand out on a highly trafficked retail strip chockablock with luxury brands and mass retailers — and little in between.
The San Francisco-based apparel chain has recently stepped up its overseas expansion, gunning for the international division to account for 30 percent of revenues by 2013.
Syngal noted that France represents the company’s fourth largest market in Europe and “one of our strongest countries” on the Continent with some 40 Gap locations.
She allowed that “we’ve got some brand building to do” with the 33-year-old Banana Republic label, which enjoys an awareness level “in the low 50 percent” range in France. However, she noted that more than half of the Gap customers on the Champs-Élysées are tourists, and that Banana has enjoyed a strong reception in England and Italy.
In fact, she said Milan’s Gap and Banana locations, along with London’s Banana unit opened in 2008 on Regent Street, rank among the retailer’s top-10 performing units worldwide.
Banana Republic products are also available via an online store servicing 21 European countries, including France.
The forthcoming two-level corner unit in Paris — across the street from a new Abercrombie & Fitch store — is to showcase Banana’s global men’s and women’s collections designed by its British-born creative director Simon Kneen, along with accessories, personal care products and its premium Monogram range.
“It’s really about city style,” Syngal said, noting assortments in Paris would be tweaked going forward based on sales trends.
The Paris store will also boast trained “personal stylists” to assist customers by appointment, a service feature offered in other fashion capitals.
“What will be unique in Paris is the environment and the store design,” Syngal noted.
The unit is slated for a high-end build out, incorporating some original features from the 1888 Haussmann-style building. These include typical “Versailles” stone-and-marble flooring and a period elevator. French antiques, in an Art Deco style, and a Charles Edwards chandelier are among decorative features.
Syngal said a series of events, including a Paris visit from Kneen, would be staged to build awareness among consumers and the “fashion community” ahead of an opening launch party.