PARIS — Despite the ongoing absence of international tourists, real estate agents are betting on the continued attractiveness of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées as the famed thoroughfare enters the crucial holiday season.
Case in point, a new space at number 74, on the sunny side of the street, is billing itself as The Big Playground. Unveiled at a party on Thursday night, featuring performances, concerts and DJ sets, the 27,200-square-foot space is seeking a tenant.
The building belongs to real estate investment management firm Axa IM Real Assets, which is transforming what used to be the Galerie du Claridge, a shopping gallery that was home to some 20 stores, into a single flagship store.
Construction began at the end of 2020 and should be completed by next summer, according to Matthieu de Mallmann, global head of retail at Axa IM Alts.
“It’s a building that’s steeped in history,” he said, noting that it was formerly home to the Claridge Hotel, with the ground floor hosting the hotel pool. After its closure in 1976, the street-level area became the gallery, but the format began to lose steam in the 2010s, prompting Axa to reconsider the use of the space.
“On the one hand, the performance of the gallery’s stores was unsatisfactory. And then we also analyzed the surface and realized that it had almost unique characteristics on the avenue, namely 2,500 square meters on one level, with more than 20 linear meters of frontage and really excellent proportions,” he explained.
Two street-level windows flank the entrance of a Fnac store located in the basement. The rest of the building is home to luxury serviced apartments run by Frasers Hospitality.
Axa has enlisted Cushman & Wakefield and SCC Vendôme to lease the space, which sits next to brands such as Levi’s and Sephora. “We’re seeking to move to a flagship store concept with a single tenant for this space, and for this, we feel that it’s the best product currently on offer on the avenue,” de Mallmann said.
Before the pandemic, the Champs-Élysées drew 100,000 people a day, with 71 percent of traffic coming from tourists, according to a study commissioned by the Comité des Champs-Élysées, which is working to rejuvenate the street, which is billed as the most beautiful avenue in the world, but has a poor image locally.
Footfall on the avenue plunged by 44 percent between March 2020 and March 2021, a study by Cushman & Wakefield and MyTraffic found. That made it one of the more resilient high streets in Europe, as London’s Oxford Street recorded a 71 percent drop, while Gran Via in Madrid was down 63 percent, the report said.
And after a tough few years that included violent demonstrations by anti-government “gilets jaunes” protesters and several rounds of pandemic-related closures, there are signs that business is picking up.
“The Champs-Élysées were impacted by the health crisis and especially by the absence of foreign tourists, which we all felt during this period, but the gradual lifting of health restrictions is resulting in an improvement of flows in the area,” de Mallmann said.
Antoine Salmon, partner and head of retail at Knight Frank France, said a number of big brands are landing on the street or trading places.
A Saint Laurent boutique is due to open at number 123 in 2022, and Louis Vuitton will open a temporary store at number 100, the former location of a Marks & Spencer store, while it renovates its massive flagship on the avenue, he said.
Foot Locker will move to the former Gap location at number 36; the official store of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club will switch to new digs opposite Nike, and another luxury brand is in talks to take over a location in the upper part of the street close to the Arc de Triomphe, Salmon added.
While H&M announced this week it was shuttering its Champs-Élysées flagship, Dior is moving its headquarters to a building formerly occupied by HSBC bank, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has floated plans to turn the street into an “extraordinary garden” in the run-up to the 2024 Olympic Games, which the French capital is hosting.
“The Champs-Élysées remains very attractive. There were a few vacancies during COVID-19, there was a bit of turnover and some rents dropped, but the demand is there and, for the time being, it is holding up well,” Salmon remarked.
Meanwhile, Marc-Antoine Jamet, the LVMH executive who took over this summer as president of the Comité des Champs-Élysées, said he hoped the annual Christmas illuminations would draw 10 million visitors this year, French news agency AFP reported.