SHOP TALK: A store design by an experimental architect — Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels — who has never before worked on a retail project; Instagram-friendly features and a team of sales assistants — “exciting personalities” embracing the “new Parisian” — trained to engage with customers on a seamless journey around the store. Even the fitting rooms will have something to say.
Those were some of the details from Groupe Galeries Lafayette’s soon-to-open Avenue des Champs-Elysées flagship shared by Nadia Dhouib and Clara Cornet — respectively the site’s general manager and creative and merchandising director — during a talk at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography on Friday.
The 97,000-square-foot store, which represents around one-tenth of the Galeries Lafayette Boulevard Haussmann mothership, or the equivalent of one floor, is set to open at the end of the year in a former bank building on the famed avenue.
Don’t expect any screens, though.
“We spent so many hours and months thinking about the technology aspect and came to the conclusion that we don’t want any screens. People don’t go to a store to play with screens, but we did think about digitizing the staff and helping them to have this attitude of a concierge or personal stylist, giving them the empowerment of having access to information,” said Dhouib, adding that they are working on a secret concept geared at “helping the customer on their journey.”
Cornet coined the term “glocal” to describe the concept they hope will lure Parisians back to the avenue as well as magnetize its river of shop-happy tourists, with traffic of some 300,000 people each weekday, and 500,000 on the weekends. Retailers like Joyce in Hong Kong, Barneys New York and London’s Selfridges were mentioned among inspirations, but also certain hotels, “Because we’re really trying to bring that level of service,” said Cornet.
“Restaurants are inspiration; our architect is working with [Copenhagen restaurant] Noma and it’s an inspiration. Fashion is not only about fashion, it’s a lifestyle; it’s about art, it’s about food, it’s about creation,” added Dhouib.
Marking a closing of circles, Galeries Lafayette founder Théophile Bader had already swooped in on the site in the late Twenties, but was forced to sell it during the era’s financial crisis. More recently, Virgin Megastore occupied the Art Deco building, serving as one of the avenue’s main attractions for locals until it shuttered in 2013.
“We want to be part of the reshaping of the street,” said Dhouib, with Cornet adding that the store’s conception was based around the idea of “What would make you want to go into a space, rather than click and collect.”
The offer will be based on a mix of edgy up-and-coming and established brands, sometimes mixing the two. The store will also serve to test brands before they enter the Boulevard Haussmann store.
“You’d be surprised how willing certain luxury brands are to get closer to more emerging brands, and to their clients….When you see where the loyalty lies, it might currently be more to [brands like] Supreme and Off-White than Céline and Prada, so they definitely want to gravitate toward those kids and that crowd,” said Cornet.
Music, books and food will be part of the offer, with pastry chef Cédric Grolet said to be on board.
“But again we have to think: how do we sell music today? Maybe we want to sell music through incredible vinyl edited by a really special DJ who is standing right there. Maybe we want to involve the music scene in a different way,” said Cornet, adding that they will be working closely with Lafayette Anticipations, Groupe Galeries Lafayette’s new art foundation, on the artist program.
Takeovers are also in the cards for the store which will have long opening hours and will be open on Sundays, Dhouib said.