PARIS — Le Bon Marché has unveiled a new women’s floor dedicated to younger, more accessible fashion — replete with such attractions as an organic juice bar and an in-house denim factory.
The Parisian department store has been undergoing a total makeover since 2012.
“Everything around us is quickly evolving and moving forward. The way consumers shop and what they are looking for is not the same as 14 years ago when I joined the group,” Lisa Attia, the store’s commercial director, said during an exclusive walk-through with WWD on Monday. “We really had to dig deep and ask ourselves: What is it that we can still offer to our customers that would make us different?”
The answer is service and experience.
At the heart of the newly opened floor is a mini denim factory equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, allowing the customization of a pair of jeans via embroidery, laser or print techniques. “A client came in here the other day with a photo of Rihanna wearing a jean that was heavily distressed, saying he wanted the exact same kind. We did it in a day,” said Attia.
The atelier sits alongside an expanded denim offering that includes exclusive labels such as Kéji, Broken Bow and BLK DNM, as well as a billboard educating the customer about the various cuts — from boot to skinny — and what tops and shoe styles go with them.
A new department dubbed The Sporting Room, with brands such as Adidas by Stella McCartney, James Perse and K-Way also incorporates an innovative space called #Hashtag store, dedicated mostly to brands that are only available online.
“Le Bon Marché is about destination shopping. We have to give customers the desire to come and explore, otherwise they might just as well buy their stuff on the Internet. And nothing can replace experience, the actual act of touching and testing a product,” Attia noted, adding: “Historically, Le Bon Marché is the world’s first department store. Founded 163 years ago, its original goal was to provide people with the ultimate shopping experience. And that’s what we want to build on.”
Among the products here are sweatshirts by Brigade de l’Amour, quirky shoe accessories by Cleo B and Nil & Mon slip-ons, mixed with techy gadgets such as earphones, cameras and watches.
The floor also houses a series of multibrand spaces with a hand-picked selection of niche and emerging brands, for which the department stores has created stronger liaisons between its buying and styling teams, making up a total of 34 people.
“The idea is to scout these young labels and allow them to grow with us over a longer period of time. We won’t drop them after a short season. We know it takes time to set foot in the industry and for our clients to get friendly with a new name. As their sales climb, we can discuss growing the space too,” said Attia, citing Each X Other, Sacai and Thom Browne as examples of where the strategy worked in the past.
Among the floor’s newcomers are Mira Mikati, Markus Lupfer, Peter Jensen and Jour/né.
Next to a florist and hairdressing salon by Marisol Suarez sits an organic juice and granola bar thought up by Sunlee Howard, the latter slated to open for business shortly.
The retailer, whose customers are 80 percent female, also made room for several pop-up areas that are to change every two to three weeks. “Our clientele is a very loyal one,” Attia explained. “We know they return every week, and so it’s essential to present them with something new every time they drop by.”
According to the executive, the department store’s gradual makeover, which saw the opening of a grocery-style beauty store and a special section dedicated to men’s brands offering their collections in smaller sizes to suit the female customer, has already started to bear fruit. Attia said that “2015 was an exceptional business year for us. What is special about this is that we managed to attract a truly local clientele. The number of our French customers progressed enormously year-over-year.”
In June and September the retailer is scheduled to unveil the new third floor, reserved for designer and luxury brands. It will boast its very own inside garden and benches to reflect that this is a “creative area,” Attia said.
A new lingerie department is to open in 2017.
In the last 18 months, the redesign of the two floors touched a total of 95,800 square feet, and was executed by Le Bon Marché’s in-house team of 14 architects, who rendered the space more airy. A great deal of natural light has been incorporated, offering a glimpse of the building’s original Art Deco glass ceilings and color mosaics.
The retailer, controlled by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, already opened a new food and home section as well as an expanded men’s division, which today features a barbershop, a semibespoke service and numerous exclusive brands.