PARIS — Fortifying its push into the services realm and tapping into the trail of wealth generated by high net worth individuals, Global Blue has inaugurated a new Paris VIP lounge offering wealthy tourists a place to grab a refreshment while getting their tax refunds.
“We want to provide a different experience to VIP travelers who are shoppers — people who spend money,” Global Blue chief executive Jacques Stern told WWD at the rue Cambon site in the heart of the French capital.
The Switzerland-based company, which belongs to private equity firm Silver Lake, works for brands selling to traveling shoppers, acting as an intermediary between them and the countries offering tax discounts, providing forms and offering refunds in advance.
Stern estimates he has 100,000 clients who spend at least 50,000 euros a year.
“We have to give them a VIP service…we have to give them the choice between a VIP service here — in the city or at the airport,” he said, speaking from the lounge’s Vendôme room. Façades of Paris buildings are painted above the room’s gray marble fireplace, meant to evoke the nearby Place Vendôme, home to the city’s top jewelers and watchmakers.
“It’s at the heart of our target — it took us a year to find this place,” said Yan Mortreux, the head of French operations for Global Blue.
Global Blue has half a dozen VIP lounges in capital cities around Europe, with plans for more in the future — Barcelona and Florence are upcoming locations, according to Stern.
The rue Cambon site, located discretely up a couple of stories, counts seven employees to welcome up to around 30 clients at a time. Visitors spend an average of 20 minutes, filling up on coffee, using the restrooms and resting on the sofas and easy chairs scattered around several large rooms. A private space is tucked to one side, where store managers can bring special clients; a dark, leather sofa sits next to a wall papered in a luxurious gold color— brand representatives visiting the site before the opening had judged the original violet paint a bit too much.
Shoppers learn of the site from the stores they visit. Shopkeepers hand cards with the address to shoppers spending over 2,500 euros. The system works both ways, with VIP lounge staff also sending clients to stores.
Up to five brands can purchase space in the lounge, which also serves as a showroom. Three-month slots were already recently filled by Montblanc, Longchamps and Max Mara, according to Mortreux, who noted brands can also use lounge space for other activities, like wine tasting or showing off the mechanics of a watch.
“We have a captive audience, when they’re at the airport, they leave immediately afterwards whereas here it’s not necessarily the end of their stay — they might be here for three or four more days, and by getting their tax reimbursed, they are improving their purchasing power during the stay,” added Mortreux.